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Collection Development Policy

The College Library develops collections primarily to support the current and anticipated instructional, research and service programs of the College. 

Objectives of Collection Development

The service objectives of the Library encompass both the needs of the campus academic community and those of the wider regional and scholarly community. The collection development objectives, however, are focused primarily on the needs of the campus academic community. The collection development goal of the library is to identify recorded information pertinent to existing research, instructional, and institutional programs, and to acquire and preserve selected materials at levels appropriate to the scope and depth of those programs. The purpose of materials selection at Bethel College is to provide the right information for the right reader at the right time. This collection development policy is intended to be flexible enough to reflect changes and trends in the College’s academic programs.

Intellectual Freedom

The Bethel College Library adheres to the position governing censorship and intellectual freedom adopted by the Council of the American Library Association and published in the Association’s Library Bill of Rights. The Library’s collections contain and will contain various opinions which apply to important, complicated, and controversial questions, including unpopular and unorthodox positions. Factual accuracy, effective expression, significance of subject, and responsibility of opinion are factors that are considered when materials are selected for the College Library.

Collection Development Principles

Collection development at the College Library is a joint effort of the library and teaching faculty with the library managing the process. Faculty members are encouraged to recommend and to request the acquisition of specific titles. While this policy statement enumerates library intentions and actions, cooperation between the Library and teaching faculty is seen as a precondition for success. Every teaching faculty member is considered to be an integral part of the collection development team.

Librarians insure support of the research and teaching interests by developing a familiarity with  the curriculum, assessing areas of present strength and weakness in the collection, consulting teaching faculty members for suggestions and advice, and building the collections accordingly within existing collection development policies. Additionally, they collect and evaluate data related to demand (circulation reports, ILL reports, hold/recall reports, etc.) and anticipated demand.

Information that meets the instructional and research needs of the College community is by policy appropriate for inclusion in the collections, regardless of format. Policies as encompassing as this one, however, are subject to pragmatic adaptations. Considerations of budget, space, and other practical limitations have led to variations in practice with regard to formats collected. Finally, the Library’s materials budget is allocated and expenditures are monitored in a manner that insures proper and systematic collection development.

Duplication and Replacement

Works in most demand by patrons are also the items most likely to be damaged or lost. Therefore, the Library’s policies governing replacement of materials form a necessary element of the collection development policy. Generally second copies of items are not purchased, but replacing lost, damaged, or stolen material is a fundamental responsibility of the library staff.

Housing and Circulation of Materials

Materials purchased with library monies shall be housed in the Library and will be available for checkout by all library patrons, including interlibrary loan.

Collection Development by format/language

Foreign Language Materials

Materials in foreign languages taught at the College are desirable purchases for the Library. However, materials for non-language courses which are published in languages other than English, with the exception of dictionaries, encyclopedias, and other reference tools, shall be bought only in those instances when there is evidence of their immediate usefulness to students and faculty.

Electronic Resources

Electronic resources are of increasing importance to faculty and students. Successful collection development, regardless of media, will reflect campus academic priorities. The Library is committed to taking a leadership role in collaborating with academic departments in providing electronic resources to support instruction and research.

