General collecting policy


This policy establishes the basic principles and guidelines used by the faculty and staff of the Robert E. Kennedy Library in the evaluation, selection, acquisition, and maintenance of library materials in all formats. It guides college librarians, who are responsible for developing disciplinary collections and promoting library resources and services to faculty, students, staff, and other library users. Through use of this policy, college librarians evaluate and select materials based on clearly identifiable objectives and parameters, thus assuring a collection that best supports the library and university’s teaching and learning missions.

College librarians and the faculty and staff of Collection Development support the teaching, research and service activities of the university by identifying, developing, managing and preserving the collections of the Kennedy Library. Components of collection development include budgeting, selection and de-selection, collection evaluation, collection preservation and the development of policies related to those activities.

Robert E. Kennedy Library Mission Statement

The policy is in accordance with the mission of the Robert E. Kennedy Library, as stated below, and that of the California Polytechnic State University. It is understood that as programs and other information needs of the university evolve, the collection development policy will change to meet those needs.

The mission of the Robert E. Kennedy Library is to provide access to information and services critical to student success and faculty achievement. The library promotes intellectual and cultural diversity at Cal Poly and in the greater community.

As the campus center for information resources, the library integrates traditional materials with technology to advance the university’s polytechnic curricula and its distinctive “learn by doing” philosophy.

We fulfill our mission through building and preserving collections, teaching and guiding library users, providing a supportive learning environment, and maintaining excellence in information technologies.

The Kennedy Library and Cal Poly

Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, four-year, comprehensive public university. Founded in 1901, the campus has an enrollment exceeding 17,000 students and employs more than 2,000 faculty and staff members. Cal Poly is part of the 23-campus California State University system. The University comprises seven Schools representing professional orientations and fundamental areas of knowledge: Agriculture, Architecture and Environmental Design, Business, Education, Engineering, Liberal Arts, and Science and Mathematics. It offers 52 Bachelor of Science degrees, five Bachelor of Art degrees, one Bachelor of Architecture degree and a Bachelor’s degree in Vocational Education. It also has master’s level graduate programs in 18 areas.

Library Users

The Kennedy Library serves the following clientele:

  1. Registered students, undergraduate and graduate;
  2. Faculty, active and emeriti;
  3. Administrators and staff members, active and emeriti;
  4. Summer session, extension and external degree program faculty and students;
  5. Faculty and students within the CSU System; and
  6. Courtesy card holders, including members of the Library Associates, alumni, and others as determined by the Dean of Library Services.

Beyond the campus, there is an additional obligation on the part of the Kennedy Library, within its available means, to serve as a resource library for the inhabitants of the Central Coast. In an area such as the San Luis Obispo County where there are no large public libraries, the Cal Poly Library is a major resource in the community. As a major regional resource, the library supports the principle of open access to its collections by the community and region.

To meet user needs, the Kennedy Library acquires materials according to the following prioritized objectives:

  1. Procuring and making available materials needed for all instructional programs of the University, including those reference and bibliographic tools required for preparing course materials;
  2. Identifying and acquiring materials basic to student and faculty research;
  3. Collecting and making available core materials of reference and general information in subject areas not covered by instructional programs, but essential to an academic library; and
  4. Acquiring and making available materials for general and recreational reading for students, faculty, and staff.

Statement of Ethics

Intellectual Freedom and Censorship

The faculty and staff of the Kennedy Library recognize that free access to ideas and full freedom of expression are fundamental to the educational process. Accordingly, the library purchases materials that represent a wide variety of viewpoints.

The library will not purposely censor any subject or viewpoint in its collections, and will resist any attempt at censorship from an outside source. The library endorses the American Library Association Bill of Rights and supporting documents, including formal statements on Intellectual Freedom, Freedom to Read, Freedom to View, Access to Electronic Information, Services and Networks, Challenged Materials, and the Statement on Labeling. The principles of these documents are considered an integral part of this policy statement.


The ALA Code of Ethics states, “Librarians must protect each user’s right to privacy with respect to information sought, received, and materials consulted, borrowed, or acquired.” Kennedy library faculty and staff also adhere to the ALA Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records and Confidentiality of Library Users.


