Collection Development Policy

Wellesley College Library Collection Development Policy

The collections of the Wellesley College Library have been built through the effort of generations of librarians, faculty, students, alumnae, and donors who have shared the vision of building a premier collection, one that provides the range of resources needed to support teaching and learning at Wellesley. With resources including print volumes, electronic books, electronic journals, images, music, electronic databases, and manuscripts, Wellesley enjoys one of the finest undergraduate library collections in the country.

In building its collections, the Library seeks to achieve a rich mix of print and online resources, drawing on the strengths of each format to meet the needs of Wellesley scholars. As scholarship and publishing change, we adapt our strategies to ensure that we are providing resources in the forms and formats that are the most accessible and useful to our users. For some disciplines, print continues largely to define the record of scholarship, while other disciplines rely on digital resources. We strive to build collections that reflect this range of needs, seeking to provide both a core set of reliable resources and a selection of more specialized ones that expose our students to the most important titles in the disciplines that they study. To meet advanced student, faculty, and staff research needs, the Library fosters and participates in a number of mutually advantageous cooperative relationships with other libraries. Through arrangements with our partner libraries, we maintain subject collections of depth, provide onsite access to additional collections, and supply research material through interlibrary loan (ILL) as well as through journal article and book chapter delivery services.

To ensure that the collections grow in a thoughtful and purposeful way, the current generation of collection specialists has developed this set of principles and practices to guide decision making. These principles form our Wellesley College Library Collection Development Policy. These principles undergo continual assessment and adjustment to ensure that the collections respond to changes in the curriculum and in the forms and formats of scholarly information supporting the needs of the community. The Wellesley College Library strives to reflect the College’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion by intentionally building and maintaining collections that support and represent the rich diversity of the curriculum and the College community. The Library recognizes that gaps exist in its collections, and affirms its goals to increase representation of diverse identities and viewpoints and to provide equitable, inclusive access to its materials, regardless of format or type.

General Policies

  • We acquire materials based on demonstrated need, anticipated use, and available funding.
  • We support intellectual freedom by representing a diversity of opinions and viewpoints; we seek to represent scholarship from both mainstream and alternative domestic and foreign presses.
  • In selecting and retaining resources, we seek authoritative scholarship, quality and durability, accessibility, sustainable pricing, and favorable licensing terms.
  • We collect materials in the most useful format for the content and intended use, bearing in mind the institution’s technical infrastructure and staff expertise available to support patron use of specialized resources.
  • We participate in cooperative initiatives with other libraries and cultural organizations to ensure the widest and most stable access to scholarly resources possible.

Guiding Principles: 

A number of principles guide the selection of material added to the collection, primary among them are equity, diversity, scope, balance, and freedom of intellectual pursuit. These are outlined in the following statements, devised by the library community, which the Wellesley College Library endorses;

Specific Policies (Alphabetical by Topic)

Approval Plans & Demand-Driven Acquisition:

Wellesley maintains print approval plans whereby books are acquired according to carefully constructed profiles by discipline, publisher, reading level, etc., to ensure that key resources are added to the collection without the need for title-by-title selection by collection specialists. These profiles are reviewed periodically to ensure that they continue to align with curricular needs.

For electronic books, appropriately vetted demand-driven or evidence-based programs are in place. These programs, governed by periodically reviewed profiles and continually monitored by collection management librarians, make electronic books available to library users. After a pre-determined amount of use, these electronic books may then be added to the collection. Such programs provide additional methods for building and maintaining a collection that is responsive to student and faculty needs while containing costs.


The Archives collects records of the College that have long-term historical value, as well as materials from student organizations, individual students, and alumnae. Formats in our collections include manuscripts, photographs, scrapbooks, maps, architectural plans, honors theses, audio/video materials, digital materials, and realia. 

The Archives coordinates with College departments and student organizations to evaluate records for inclusion in the Archives. Please contact the Archives prior to destroying records.

The Archives also collects manuscripts and personal papers from faculty and alumnae.

