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3000 College Station
Brunswick, ME 04011-8421

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Collection Development Guidelines


The collection of the Bowdoin College Library has been developed and maintained across hundreds of years to support the curricular and research needs of the Bowdoin community. Indeed, librarians and faculty have worked together for generations to build the deep and expansive collection that is the Bowdoin College Library today.  Ranging from parchment scrolls to data sets, the Library’s collection reflects the diversity of both the intellectual interests of our community and the ever-evolving resources needed to support those interests.  Strategies to acquire and maintain these resources necessarily have evolved as well; we are continually adopting new acquisition models to provide the most economical access to needed research materials. Our collaboration with Colby and Bates libraries on the purchasing and retention of materials has proven an important and successful collection strategy, having a tremendous impact on the philosophical and practical aspects of collection development at Bowdoin.

This document outlines the various principles and strategies we use to guide the selection of materials for the Library amidst a dramatically changing publishing environment.  In such a context, this document serves only as a guide: directions will vary as we continue to navigate the uncharted waters of collection development in the digital age.  Please contact Tim Morton, Associate Librarian for Collections, if you have questions or would like to discuss the library’s collections in more detail.

Collection Strategies and General Guidelines

The Library acquires material, regardless of format (books, journals, music, film, etc.) in several ways:  through purchase, subscription, or “just in time” models such as pay-per-view.  Purchases and subscriptions often are made in collaboration with Colby and Bates.  Borrowing materials from other libraries (interlibrary loan) serves as an important, additional access strategy for specialized research. Similarly, the Library facilitates access to collections at other institutions for students and faculty when needed.

In addition to acquiring newly-published materials, the Library supports new curricular areas through retrospective collection development, acquiring previously published, core materials needed for teaching and research in those areas.

Faculty are encouraged to submit requests for new materials that will support curriculum and research needs. We refer faculty to How Faculty Can Contribute to Collection Building at Bowdoin for specific ordering information. In all cases, the Library strives to acquire a diverse and balanced range of materials.

Languages—We acquire materials in all languages that are taught in the curriculum, and generally rely on interlibrary lending for materials in non-curricular languages and specialized foreign-language publications.

Formats—As traditional material formats are supplemented or supplanted by new ones (e.g., cassette to CD to streaming), the Library replaces the older format when appropriate, always preferring only one format, usually the latest, of any individual item.

Gifts—The Library accepts gifts within the limitations of our collection policy and our space considerations.  Please contact Tim Morton.

Strategies and Guidelines for Acquiring Books

The Library acquires books, both print and electronic, in several ways:

  • Working with a book vendor, the Colby, Bates and Bowdoin libraries share a collaborative “approval plan” (CBB approval plan) which insures the timely receipt of new books from major academic publishers. In collaboration with faculty, the CBB librarians developed a profile of publishers (U.S. and international) and subjects that support our collective curricula. Our book vendor then automatically sends us new books that meet these criteria, rotating shipments weekly among our three schools.  This means that we receive one copy of a book to be shared by the three libraries, with an expedited delivery service delivering requests within 48 hours. The goal of the shared plan is to limit duplication in order to free up funds for purchasing additional, unique materials. 
  • Librarian collection liaisons routinely order books to supplement the CBB approval plan, and faculty participation in selecting materials is valued and encouraged.
  • E-book packages from publishers and aggregators are evaluated by the Library and in collaboration with CBB, and either purchased or licensed when they offer a useful and cost-effective strategy for providing access to monographic content.
  • Demand-driven acquisition, also referred to as patron-driven acquisition, is the most recent model adopted by CBB for acquiring e-books. Rather than automatically acquiring new e-books from certain trade publishers, the CBB libraries have opted to load catalog records into Compass/Explore CBB for some new e-books with links for immediate access and viewing. The Library purchases a book only when it is used.

Duplication—At the faculty's request, the Library will purchase duplicate copies of books already owned by Colby or Bates or which are already held here in an alternate print or electronic format to support curricular needs.

Binding—Most books are purchased in paperback, and are bound when needed according to the book’s condition.  Cloth-bound (hard cover) books are ordered when high use is expected or is the only format available.

Replacements—Missing, lost, or damaged books are reviewed for replacement by collection liaisons. The decision to replace is based on multiple considerations including the nature and cost of the work and the availability of copies at our partner libraries.

Strategies and Guidelines for Acquiring Journals

Journals require a continuing commitment of funding, staff processing time and, for print materials, shelf space.  New journal titles are evaluated on a case-by-case basis in the context of curricular needs (new or established), faculty research and financial commitment.  

The Library acquires journals in several ways:

  • Faculty may request subscriptions to new journals, and are asked to provide a justification of why this new journal content is needed at Bowdoin. 
  • The Library (individually or in collaboration with Colby and Bates libraries) subscribes to many large cost-effective electronic journal packages from both publishers and content aggregators. These packages are evaluated for their content and price, often in conjunction with faculty, and are annually reviewed for their usage versus cost.
  • The pay-per-view model, through which the Library pays only for the individual articles used by a patron, allows us to provide users with access to a larger range of journal titles without incurring the ongoing cost of full journal subscriptions.

Journal formats—We subscribe to journals only in one format, print or electronic, preferring the electronic format except when color, graphics, and images are superior in print, or when the print artifact itself is of value.

Binding—Back issues of journals are bound when we do not own that content online or the print version is valued as an artifact in itself.