Kennedy Library faculty and staff comply with the provisions of the U.S. Copyright Law (17 USC 107) and its amendments. The library strongly endorses the “Fair Use” section of the U.S. Copyright Law (17 U.S.C. 107), which permits the rights to reproduce and make other uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching, scholarship and research.

Resource Sharing

No library can provide all of the resources needed by the community it serves. Therefore, the Kennedy Library enters cooperative agreements with other libraries to supplement collections. The Kennedy Library cooperates locally with CAT-A-LINK, regionally through the Amigos Library Services and Link+ Libraries, statewide through the California State University and University of California library systems, and nationally through LVIS (Libraries Very Interested in Sharing). In addition to reciprocal agreements and consortia, the Kennedy Library may also use the OCLC ILL Subsystem to borrow materials nationally and internationally. However, use of this subsystem may generate additional fees for use.


The following objectives govern daily collection decisions:

  1. To support the university’s curriculum. The library must have basic monographic strength and reasonable journal representation to provide balanced support for undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the university. In addition, non-print media in all formats must be acquired when appropriate.
  2. To support changes within the scholarship of the university’s curriculum and support new degree programs approved by the university.
  3. To support current research programs and faculty disciplinary research. To this extent, resource sharing and alternative means of acquiring resources are necessary.

General Guidelines/Limitations

Fiscal and space constraints may limit the ability to secure information resources that fulfill the priorities stated above. Therefore, the following general collection management guidelines prevail:

  1. Current resources of lasting and scholarly value will be given priority over older, popular, or out-of-print materials.
  2. Digital resources are generally favored over identical print resources. To ensure that digital resources are seamlessly delivered to library users both on-campus and off-campus, Collection Development faculty will consult with Digital Services staff to determine appropriate technology needs and requirements.
  3. The library discourages acquisition of dying or outmoded formats, including 35mm slides, transparencies, filmstrips, videocassettes, removable computer media, such as floppy disks, zip disks, and most CDs.
  4. Reference materials, such as abstracts, indexes, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and handbooks will be collected for all areas. Conference proceedings, theses, dissertations, and textbooks are only collected selectively.

Print and Non-Print Materials

The Kennedy Library collects materials and other information resources in different types of formats so long as they meet the selection criteria and needs of the academic community. Print monographs and digital serials and periodicals remain the formats of choice, but increasingly information resources are being produced in a variety of media. Significant instructional and research tools also include digital databases, data sets, and visual materials. Use is defined by the terms of the relevant licenses.

Deciding which medium or format to acquire is also part of the collection management decision process because the library builds collections that incorporate all forms of scholarly communication. For each academic discipline on campus, the library builds a collection consisting of every appropriate format in a quantity proportional to its value for students and faculty of the discipline.

The procedures for requesting or canceling periodicals, serials, and standing orders, as well as the forms, are included in the Appendices to the Collection Development policy.

Foreign Language Materials
The Kennedy Library primarily collects English-language materials. Exceptions include dictionaries and materials required to support modern language programs and architecture monograph titles published only by foreign presses.
Non-print Materials
Non-print materials, such as electronic products, compact discs, DVDs, and other media, are considered instructional and/or research materials. Requests for non-print materials will be evaluated on the same basis as book materials unless specific criteria are delineated in the discipline policy statements included below. (See Electronic Resources below.)
Out-of-Print Materials
The majority of acquisitions are for current publications. In some instances, the library will purchase out-of-print items to fill a gap in a subject area or to replace a much-used volume that cannot be repaired.
To extend the materials budget, paperback monographs will be acquired when there is a significant price difference between the hardback and paperback editions. Exceptions may be made when long-term value and continuous use are expected.
State and Regional Government Documents
The library is a selective depository for State of California publications. Items matching the profile are supplemented by titles selected from a monthly list of state documents. In response to agencies’ increasing migration to digital publishing, electronic documents are generally preferred. The exceptions to this are municipal and regional planning documents and county agricultural reports, which are currently issued only in printed format.
Federal Government Documents and Maps
The library is currently a selective depository for Federal document, collecting 34 percent of published material. Because online access to federal information is increasingly available, digital formats are preferred. Print publications are still collected from the Department of Agriculture, the Geological Survey, Defense Mapping Agency and the Congress. Print topographical and thematic maps for states west of the Rockies are also collected.
Agricultural Experiment Station Publications
Generally, the library acquires Agricultural Experiment Station publications that have a geographical and/or crop connection to Cal Poly’s agricultural curriculum.
Materials in all formats that support College of Education curriculum, including student teacher preparation, are acquired in consultation with academic faculty. Special resources include state-approved textbooks, science and mathematics manipulatives, and picture books.Teachers’ Resources Collection Development Policy

