SFU Library collections policy statement


December 2005

1. Introduction

The SFU Library first issued a Collection Policies and Procedures statement in 1973. This was revised in 1982 to include the secondary collection concept. In 2000, as the result of an intensive collaborative effort of liaison librarians and faculty members, a completely revised set of subject-specific statements was developed, corresponding to the departments and Faculties at SFU. These subject statements are reviewed by the respective librarians and departmental library representatives on a continual basis, and still form the heart of the policy. This overall statement is intended to guide collecting on an integrative level, to provide direction about formats, and to position the Library’s collection development activities in the scholarly publishing environment of 2005 and beyond.

This statement has been created by SFU Library Collections Management with input from liaison librarians and departmental library representatives. It was approved by the Senate Library Committee on December 5, 2005.

2. Collection description

2.1 Purpose of the collection

The purpose of the SFU Library collection is to support and anticipate the curricular and research needs of students and faculty at the University. The Library contributes to the undergraduate, graduate and research missions of the University.

2.2 Undergraduate collection

At the undergraduate level, the goal is to build dynamic, current collections that provide students with the necessary resources to complete their course work, and to expose students more broadly to academic writing and other scholarly output in their chosen disciplines. Other than textbooks specifically requested for course reserve by professors, the Library does not normally collect undergraduate textbooks.

2.3 Graduate and research collection

At the graduate and research level, the goal is to collect materials that support areas of active research at the University, and to provide timely and efficient access to the secondary collection of materials in libraries around the world. Access to the secondary collection is provided through the provision of interlibrary loans and document delivery, and by forming cooperative relationships with other libraries.

2.4 General collection

General collections are developed to support academic work at the University. Materials of general interest, such as popular fiction, feature films, travel books, how-to manuals, and the like are not collected, unless they are the topic of teaching or research at the University. SFU readers interested in these materials are referred to their local public libraries.

3. Responsibility for collections management

3.1 Selection

The primary responsibility for identifying and selecting items for the Library collection lies with the liaison librarians. As information specialists in each subject area at the University, they have expertise in the bibliography of these areas. Their role includes liaising with Faculties and departments to stay abreast of changing areas of research and teaching, and responding to these by selecting appropriate materials for the collection. As reference experts in these fields, they are further exposed to sub-disciplines and specific topics of interest, best positioning them to guide the development of the collection in each area.

3.2 Budget

The budget for library materials each year is set by the Head of Collections Management, in consultation with the University Librarian and liaison librarians. The proposed budget is presented to the Senate Library Committee for comment and support, and the final version distributed to liaison librarians and departmental library representatives, and made publicly available on the Library’s web site. The Library is committed to transparency in the budget process.

3.3 Coordination

The Collections Management Division coordinates and supports the efforts of liaison librarians in building and managing the collection, liaises with vendors, monitors expenditures, and selects material for the general collection. Final responsibility for the development and maintenance of the collection lies with the Head of Collections Management.

3.4 Community input

The Library welcomes input from the university community about the development of collections. Requests for new material are accepted in any form: written, email, web form, etc. Specific books requested by faculty members are normally acquired. Because they represent a long term budget commitment, requests for journals are considered by the liaison librarian and departmental library representative (see section 8.2.1).

Requests for new material from external borrowers (i.e. people outside the university community) are also considered, but not given as much weight as requests from members of the university community. If these requests meet the Library’s collection guidelines and do not place pressure on the materials budget, they may be acquired for the collection.

 4. Subject areas

See specific policies with detailed collecting levels, linked below. These subject-specific policies relating directly to distinct academic programs have been developed in cooperation with the appropriate department, school or Faculty. While these collection policies have an emphasis on the selection of books, the principles also apply to the selection of journals for each area. However, not factored into the policies are the elements of cost, coverage and trends for any specific subject area. The collection policy is just one tool used to help shape the collection.

The collecting levels assigned in these policies describe current collecting goals, not necessarily the existing collection. Because the Library's role is to support and contribute to the achievement of quality teaching, learning and research at the University, its collections and collecting policies change as the academic environment changes. Liaison librarians ensure that present collecting policies and goals are changed and updated as course or program changes are approved and implemented.