Reviewing Journal Subscriptions—Maintaining a vital and economically viable journal collection for faculty and student research requires ongoing vigilance.  Faculty are regularly encouraged to review the journals in their disciplines for continued relevance to their teaching and research.

Strategies and Guidelines for Acquiring Databases and Full-text Digital Content

Databases are acquired based on recommendations from and evaluations by librarians and faculty, and in collaboration and consultation with Colby and Bates.  They are typically offered either as a one-time purchase of archival content (e.g. Early English Books Online) or as an annual subscription with content often added and updated on an ongoing basis (Oxford African American Studies Center).  As many valuable and sometimes similar products may be published in one year, we often evaluate products together, allowing us to compare and prioritize content.  Databases which meet the research needs of multiple departments or disciplines are preferred. Given that the financial commitment required to license or purchase is considerable, the Library usually requests a “trial” from the vendor for the librarians and faculty to review as part of the evaluation process. 

Other Materials

Audiobooks—A small collection of fiction and nonfiction audio books are acquired for leisure listening.

Children’s Books—The Library maintains a small collection of children’s books for both curricular and entertainment value.

Data Sets—Data sets that can be made accessible to the Bowdoin community (rather than for individual use) are acquired at faculty request.

Digital Collections—See separate policy.

Faculty Publications/Alumni Publications—The Library generally collects two copies of faculty publications written during their employment at Bowdoin.  One copy is purchased for the circulating collection and is put on display in the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library lobby for five years, after which time it is transferred to the circulating collection.  The second copy is purchased for the College Archives.  Alumni publications are purchased for the circulating collection if they are within scope of the curriculum.

Government Documents—The Bowdoin College Library is a selective library in the Federal Depository Library Program. We select approximately 13% of the available items; about 62% of the selected items are online and about 38% are in some tangible format. Digital format is preferred when resources are easily accessible and when the print version does not offer a significant advantage to access or use. Bowdoin College Library is also an official depository for Maine State Documents. Federal and Maine documents are accessible to the general public.

Maps—Maps are added to the collection when needed for curricular use.  USGS topographical maps are held in the Hatch Science Library.

Music Recordings—The Library acquires music recordings and music videos on CD, DVD, and through streaming media services in all genres supported by the curriculum.

Newspapers—We subscribe to the major national and foreign newspapers, preferably online if the publisher offers an institutional subscription.

Rare Books and Manuscript Collections—See separate policy.

Recreational Reading (“Display” Books)—Recent books of interest, including books reviewed in the New York Times and other sources, are purchased and shelved in the lobby of the HL Library for a year, then are transferred to their call number location in the stacks.

Reference Works—Dictionaries, encyclopedias, directories, and other reference works are purchased very selectively in the format that best suits the use of that material.

Reserve Materials—See separate policy.

Scores—Scores are acquired by the music librarian and by recommendations from faculty.  In addition, the music librarians at Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin have established a shared print score approval plan with Theodore Front to insure coverage of current editions and editions of music by contemporary U.S. and international composers.

Self-Published Books—The Library generally does not acquire self-published books.

Standing Orders/Monographic Series—Standing orders are essentially subscriptions to a series of books with ongoing cost commitments and so requests for new standing orders are evaluated with the same procedure as new journal subscriptions.

Streaming Media—To provide the convenience of 24/7 access, the Library acquires streaming audio and video according to curricular relevance and content quality, considering also the platform and leasing options available. 

Textbooks—The library will acquire one print copy or an e-book version of all course adoption books whenever possible.  These will be placed on reserve at the start of each semester.  Faculty are also welcome to place personal copies of textbooks on reserve for their courses.

Text/Data Mining Files—TDM files are purchased selectively upon faculty request and based on curricular relevance.

Video—The Library collects videos in all curricular areas and prefers acquiring them in one format only.  As of this writing, the latest formats available for videos are DVD and some streaming platforms.  We buy videos in the Blu-ray format selectively.

Ensuring Access to and Space for the Collections

To ensure long-term access to the electronic content in which we have invested, the Library maintains memberships in two digital archiving organizations: Portico and CLOCKSS, both of which will provide access to electronic content in the event of a provider's business failure or closure. 

To ensure long-term access to print content, the Library is a member of the Five College Library Repository Collection (FCLRC) in Amherst, Massachusetts, and the Maine Shared Collection Consortium (MSCC).  The FCLD stores print runs of the journals in JSTOR and from selected publishers and societies.  Bowdoin patrons may request individual volumes.  The FCLD agreement has allowed the Library to free up space for its growing collection by removing long journal runs since they are now securely archived both in print and electronic form.

The Library is also a founding member of the Maine Shared Collections Cooperative (MSCC), a collaboration of over 40 academic and public libraries working together to develop strategies to retain, store and preserve print materials held by libraries in the state of Maine. Through a formal agreement, libraries commit to retain certain print titles in their collection and to make these materials available to Maine libraries. These books are requestable by patrons via both Compass/Explore CBB and MaineCat. The agreement permits Bowdoin to gain space by withdrawing rarely-used books which are committed-to-retain by another MSCC library.

The Library Annex, which opened in the fall of 2019 and is located a short distance from campus, furthers the library’s effort to accommodate its growing physical collections.  The facility provides high-density shelving for 200,000 volumes in a climate-controlled environment designed to support long-term storage of materials.

November 19, 2021