Textbooks, Programming and Lab Manuals
Titles in these categories are not normally purchased, especially those titles required for currently offered courses. Exceptions are made for classics in a particular field that are the only or best source of information on the topic.
Senior Projects and Master’s Theses
The library maintains a microfiche collection of all senior projects submitted to the Library in paper format. Bound copies of master’s theses from the Research and Graduate Programs Office are housed in the main stacks. Master fiche for all senior projects and master’s theses are housed in University Archives.
Paper newspaper subscriptions are limited to a small number of international, national and regional titles. A wider range of choices is accessible electronically in several databases.
Periodicals and Serials
The library holds individual print and/or electronic subscriptions to a wide range of scholarly titles. Additional periodical titles are available in bundled databases.
Monographs (Approval Plan)
The majority of new monographs are acquired through the approval plan with one or more vendors. Books are approved or rejected by teaching faculty and/or college librarian. Specific publishers, subjects, place of publication, price range, language, level of interest, and whether the book is published in a series or as a separate monograph are all factors in selection. All of the categories that apply to the different subjects within the library’s approval plan are described in written profiles detailing what kind of books are to be sent, what will not be sent, what exceptions may apply, and which for which titles a bibliographic form will be sent in lieu of the actual volume.
Monographs (Firm Orders)
Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to submit book order requests to the library. Requests that fall within the guidelines outlined in this policy, and for which funding is available will be purchased and added to the collection. Requests are reviewed by the appropriate college librarian and submitted in priority order to Collection Development for ordering. Duplicate copies are only added when warranted by heavy use of copies already held by the library.
Archives and Manuscripts
The Special Collections and University Archives Department serves as the repository for primary source materials in the Kennedy Library, supporting research by a wide range of scholars including undergraduates, graduates, faculty, and other researchers whose work relies on primary resource materials, including rare books, manuscripts, and archives. Special Collections is committed to preserving the written word in its original format, paying close attention to manuscripts as physical objects and books as art objects. While primarily an archives, Special Collections does contain book collections, particularly copies of monographs written by Cal Poly faculty. Consonant with Cal Poly’s curriculum, the department specializes in the history of architecture and environmental design in California; fine printing and graphic arts; regional history and ethnic studies; and the history, growth and development of California Polytechnic State University.
The Special Collections Department acquires primary source and printed materials selectively. Materials are appraised for their intrinsic and research value by the Head of Special Collections or a designated staff member. Acquisitions in Special Collections are accomplished primarily through gifts and are encouraged without donor restrictions. However, restrictions or conditions imposed by the donor may be accepted if, in the judgment of the Head of Special Collections, the terms do not unduly restrict access and use of the materials. The donor must have clear title to the materials offered and be consulted regarding provenance. The deed of gift specifies the terms of the gift and the intellectual property, digital, and other rights conveyed.

Electronic Resources

Electronic resources are acquired selectively based on content, access, full image or full text, price, and ease of use. The following factors are considered:

governed by subject. Should enrich and/or complement the print collections or replace lesser used, difficult to acquire, or extremely expensive print alternatives.
IP access to the full database is preferred. Limited access, password access, or terminal-specific access may affect the acquisition decision negatively.
Full image is preferred for electronic versions of print publications.
Value for price, cooperative purchase prices, savings from print budgets, subscription vs. per use pricing, and net cost, are considerations. Ease of use: Electronic resources vary widely in the interface provided. Some are available through other suppliers as well as from the original publisher. The interface chosen should be easy to use, appropriate to the library’s users, and offer full access to the database’s capabilities.

Additional factors are involved in the evaluation of electronic resources include:

  • Has it been published by an authoritative and respected source?
  • Has the resource been reviewed in library literature?
  • Are archives of earlier issues available? Is perpetual access insured to electronic resources purchased through licensing agreements?
  • Are the equipment and infrastructure for distributing and maintaining the electronic resources already in place? Consultation with Digital Services staff about system requirements is required.
  • Does the electronic resource offer added value over other formats?