5. Support for scholarly publishing

In its collection development and other activities, the SFU Library works to promote effective, sustainable, and economically viable models of scholarly communication that provide barrier-free access to quality information. The Library exercises this support in a variety of ways:

  • By actively supporting independent and alternative publishers, and making efforts to ensure that collections are built with acquisitions from university presses and other not-for-profit presses such as association and society publishers, in addition to commercial publishers;
  • By seeking out and adding Open Access and alternative publications to the Library collection when they meet current collection guidelines;
  • By actively investigating and supporting emerging Open Access publishing ventures, and investing in these financially when they are able to present a viable business case for support, and can demonstrate a sustainable financial alternative to existing commercial publishing models;
  • By working within the SFU community to promote discussion of scholarly communication among faculty members, authors, editors and students and administrators;
  • By providing software that supports scholarly publishing and communication, and making this available to authors, editors and administrators.

6. Participation in library consortia

The SFU Library benefits from active participation in several library consortia. Specifically, the SFU Library participates in the following:

  • BC Electronic Library Network, representing 30 post-secondary libraries in BC
  • Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries (COPPUL), representing 20 university libraries in western Canada
  • Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN), representing 73 university libraries across Canada
  • Other consortia whose purpose aligns with the SFU Library, and in which SFU is eligible for membership; these may be region-, discipline-, or subject-based.

Participation in consortia allows the SFU Library to work with other libraries to leverage purchasing power by aggregating spending and negotiating potential in the market. The savings that accrue through these activities allow the Library to expand access to additional new resources.

7. Languages

The primary language of collecting is English. Collections are also developed in French in subject areas that directly support the University’s instruction programs in French, specifically through the Department of French and the Office of Francophone and Francophile Affairs. Limited collecting in Spanish supports the Latin American Studies program. Materials of major importance in other Western European languages will also be collected when there is a demand in support of research undertaken at the University. Special collections of materials in other languages will also be considered where there is a body of faculty or students fluent in this language, and where there is a demand in support of research undertaken at the University. For example, there is limited collecting in Persian (Farsi), primarily in association with Iranian Studies activity at the University. In such cases, resources should also be sought for the cataloguing of this material, as the requisite language skills may not be available in-house.

8. Formats

8.1 Monographs

Monographs are acquired through approval delivery, form selection, or direct (firm) orders. Allocations are made in the budget for each mode of acquisition, and expenditures are tracked by mode and subject area.

8.1.1 Approvals, firm, form orders

Approval plans have been established with major book vendors whereby new imprints are automatically shipped to the Library when they match the Library’s profile of subject and other parameters. These new books are vetted weekly by liaison librarians and interested faculty members, and unwanted items are returned for credit. Approval plans are used to reduce the amount of title-by-title selection required by liaison librarians, in areas of primary and comprehensive collecting, as well as to achieve cost savings.

Print or electronic forms are also generated from these profiles, to notify selectors of new titles available in subject areas of secondary collecting importance, or outside of other approval criteria. Liaison librarians select from these, with input from faculty.

Direct (firm) orders are books selected from requests, reviews or other sources that are not acquired as part of an approval or notification plan. Relevance to the curriculum, currency, quality, anticipated demand, and price are all factors in the selection of such items.

When both hardcover and paperback editions of a book are available, harcover is normally preferred for durability. Exceptions can be made in the case of books with very short expected shelf life, such as some IT manuals, and works expected to be superseded soon by subsequent editions.

8.1.2 Out-of-print books

Out of print books will be acquired when they meet current collection guidelines, and are readily available in good condition at a price that can be accommodated within the budget.

8.1.3 Electronic books (ebooks)

Electronic books are defined as non-serial publications in electronic format, regardless of price or publisher. These are acquired for the collection when selected by the liaison librarian responsible for the subject area. Some general guidelines are provided here for the selection of electronic vs. print books.
Electronic books are preferred for:

  • Reference books, and other works not normally read cover-to-cover
  • Books with added utility in the electronic format
  • Texts which undergo frequent revisions
  • Books useable in electronic form that support programs at more than one campus

Print books are preferred for:

  • Books used primarily as objects (e.g. art books)
  • Books not useable in electronic format

Both print and electronic formats may be acquired for:

  • Books which are normally read cover-to-cover
  • Books available electronically from temporary or unstable web sites
  • Books with mutually exclusive utility in both formats e.g. literary texts that are read cover-to-cover in print, but analyzed electronically
  • Books preferred in electronic format, but which the Library would also like to make available permanently
  • Books selected in one format, with the alternative format provided at no added cost

8.1.4 SFU authors

Books authored by SFU faculty members will be collected comprehensively, and will always be replaced when lost or missing from the collection.

