SFU Library Liberal Studies collections policy

The Graduate Liberal Studies Program offered by Simon Fraser University is an interdisciplinary program leading to the degree of Master of Arts in Liberal Studies.  A PhD program began in 2012.

The program differs from conventional graduate programs in several ways. First, its focus is on breadth of learning rather than specialization. The program integrates knowledge from many of the traditional disciplines in order to provide an intellectual grounding in ideas and values that have shaped our culture. Second, the program is designed for the working adult, the part-time student. Seminars are scheduled during evening and weekend hours and can be completed over a period of years.

The central theme of the program is an exploration of significant tensions within our intellectual culture, tensions that have historical origins and that have practical consequences in our present world. To this end, each of the seminars is shaped around an issue of perennial human concern, an issue that both reflects some of the central dilemmas that have marked human civilization, and that provides intellectual and cultural context for contemporary problems. Seminars draw upon material from across academic disciplines and across historical periods in order to undertake a wide-ranging yet coherent investigation of the course theme.

The first two of the series of seminars are core courses. They are Thinking about Human Passion and The Capacity and Limits of Reason, and together constitute an extended examination of the tension between reason and passion in human experience. The reading, writing and discussion done in these courses provide a common base for all students in the program.

The other seminars regularly offered within the program are: Self and Society, Tradition and Modernity, Science and Human Values, Religious and Secular World Views, Liberty and Authority and Organizing Social Realities:  Gender, Class, Race, Nation.

Liberal Studies seminars are taught by Simon Fraser University faculty selected for their teaching excellence and their disciplinary expertise, as well as for their interest in interdisciplinary studies and their enthusiasm for teaching adults. The core courses are normally team-taught, and draw on additional faculty expertise from across the University.

This indicates one of several difficulties in assigning a collections policy for this program based on faculty research interests.  Namely, the faculty come from other areas of the University, Contemporary Arts, Mathematics and Statistics, History, French, Psychology, Business Administration, and so on, and generally aren’t conducting their research under the aegis of Liberal Studies.   In fact, it is difficult to say “Liberal Studies books” or Liberal Studies journals” and hope to convey anything meaningful. What we can do, however, is approach the above mentioned fields, and practically any other one, from the perspective of the major themes described in the program when selecting material.  This should establish a collection that is relevant to both faculty and students who wish to apply an interdisciplinary approach.

SFU Resources

Bennett Library is the major location for material with a liberal studies approach, although the collection at Belzberg has grown significantly and is experiencing an encouraging level of use.

Regional Resources

The University of British Columbia has a large collection providing broad coverage of Liberal Studies subjects.

Consortia and Document Delivery

SFU belongs to three consortia (Electronic Library Network; Council of Prairie and Pacific University Libraries; and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries). Document delivery agreements exist with all three of these consortia which allow delivery of journal articles and books from these libraries in a timely manner. Holdings and direct requesting from over 40 libraries are accessible through the Interlibrary Loan webpage and from many databases.

General Collection Guidelines

Language: English
Chronological guidelines: None
Geographical guidelines: None
Treatment of subject: selection is largely from reviewing sources such as, TLS, LROB, NYTBR, NYROB, publishers catalogues, journals, faculty and student requests.
Types of Materials: mostly books.  The program is very open to other formats and methods of delivery
Date of Publication: None
Coordination and cooperation with other campus resources: none
Other factors for consideration: none at this time

Subjects and Levels of Collecting (draft)

Liberal Studies purchases materials from level 3-5 on the ALA scale.  It is not possible for me to break up all the subjects touched on by this program.  Rather, it is probably more useful to think of this in terms of all the subjects taught within a large university and apply the key Lliberal Studies concepts described above at the intermediate to research levels: ideas and values that have shaped our culture, tension between reason and passion in human experience, self and society, tradition and modernity, science and human values, religious and secular world views, liberty and authority, organising social realities.  Materials which analyse or apply these or related concepts to practically any academic subject or sub discipline can be purchased at the intermediate to research level.

The following terms could be considered in creating an approval plan.  It should be noted that these terms generally are too broad or miss the Liberal Studies approach.  Unfortunately a profile using these terms generates far too many slips to be useful.    A small profile has been set up in Coutts based on concepts of literary theory, individual and society, romanticism and critical theory.  This profile generates approximately 10 slips/month, so the other methods of selection are still used. 

Architecture and society
Cinema directing
Classical philosophy
Critical theory
Economic theory
Educational philosophy

Gothic novels
History of science
Philosophy of history
Individual and the state
Theory of knowledge
Literary theory
Philosophy of religion
Philosophy of science
Social philosophy