Gifts and Donations (See LAM POLICY II-15)

Cash gifts to purchase monographs, serials, and electronic resources for the library are encouraged. In-kind donations of monographs are accepted for review, but will be added to the collection only after the items have been evaluated to determine if they meet collection development requirements. Broken runs of periodicals and serials are not accepted. Donors should contact the Collection Development Department regarding potential in-kind gifts. The library will acknowledge the number of items donated but cannot provide any appraisal or estimate of the value of the donated material. Gift materials become the property of the library to dispose of as it sees fit. Gift materials that are not added are donated to other libraries or offered for sale to the public by the library. Proceeds from book sales are used to purchase new library materials.


College librarians propose materials for withdrawal from the library’s general collection in consultation with Collection Development staff. The latest edition of Books for College Libraries, circulation statistics, and other data are used to inform the deselection process. Before final deselection, the identified materials are reviewed by teaching faculty. Final decision regarding deselection rests with Collection Development.

Deselected materials are disposed of through a variety of means, including through the Kennedy Library’s ongoing book sale, to booksellers, and to other institutions and organizations. During periods of intensive deselection in focused subject areas, booksellers who buy in larger quantities are notified and allowed to bid on lots of deaccessioned materials. Books remaining unsold are then offered free of charge to local non-profit organizations wiling to pack and remove the materials. Any remaining books are collected in bulk boxes and picked up for recycling. Hardcover books are shipped to a recycler who removes the spines and recycles the pages; soft cover books are intermingled with regular recycling.

Definitions of Collecting Intensity Levels

The Kennedy Library provides ready access to print, non-print, and electronic materials in support of varied undergraduate, graduate, and faculty teaching and research. While materials are provided on most subjects, collections are basically reflections of the teaching and research needs of the faculty and students. Following the American Library Association’s Guidelines for Collection Development (Chicago, 1979), the Kennedy Library’s collection can be classed as advanced study level in most subject areas, and minimal, basic, or research level in designated categories.

These codes, which are defined below, are designed to identify both the extent of current holdings in a given subject area (collection density) and the extent of current collecting activity in the field (collection intensity):

A. Comprehensive Level

A collection that endeavors, so far as is reasonably possible, to include all significant works of recorded knowledge (publications, manuscripts, other forms) for a defined field. This level of collecting intensity is that which maintains a “special collection”; the aim, if not the achievement, is exhaustiveness.

B. Research Level

A collection that includes the major published source materials required for dissertation and independent research, including materials containing research reporting new findings, scientific experimental results, and other information useful to researchers. It also includes all important reference works and a wide selection of specialized monographs, as well as an extensive collection of journals and major indexing and abstracting services in the field.

C. Instructional Support Level

A collection that is adequate to support the course work of advanced undergraduate and master’s degree programs, or sustained independent study, e.g., a collection that is adequate to maintain knowledge of a subject required for limited or generalized purposes, of less than research intensity. It includes a wide range of basic monographs, both current and retrospective, complete collections of the works of more important writers, selections from the works of secondary writers, a selection of representative journals, and the reference tools and fundamental bibliographic apparatus pertaining to the subject.

D. Basic Level

A highly selective collection that serves to introduce and define the subject and to indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere. It includes major dictionaries and encyclopedias, selected editions of important works, historical surveys, important bibliographies, and a few major periodicals in the field.

E. Minimal Level

A subject area in which few selections are made beyond very basic works.


The economics of access is an increasingly crucial issue. Integrating access as a part of the collection development policy is a modern necessity and provides some decided advantages to the library as an information provider. The developments in electronic information systems have made it possible for libraries to make vast amount of information available for use. This type of access requires that the library engage in cooperative collection development, resource sharing, and document delivery systems. The trend is toward availability of information in electronic formats. When it is determined that access on demand is more economically feasible in terms of storage, projected use, and cost, this option can enhance the library’s ability to expand the information base available to its primary users.

The unique role, the added value, of academic librarians has always been their ability to bring together an understanding of the publishing world with an understanding of the academic enterprise and the local institution, and then to acquire relevant materials and make them available. The new technologies do not change this basic nexus of academic information, but rather help to extend the library’s reach.