General Selection Criteria
  1. Electronic resources should fall within current collecting guidelines as described in the collection development policy.
  2. All electronic resources should be relevant and appropriate to the Library’s user community and reflect current academic needs and the College’s mission. Consideration should be given to electronic resources that provide coverage of underrepresented or high-priority subject areas.
  3. If the electronic resource duplicates another resource already available in the Library, the proposed electronic resource should offer some value-added enhancement; for example, wider access or greater flexibility in searching. If a product changes format, library staff should reevaluate and make a selection/retention decision.
  4. In addition to the cost of the product, if any, the following hidden costs need to be considered: licensing fees, hardware, software, staff training and continuing education, duplicating support materials, updates, maintenance, cost of additional simultaneous users, and any other costs.
  5. Due to the volatile environment of electronic resources, each electronic resource will be reviewed annually by library staff.
  6. The product should be “user-friendly,” that is, provide ease of use and guidance for the user via appropriate menus, help screens, or tutorials.
  7. The product should equal or improve the quality of library resources.
  8. The Library’s cooperative/consortial arrangements may influence the outcome of the criteria.
  9. The Library will negotiate and comply with vendor licensing agreements.
  1. Journal subscriptions must be appropriate to the College Library collections. The same selection criteria apply to electronic journals as to paper journals. Journals are selected based on their ability to support the research, teaching, and outreach activities of Bethel College; they must be of a scholarly nature, likely to advance undergraduate research, or provide quality leisure reading material. 
  2. Journals are funded through a periodicals line item in the budget. This means that journal subscriptions or titles requiring additional funding must be balanced by cancellation of other serials or by identification of new funding.
  3. Preference should be given to journals which have a significant run of issues or commit to making a significant run of issues available full-text. 
  4. Preference should be given to journals which are openly available to the campus community (either with or without campus registration). The requirement of individual registration or password access is generally not acceptable.
  5. The Library will negotiate and comply with vendor licensing agreements.
  6. The Library’s cooperative/consortial arrangements may influence the outcome of this criterion.

Gifts Policy

Gifts of either library materials or money to purchase them will be accepted provided they comply with the above policies and provided there are no restrictions attached to the gift. No commitment to accept gifts shall be made by anyone except the librarian/s. All such offers made indirectly shall be referred to the librarian/s. In respect to gift books, this policy shall be followed:

  1. The librarian/s shall have the prerogative to refuse to accept gift materials which do not contribute to the mission and purposes of the library.  
  2. It shall be made clear to the donor that:
    1. The Library will determine the classification, housing, and circulation policies of all gifts just as with purchased items.
    2. The Library retains the right to dispose of duplicates and unneeded materials as it sees fit.
    3. A letter acknowledging and describing the gift, providing a count of the number of items in the gift, and the date and location of the contribution, will be provided upon request to donors. In order to receive a letter of acknowledgement, donors should leave a name and address.
    4. According to U.S. tax regulations and in agreement with the Association for College and Research Libraries “Statement on Appraisal of Gifts”, the Library, as recipient, cannot appraise gifts for tax purposes. Appraisals are the responsibility of the donor and should be done prior to the presentation of the gift to the library. The acknowledgement letter is not an inventory as the library does not have staff resources for inventory preparation. Donors who require an itemized list of gift materials are advised to prepare their gift inventories before making a donation to the Library.
    5. Librarians may use the donor’s appraisal to credit the donor with gift-in-kind through the Development Office.

Collection Development Policy – Textbooks

As a general policy, the Bethel College Library does not purchase textbooks that are used for instructional purposes at the College. It is impossible for the College Library to meet student demand for all textbooks at Bethel College given its limited financial resources for library materials, staffing costs, and the high rate (often yearly) of textbook revisions.

 Exceptions include:
  • A faculty member may donate a textbook.
  • Gifts of textbooks will be evaluated on a case by case basis to determine the long term value for the Library’s collection.

Not all texts used for instructional purposes are textbooks. For example, many titles published by university presses lend themselves to adoption in classroom instruction, but such titles are not textbooks.

Textbooks are defined as: "An edition of a book specifically intended for use of students who are enrolled in a course of study or preparing for an examination on a subject or in an academic discipline…sometimes published in conjunction with a workbook, lab manual, and/or teacher’s manual." ODLIS – Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science by Joan M. Reitz, Libraries Unlimited (Last updated November 19, 2007).

Textbook Characteristics:
  • Includes study questions, problems, discussion topics at the end of individual chapters.
  • May be published in subsequent editions.
  • Designed to be used by students for courses of study – introductory, intermediate, advanced.

The College Library views the purchase of textbooks as part of the student’s expected cost of pursuing a degree in higher education, whereas the library collection is intended to provide research materials and other resources which supplement the learning experience taking place in the classroom.


The Bethel College Library is firmly committed to a rationale-based collection management program which provides a framework for accountability and establishes the priorities necessary in governing day-to-day selection, acquisitions, and processing decisions.

January 2016

Adapted by permission from the University of Alabama Libraries


About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.