8.2 Serials

8.2.1 Selection of serials

Subject specific collection policies emphasize the selection of books, but the same principles apply to the selection of journals for each area. When new journals are requested for the collection, ongoing funds must be identified to support them. These funds can come from the cancellation of other serial title(s) of equal dollar value, the transfer of funds from the monographs budget (up to a specified limit), the allocation of departmental or grant funding, or the library collection funds for interdisciplinary titles, if the budget allows. Collections Management works with requesting departments to accommodate new serial requests whenever possible. Departments are encouraged to review serials lists in their subject areas at least every five years. The liaison librarian and Collections Management provide support for this process.

Criteria used in the selection of new journals include relevance to curriculum, faculty demand, ILL demand, availability of indexing, SFU authorship and citation, impact factors, and cost. When new titles are added, the Library will also normally endeavor to acquire a backrun of at least five years. The preferred format for purchase of backfiles is electronic (ownership rather than leased access), then print, and finally, if neither is available at a reasonable cost, microform.

8.2.2 Electronic journals

The Library recognizes that the scholarly community uses, and in some cases relies solely on, academic journals in a digital format.  The Library is committed to delivering digital content to readers’ desktops both on- and off-campus. The Library recognizes the benefits of electronic journals with respect to allowing access outside the library and beyond the campus, and permitting simultaneous use by multiple readers. For these reasons, and to most effectively allocate its resources, the Library has undertaken a process in consultation with faculty, to review dual subscriptions and migrate to electronic-only journals when possible. A full set of criteria for migration to online-only journals is available.

New journals added to the collection will normally be in electronic-only format where this option is the same price as, or less expensive than, print.

8.3 Films, videos, DVDs

The Library collects films, videos and DVDs to support teaching and research at the University. Films/videos/DVDs will be acquired with Public Performance Rights whenever possible, and labeled as such on the case and in the catalogue record. If no PPR version is available, a Home Use Only copy may be acquired, and will be so labeled on the case and in the catalogue. Home Use videos/DVDs may not be shown in the classroom. The Surrey Library also collects and houses videos and DVDs in support of teaching and research at SFU Surrey.

DVD is the preferred format unless otherwise specified by the requester; for example Film Studies courses in the School for Contemporary Arts may prefer to use 16mm film. The Library does not acquire general feature films, except to support university teaching.

8.4 Sound recordings

The Library collects sound recordings to support teaching and research at the University, in particular, music of interest to the School for Contemporary Arts music, theatre and dance programs, sound effects used by film and Interactive Arts students, and spoken word of interest to English and Liberal Studies. Audiobooks are not normally collected, but may be considered in support of language learning programs at the University, where appropriate. This may include support for the development of English skills in SFU students for whom English is an additional language.

8.6 Images

The Library collects visual images to support teaching and research at the University. Digital images are preferred when available in a format supported by the Library, where available with unrestricted educational use, and for use by authorized members of the university community from both on- and off-campus. Where digital images are not available with these conditions, slides will be acquired.

8.5 Other digital resources

The Library actively collects other digital resources that fit within current subject collection policies. These include indexing and abstracting databases, bibliographic data, aggregated third party databases of electronic serials, GIS and other map data, statistical databases, etc. In all cases, the Library selects resources that can be supported by the Library’s and the University’s computing infrastructure, are available to authorized members of the university community from on- and off-campus, and offer other licensing terms agreeable to the Library.