Books & Monographs:

The Library maintains an active program to acquire recently-published materials for the general collections. The most intense collecting of books is in the humanities, with more selective acquisitions in the social sciences, and very selective ones in the sciences. Decisions about which books we acquire are increasingly influenced by the holdings of other libraries and the ease with which patrons can borrow books elsewhere that they need for research purposes. We prefer digital editions for course reserve materials and for reference works that are updated regularly. We prefer electronic books that support multiple simultaneous users.


Databases that support the curriculum are licensed if they have appropriate content with sufficient depth and scope, and are reasonably priced. Remotely accessible full-text web resources, which permit multiple simultaneous users and support citation-linking, are preferred. Preference is given to electronic resources that allow downloading and manipulation of data.


Dissertations from institutions in the US and Canada are generally acquired via ILL only to support specific student and faculty research requests.

Faculty & Alumnae Publications:

The Library will acquire faculty and alumnae publications that meet other general and subject collection development criteria.

Festschriften & Conference Proceedings:

Due to their generally highly specialized content, festschriften and conference proceedings are added rarely and only when the content is suitable for undergraduate use.


We will acquire a title in the most appropriate format(s) needed to support the curriculum and the intended use of the resource. A title, whether a monograph or a subscription, will normally not be acquired in both print and digital form. Both editions will be acquired only if the online version does not fully replicate the print, if there is uncertainty that the content of the online version will be stable over time, if there is uncertainty that the cost can be sustained over time, or if the print is needed to ensure access to high-quality graphics. For print books, paperback editions are preferred. For reference works, electronic copies are preferred.


Gifts are added to the collection when they meet the general and subject collection development criteria. Consult the Library Gifts Policy for more information.

Government Documents:

The Wellesley College Library was a congressionally designated federal partial depository for U. S. Government publications from 1943 to 2019. Currently, we only select government document materials that directly support the curriculum.

Institutional Repository:

The Wellesley College Digital Repository is a web-based platform maintained by Library and Technology Services to collect, manage, preserve, and facilitate access to the College's scholarly output, unique research holdings, special collections, and archival records.


Subscriptions to print or electronic journals are maintained for the key titles in the disciplines in Wellesley’s curriculum. The library’s journal collection is a mix of print and digital titles, as well as aggregated electronic journal collections. Since no library – including Wellesley’s – can possibly subscribe to all of the journals that its researchers will find referenced in indexing sources and citations, the local collection relies on ILL and document delivery services as supplements. We are very selective when starting new journal subscriptions, not only because they represent a significant long-term commitment of institutional resources, but also because we can provide access to individual articles on an as-needed basis in most cases. For decades, journal prices, even as they move from print to digital, have risen at annual rates that exceed inflation and we continually struggle with the need to add subscriptions while maintaining our other acquisitions programs. Increasingly, we rely on other libraries or commercial document suppliers to supply articles from specialized journals rather than starting subscriptions. We consider novel publishing and access agreement models that include opportunities to support open access publishing.

For disciplines in which the early literature provides essential background for current study, we attempt to maintain uninterrupted access to earlier issues, either in print or electronic form. If backfile access is not critical – or if the costs are prohibitive – we will allow gaps in coverage to develop, filling them when needed by document delivery or ILL.


We acquire materials in all languages that are taught within the curriculum of the College. While English translations of foreign-language originals are acquired, we acquire foreign-language translations of English-language originals only if there is a compelling pedagogic need. Dictionaries for languages not taught at Wellesley are added selectively to the reference collection.


The Library's media collections support undergraduate study, faculty instruction, and basic faculty research across the curriculum. Within the limitations of copyright and demand, the collections are also available for educational purposes to the College community as a whole.

Media are acquired primarily in DVD and CD formats. Other formats, such as VHS and LP vinyl discs are present in the collection but are not actively acquired. Over time, it will be necessary for the Library to migrate media from superseded formats to the current ones. In deciding to take on this costly process, we will be guided by the pedagogical importance of a new format, the degree of penetration of a new format in the entertainment and education marketplaces, staff expertise, wide availability of the appropriate viewing equipment or technology on campus, and the availability of funding.

