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Collection Development

Research Mission

In the last twenty years, the number of volumes in the library collections at Boston College has doubled with a total volume count of over two million. As a member of the Association of Research Libraries, the Libraries' mission has always been to support the teaching and research efforts of Boston College. The university has made a commitment to develop its research programs, become more of a national and international academic institution, and diversify its student population while maintaining its traditional excellence in undergraduate teaching. This commitment has implications for the kinds of information resources students and faculty require. During a time of technological innovation in publishing and information delivery, the Boston College Libraries are developing a digital library of electronic resources essential to current academic scholarship and teaching. At the same time, the Libraries continue to add to the collections of books, journals, microforms, videos, and other kinds of materials which form the historic foundation of library holdings.

How We Select and Acquire Research Materials

Many of the print books acquired by the Libraries are received through approval plans with domestic and foreign vendors. The approval plans, which are continually being updated by Boston College librarians, reflect the subject areas that are being researched and taught at Boston College. Books are also ordered on a title-by-title basis based on information from reviews, catalogues, publisher notices, and recommendations received from library users.

Periodicals are ordered and subscriptions renewed via serial vendors. Because of continuing sharp increases in subscription prices, new periodical orders must be paid for by cancellation of current subscriptions. New journals are ordered in the electronic version if both print and electronic are available unless there is a reason for preferring print. Either books or periodicals can be recommended by sending an e-mail message to the appropriate Subject Specialist.

Electronic resources like online databases and electronic journals are selected because of recommendations from faculty and students at Boston College as well as information provided by database vendors and library consortia. Because of the expensive nature of electronic resources, library consortia like the Boston Library Consortium (BLC) and the NorthEast Regional Libraries (NERL) have worked with vendors to get discounted prices. As a result, consortial agreements for electronic resources now play an important role in developing our electronic collections. The Boston College community is invited to try out potential new databases by visiting the trials page.

The process for selecting new electronic resources begins with Subject Specialists who may have received recommendations from faculty or students, considered offers made by e-resource vendors, or heard about special deals being offered to library consortia. The Subject Specialist must evaluate the resource according to standards stated in the Electronic Resources Collection Policy. A form is submitted to the Electronic Resource Review Board, a group composed of librarians from a range of library departments, which considers any technological and budgetary issues connected with the resource. If funds are available and the resource presents no technological difficulties, the resource is ordered.

Other formats like music CDs, DVDs, and microforms among others are selected and ordered on a title by title basis. Please contact your Subject Specialist if you have specific recommendations.

Balancing the Collections

Until the last decade of the 20th century, academic library collections were primarily composed of print materials. The selection of books and periodicals followed familiar procedures, and budgets were based on years of experience with the teaching and research needs of the University on the one hand and publishing trends on the other. However, the advent of electronic resources and the rising demand for their availability have transformed the work of collection development. The basic goal remains: to provide the Boston College community with the resources it needs for pursuing academic excellence. The Libraries' collection development program has always strived to provide information in the most appropriate formats. The addition of electronic resources has added a degree of complexity to the task, but Subject Specialists working closely with faculty and students will continue to select and acquire the best possible combination of print, electronic, and other formats. Balancing the collections has become, more than ever before, a collaborative effort.