9. Branch libraries

The main collection is housed in the WAC Bennett Library on the Burnaby campus. General interest resources, and resources to serve programs at more than one campus, are acquired for the Bennett collection. Collections are also developed at the Vancouver (Belzberg Library) and Surrey campuses, to support programs offered there, and to support research undertaken at those locations. Collections at the branches are coordinated by the branch head or campus librarian, in consultation with the relevant liaision librarians, the other librarians at the branch, and the Head of Collections Management. The acquisition of electronic resources, where appropriate, will allow access from all campuses, as well as off campus locations for authorized users. Where only print resources are available, or where they are the preferred format, the core resources required for any course or program should be available in the Library at the campus of delivery. Inter-campus delivery can be used for supplementary materials, but is not a substitute for focused, relevant collections of current material on site.

10. Multiple copies

The Library does not normally purchase multiple copies of books for a single location, except for course reserves for large classes where enrolment warrants, and items already in the collection and in very high demand. Multiple copies of the same title for more than one branch may be acquired according to the guidelines in section 9.

A later edition of a monograph already in the collection may be acquired when past use indicates demand and the new or revised material justifies its purchase.

11. Replacement copies

Working with Loans and Processing, Collections Management monitors lost and missing books on a regular basis. Reports of items lost from the collection are generated regularly. These are considered for replacement by Collections Management and liaison librarians. The decision to replace an item is based on past use, currency, relevance to current collecting goals, and price. An allocation is made in the collections budget each year for replacement of lost items.

12. Gifts

Gifts of books, periodicals, audio-visual materials, maps, manuscripts or other documents contribute to the growth and development of the Library's collections and are, therefore, given careful consideration.  Please see the Library’s policy and guidelines on gifts.

13. Deselection (weeding)

The SFU Library does not systematically discard from the collection. The Library acknowledges the historic value of many older resources that would be targeted for deselection from primarily undergraduate or public libraries. As a research library, SFU retains items purchased for the collection due to their potential future research value. Specific deselection projects are undertaken from time to time in specific subject areas to remove superseded editions, or books worn from use and not worth replacing according to section 11, or where space constraints make this a necessity. In these cases, past use, currency, and relevance to the curriculum are the major criteria for deselection.

The Library also retains print equivalents of resources now available in electronic format, even if there is a period of overlap. For example, backruns of print journals now available electronically are not withdrawn from the collection on a routine basis.

See also: Shared Print Archive Network (SPAN)

W.A.C. Bennett Library 4th Floor Deselection and Relocation Project 

In June 2019, the Library began a deselection and relocation project on the fourth floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library (SFU Burnaby). 

14. Challenged materials

From time to time a library user may object to material in the collection, and request that it be withdrawn. Library staff faced with challenges about items in the collection refer complaints to the Head of Collections Management. A written feedback form is provided to allow the patron to record comments in writing if a meeting with the Head of Collections is not immediately possible.

The SFU Library supports the Canadian Library Association statement on Intellectual Freedom (appendix A). While all challenges to library material are seriously entertained, the Library’s goal in such cases is to uphold the principles of intellectual and academic freedom; these are acknowledged as the foundation of collections management at the SFU Library, and contribute to an environment of openness, inquiry and innovation at the University.


Appendix A: Canadian Library Association Statement on Intellectual Freedom

All persons in Canada have the fundamental right, as embodied in the nation's Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity, and to express their thoughts publicly. This right to intellectual freedom, under the law, is essential to the health and development of Canadian society.

Libraries have a basic responsibility for the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom.

It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee and facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity, including those which some elements of society may consider to be unconventional, unpopular or unacceptable. To this end, libraries shall acquire and make available the widest variety of materials.

It is the responsibility of libraries to guarantee the right of free expression by making available all the library's public facilities and services to all individuals and groups who need them.

Libraries should resist all efforts to limit the exercise of these responsibilities while recognizing the right of criticism by individuals and groups.

Both employees and employers in libraries have a duty, in addition to their institutional responsibilities, to uphold these principles.

Subject collection policies

Belzberg Library
Biological Sciences
Business Administration
Computing Science
Contemporary Arts
Earth Sciences
Engineering Science
Fraser Library
Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies
Health Sciences
International Studies
Interactive Arts and Technology
Liberal Studies
Mechatronic Systems Engineering
Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Political Science
Public Policy
Resource and Environmental Management
Shastri Indo-Canadian Library Institute
Sociology and Anthropology
Special Collections
Statistics and Actuarial Science
Urban Studies
World Literature