General Collection Guidelines and Strategies

The University Libraries attempts to build collections and provide access to information that is appropriate to the teaching, research, and outreach needs of the University community and to contribute more broadly to the shared information resources of the Commonwealth and the nation.  This document describes some of the basic principles involved.  Much greater detail is provided in the individual collection development statements, posted on this page, which focus on specific disciplines or programs supported by the Libraries.

Intellectual Freedom and Diversity

An important consideration in selecting or retaining materials for the Penn State University Libraries collections is the American Library Association's "Library Bill of Rights", which states that:

Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves.  Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.  Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

In addition, the University Libraries is committed to its vision of providing information resources that strengthen the University's efforts to recruit and retain a diverse student and faculty population by acquiring an appropriately balanced collection of information resources. The collections reflect this commitment by supporting study that enhances knowledge of our pluralistic society. Therefore, diversity resources acquired for the Libraries' collections are those that provide a global view of human affairs. They reflect a broad and universal perspective in a subject or discipline, and reflect the various interests and needs of the University's many communities.

Electronic Formats

In general, electronic formats are preferred over paper formats because of their convenience and rapid delivery to the widespread Penn State community.  However, this preference is one of many considerations including costs, permanence, rights restrictions, usability, overlap with existing resources, obligations to consortial institutions, and other factors, many of which are dictated by licensing terms.  Sometimes these factors override the general preference for electronic formats.

Duplication and Retention

In recent years, digital information, improvements in document delivery, and increases in inter-institutional library cooperation have dramatically improved everyone’s access to information.  At the same time, prices of both electronic and paper publications have increased and space at university campuses has become an increasingly precious resource.  Because of these trends the University Libraries attempts to reduce duplication wherever feasible.  While a wide variety of reasons for exceptions occur, duplicate copies of paper resources or duplication of a specific resource in multiple formats (such as paper and digital) is generally avoided.   

The needs of the Penn State community for library and information resources change over time.  Because of this the collection also changes.  As with any library, materials are sometimes removed from the collections.  Care is taken when doing this to consider interdisciplinary uses, alternative modes of access, responsibilities to consortial institutions, state and national needs for research resources, and other potential future needs.


Even in this broadest statement of principles, it is clear that there is much to consider when assembling the library collections.  In order to be responsible stewards of important University resources (particularly labor, space, and funds) the University Libraries entrusts librarians with the responsibility of determining how to balance these concerns, and other needs of the institution, when making decisions on individual collecting opportunities.  There are many opportunities but only a fraction of them prove feasible.  The more specific collection development statements posted by the Libraries help to describe how these decisions are made.