The Library also provides online collections of sound recordings and films, primarily through subscriptions to streaming services. English subtitles are preferred for foreign-language videos, but we will acquire videos without subtitles for foreign language and literature instruction.


We maintain print subscriptions only to a small number of major domestic newspapers and those of local interest. Digital editions are preferred. 

Number of Copies Acquired:

A single copy of a print work is acquired, with the exception of titles where high demand can be anticipated in advance. Electronic book licenses with access for multiple simultaneous users are preferred.

Off-Campus Storage:

The Library houses a small collection in an off-campus storage facility. The titles located there have been identified as ones that are not likely to be used frequently enough to warrant consuming the on-campus shelf space needed for new acquisitions. Many of the journals shelved there now are available electronically, reducing the need for access to the print copies. Records in the library catalog indicate this location and provide library users with a mechanism to request that an item be brought back to Wellesley for their use. Recalled books are reclassified and reshelved in the on-campus collection while journal issues or volumes that are recalled are returned to storage.

Out-of-Print Materials & Retrospective Collection Development:

Material that is no longer in print will be acquired for the general collections if it fills an important gap in the existing subject collection, if the price is reasonable in light of anticipated use, and if resources are not available for loan from local libraries. When new majors or programs are introduced into the curriculum the Library will endeavor to build a collection of retrospective depth sufficient to sustain course work and basic research. In most instances this will require a new source of funding or a reallocation of funds to cover the associated costs.

Preservation & Conservation:

As a member of the community of scholars, Wellesley shares with other institutions and cultural organizations an interest in the preservation of the record of scholarship. With this interest comes the obligation to do our part to retain and preserve the intellectual assets that we acquire on behalf of the College.

For print resources, we will determine the most appropriate conservation and preservation treatments, given available fiscal resources and anticipated use of the items concerned. In implementing preservation techniques for print titles, we will seek out cooperative efforts with other entities, either through shared print collections or digitization, to ensure that redundant efforts are minimized and enable us to focus on Wellesley’s unique resources.

When licensing or acquiring electronic resources, we will seek contractual assurances that Wellesley will retain archival access to the data licensed in perpetuity. We will make sure that our publishing partners understand the importance of perpetual access as a criterion for acquiring or licensing an electronic resource. Evidence of Wellesley’s commitment to this principle is its participation in the Portico journal archiving program.

Readership Level:

Our primary obligation is to acquire material that is accessible to undergraduates, both at the introductory and advanced level. Given the nature and extent of faculty-student research collaborations at Wellesley, we will occasionally acquire material at a more advanced or specialized level when ILL access is inadequate to meet persistent needs.

Recreational Reading:

The Recreational Reading Collection is maintained to reflect the interests of the Wellesley community. Since funding for this collection is very limited, preference is given to purchasing paperbacks. The collection does not duplicate the general collection but books may be added to that collection once their immediate popularity has waned and if they meet the other criteria of this policy. The collection is frequently weeded to reflect reader interests and to contain its size.

Reference Collection:

Digital editions are preferred for reference works. A non-circulating print reference collection is maintained for those resources which are frequently consulted or for which access would be severely limited were they allowed to be borrowed. 


Titles are not automatically replaced. Collections librarians review lists of lost and missing titles as well as those that become damaged beyond repair to determine whether replacements should be acquired. Replacement may be warranted if the funding is available, and if the title is still needed to support the curriculum and ILL is not sufficient to meet sustained local need, if the original circulated frequently before it was lost or damaged beyond repair, or if we have committed to retaining a copy for our EAST (Eastern Academic Scholars Trust) agreement. A print title may be replaced by a digital edition.

Special Collections:

While the general collection development policies and guiding principles apply to the Special Collections of the College, there are certain areas of focus for building and maintaining them.

