Selection Policy

Selection of new materials at St. Olaf is a cooperative effort, for building the collection is the responsibility of the entire College community. All faculty, staff, and students are encouraged to request items they feel will be of value to the collection. Although responsibilities and procedures vary from subject to subject, faculty normally have a significant role in selecting items necessary to support the curriculum in the subject areas covered by their departments. The Libraries have a special responsibility for selecting interdisciplinary materials and other materials necessary to maintain a well-rounded collection focused on the curriculum. The Libraries maintain overall responsibility for shaping the collection and have the final authority in all collection decisions.

Selectors' primary focus is supporting the curriculum by building a comprehensive undergraduate collection consonant with the mission of the College. Because far more is published and available in any subject than it is possible or desirable to purchase, many different considerations and criteria in addition to the particular subject matter and the quality of the publication are used in deciding whether or not to recommend a particular item for acquisition.

Whenever possible, reviews should be consulted. Purchases are not limited only to those items or authors receiving outstanding reviews, since some controversial materials may receive mixed reviews and other materials initially may be misunderstood or undervalued. Whenever possible, though, reviews should play a significant part in deciding which materials to select.

Credentials of author, issuing body, publisher:
Preference is given to materials created by authors known for their scholarship, originality, and reputation in their field of study or accomplishment. Similarly, preference is given to materials offered by publishers or bodies known for issuing materials of high quality. This does not limit our collecting works by emerging authors or publishers, however, and we are committed to acquiring such works when appropriate.

Scholarly focus:
Preference is given to scholarly materials created for an undergraduate audience. “Popular” works lacking primary source materials or standard scholarly apparatus generally are not preferred unless they contain a point of view or a discussion which is not adequately presented elsewhere.

Balanced collection:
The Libraries attempt to maintain a balanced collection with representative works responsibly illustrating different and contrasting points of view whenever it is possible to do so.

We collect material in whatever format is most appropriate at the time and for the particular work. When there is a choice of more than one format, we attempt to balance several factors in deciding which format is best. Those criteria include immediacy of information, long-term use, and intellectual access to the material. In some cases we collect similar materials in multiple formats in order to balance access and preservation considerations. In other cases, regrettably, our options in making different formats available may be limited by finances, library faculty and staff resources, and limited institutional financial support and limited support of proper equipment.

Indexes and bibliographies:
The Libraries maintain a balance between items that provide access to other materials and the source materials themselves. While our catalog is a primary entrance point to much of the collection, we have a rich collection of indexes, bibliographies, and other materials that organize access to materials within our collection and that are accessible through the networks and consortia to which we belong.

We seek to purchase new works in a timely manner, and desire to keep abreast of new developments in all areas affecting the curriculum and the larger scholarly conversation. In all fields where it is appropriate, we also will make retrospective purchases of significant works that are important to have in tracing the history and development of a subject, discipline, technique, or scholarly/artistic conversation.

Most works we acquire are in English. Given the undergraduate nature of the College, we will seek out English translations of significant works originally in other languages. However, because of the integration of foreign language study into the curriculum, we make a concerted effort to acquire works in diverse subject areas in those languages taught at St. Olaf.

Material not acquired:
We usually do not acquire “consumable” items such as textbooks, outlines or “study guides” of a subject or author. We limit our collecting of popular fiction, popular treatments of a subject, multiple copies, and derivative collections. Rather, we prefer to acquire original scholarly works and primary sources in order to provide a rich and deep collection that maintains its value and utility over time.

Leasing vs. owning:
Whenever possible we prefer to invest in materials that we own, regardless of format, rather than lease or merely have access to for a limited time. We attempt to acquire the broadest possible rights for material we purchase or lease, and we support scholarly publishing initiatives that offer high-quality alternatives to commercial information sources.

Government documents:
The St. Olaf College Libraries are a selective depository for publications distributed by the Superintendent of Documents.  Information about St. Olaf's Government Documents Collection and its usage and maintenance can be found in the separate document titled Collection Development Policy - Government Documents Collection, St. Olaf College Libraries , attached hereto as Appendix “A.”