Rare Books: Early editions in the history of science and medicine, history of ideas, philosophy, images of classical antiquity, humanist thought and related political and religious suppression, German Reformation pamphlets and popular propaganda in woodcut or other graphic arts, travel and exploration, American history with special emphasis on pre-1800 colonial imprints and newspapers, 19th century abolitionist movements, slave trade and emancipation materials to support Elbert Collection. With current emphasis on Book Studies in the curriculum, print or manuscript materials from the early modern period that document the book as material and cultural object--- e.g., owners’ marks, binders’ waste, national style or other unique attributes, are sought. Textbooks, partial sets, publishers’ series, post-1800 Bibles and sermons, personal archives and papers are not usually acquired.

Book Arts: Contemporary and retrospective fine press, limited editions, and unique artists’ books in all media. Must have significant content relating to rare books and poetry collection, relevant content on cultural, political, and social themes, documentation of historical and present world affairs, high quality of craft and synthesis of materials and structure. Growing emphasis on international artists, world languages and cultures, comparative literature, women’s studies, and visual typography. Generally not acquired are blank books, decorated books, designer bindings, deluxe editions, pop-up books, or sculptural book-objects requiring gallery or wall display. Secondary sources, such as reference and technical works to support Book Arts Lab and Book Studies are acquired as needed.

English Poetry: New acquisitions build on the strength of George Herbert Palmer’s original collection in early English poetry and literature. Areas of growth are early modern novels by women, poetry in translation, writer/artist limited edition collaborations with original graphic art, retrospective works of the early 20th century Avant Garde art and poetry movements, such as Surrealism, German Expressionism, Futurism, Dada, and Fluxus. Popular literature or modern first editions are not added, unless they have special provenance, or are not present in any edition in the general collection.

Juvenile Collection: This is a relatively static collection, mainly acquired through past gifts. The Juvenile collection is representative of 18th-20th century popular children’s literature for entertainment and useful instruction. It is not intended to be exhaustive of any one genre or author. Its primary use is for education and history courses, so that any new acquisitions must have a curricular connection. Books written from an English or American perspective on the moral, religious, and social differences of foreign cultures are of interest, especially in the 18th-19th centuries. Seeking colonial American imprints and educational games.

Standing Orders:

The Library maintains a very selective list of standing orders for monographic sets-in-progress. Publisher standing orders are rarely established. Preference is given, instead, to acquiring the most relevant newly published titles from key publishers via the approval plan.


Textbooks are acquired upon request of faculty or when deemed to be important additions to the general collection in their disciplines. Digital editions are preferred, especially when they allow for multiple simultaneous users. Normally, only one copy of a textbook will be acquired if it is available only in print format and new editions are not automatically acquired, regardless of format. Faculty who wish to donate a copy of the textbooks to the Library collection to be used in their upcoming course(s) should contact their collections subject specialist.

Weeding & Removing Items:

As a general rule, items added to the general print collections will not be removed unless they are too damaged to use, are too out-of-date to be used effectively, are no longer relevant to the curriculum, or have been replaced by digital surrogates. As a practical matter, titles held in multiple copies or formats will be evaluated periodically and reduced to one copy to retain the content while preserving on-campus shelf space. Items that only Wellesley holds will be evaluated before being withdrawn to determine if they should be retained or reformatted to preserve the record of scholarship. Titles covered by our retention commitment to EAST will be retained for at least the length of the agreement. As on-campus shelf space constraints continue to be felt, material that is determined to be of low potential use – due to content, date of publication, low circulation – may be moved to retrievable off-campus storage to release shelf space for new acquisitions.


Workbooks are acquired only upon request of faculty when they include sufficient explanatory matter to serve as a reference work or basic introduction to a field. Items that are intended to be ‘consumed’ by the student through use are generally not acquired.

Policy review:

This policy will be reviewed periodically under the guidance of the Director of Library Collections and the Advisory Committee on Library and Technology Policy.

Last Reviewed: April 2021
Last Edited: April 2022