General Collection Guidelines

Methods of Acquisition

The Libraries acquire materials through two main avenues:

  • Automatic supply via approval plans, standing orders, and subscriptions
  • Firm orders for individual titles

Like many large research libraries, the University of Georgia Libraries use approval plans to assist in building collections. An approval plan is an arrangement by which a wholesaler assumes the responsibility for selecting and supplying all publications fitting a library's collection goals. Materials sent to the UGA Libraries through the approval plan are reviewed by library subject specialists before they are accepted for the collection. The Libraries’ primary approval plan brings in scholarly monographs from U.S., Canadian, and British university presses.  More specialized approval plans are used to acquire materials from countries outside North America and for special categories such as music scores, sound recordings, and art exhibition catalogs.

Approval plans allow the UGA Libraries to acquire significant titles in a variety of subject fields quickly and at a discount. For subject areas, publishers, and types of publications where approval plans are not appropriate, subject selectors acquire materials by firm ordering.

When a publication is of an ongoing nature, such as a journal or a publisher’s series, and the Libraries wish to acquire all the volumes, standing orders and subscriptions are the best approach.

Selection Criteria

Criteria differ from one subject area to another, but in general the following factors should be considered in the decision to purchase a library resource:

  • Availability of copies in other university system libraries or other research institutions in Georgia
  • Cost
  • Degree of specialization (whether the resource is likely to serve multiple interests or a more narrow range of users)
  • Intended audience (scholarly vs. popular; university vs. lower-level, etc.)
  • Language
  • Physical condition (for older materials)
  • Projected need based on use patterns of similar material already in the collection
  • Relevance to curriculum
  • Reputation and type of publisher
  • Reputation of author

Centralized vs. Decentralized Collections

The Libraries’ print collections are highly centralized, with most resources housed in one of two locations: humanities and social sciences material in the Main Library and science and technology material in the Science Library. Smaller special-purpose collections are the Curriculum Materials Library, the Map Library, the Music Library, the Miller Learning Center Reading Room, and the Veterinary Medicine Reading Room. In general the decentralization of collections across the campus in departmental libraries and reading rooms has not been encouraged, and the centralized approach to collection building has been very beneficial. In addition to being more economical (less duplication of resources and services), centralized collections are more convenient and efficient for most students and faculty to use as their research and study interests become more interdisciplinary. Electronic resources, which are an increasingly important part of the Libraries’ collection as a whole, lie outside the issue of centralized physical facilities.

Current vs. Retrospective Collecting

As a very general guideline, the purchase of current material receives preference over the acquisition of retrospective material. Newly published material is usually less expensive to acquire, and, more importantly, it tends to be the type of material most in demand by faculty and students. Building strong collections of current materials also lessens the need for retrospective collecting in the future.

The amount of retrospective collecting performed varies by subject area and by the availability of funding. Normally it is done primarily in response to faculty requests. Retrospective materials are acquired as original publications, reprints, microforms, and digital editions. Original publications may be more expensive to acquire and in less viable physical condition. No preference is given to acquiring an original publication for the general collection unless the member of the university community who requests it provides a compelling reason to do so. In contrast to the general collection, some of the Libraries’ special collecting areas place greater emphasis on retrospective acquisitions.

Electronic Resources

Electronic resources include any work that has been digitally encoded and made available through the use of a computer. The data may be remotely accessed or held by the Libraries in a physical format such as compact disc. The Libraries acquire access to digital information through a variety of avenues, including providing links in the catalog to free resources on the internet, digitally reformatting texts and images in the Digital Library of Georgia, and purchasing or licensing commercial products. It is with the final category that this policy is concerned.

Electronic resources represent the most expensive category of materials in the Libraries’ budget. A variety of purchasing models exist, including one-time payment, payment spread over several years, and ongoing annual subscription. Even when the one-time option is chosen, an ongoing annual maintenance fee usually applies and may increase over time. Thus the purchase of an electronic resource can constitute a large and ongoing commitment of the Libraries’ resources and should be considered with this in mind. Subject selectors should also investigate whether a discounted price can be negotiated by making the purchase jointly with other libraries in such consortia as GETSM, ASERL, SOLINET, etc.

In the purchase of electronic resources, consideration of the following factors is essential:

  • While one academic school or department may be the primary users of an electronic resource, the resource must be available to the entire university community if the Libraries are to fund the purchase
  • For electronic journal subscriptions, long-term archival access to purchased content must be provided, either by the vendor of the electronic version or through other means
  • The licensing agreement must meet library, university, and state legal requirements

The following additional factors may influence the decision to purchase an electronic resource:

  • The resource provides added value over the print version (if applicable) in the form of greater searching capabilities, more frequent updates, multimedia data provided that is unavailable in print, etc.
  • There is little overlap with other electronic resources
  • Remote access is preferable to physical ownership in the form of CDs or other formats
  • Full-text content or reliable links to full-text are provided
  • Links are frequently checked and well maintained
  • No plug-ins or other extra software or hardware are required to use the resource
  • Number of simultaneous users is unlimited
  • Use statistics are provided
  • Resource is compatible with a variety of web browsers
  • Navigation is easy and clearly explained
  • Effective tutorials or other forms of help are provided
  • Downloading and printing options are clearly explained and function reliably
  • Updates are regular and timely
  • Vendor has a reputation for prompt and effective technical support


The Libraries’ microform collections provide significant resources for research in a wide variety of subject areas. Microform types include microfilm, microfiche, microprint, and microcards.

With the advent of electronic resources, microforms are not purchased as heavily by the Libraries as in former times, but when microform is the only available or most appropriate format needed by researchers, the Libraries will make an effort to acquire it as funding permits. Silver halide is the preferred type of microform, as other types such as diazo and vesicular have uncertain longevity.

Audio and Visual Materials

The Media Department houses the Libraries’ collection of commercially distributed audio and visual materials. Materials for this collection are selected by faculty request or in support of the university curriculum, with special emphasis on television studies and Georgia-related topics. Most selection decisions are made by Media Department librarians and staff, but subject selectors elsewhere in the organization may also use their funds to purchase audio-visual resources.

The Music Library serves as the primary access point for music audio and video recordings. CDs and DVDs are the most common formats currently collected, but the collection also includes other formats such as LPs, audio cassettes, VHS tapes, and Laserdiscs.

The Curriculum Materials Library collects audio-visual materials for teacher training and education.

Periodicals and Serials

The Libraries maintain a strong, extensive collection of current periodicals and serials. The responsibility for periodical and serial selection rests with the appropriate subject selector who weighs each potential addition or cancellation carefully, taking into account requests from faculty and students, current trends in the subject field, and financial considerations. Although the ideal practice would be to start new subscriptions whenever they are requested by users or deemed desirable by the subject selector, budget limitations may require that current subscriptions of equivalent cost be cancelled before a new subscription can be added. Because of the ongoing monetary commitment made when new periodicals or serials are selected, the Director for Collection Development or Head of Science Collections must approve all new subscription requests as well as cancellations.

In addition to the general selection criteria listed above, the following factors are desirable when a subject selector considers adding new subscriptions to periodicals and serials:

  • Electronic availability, including backfiles
  • Full-text availability
  • Inclusion in major indexing and abstracting tools

While it is desirable to have subscriptions to periodicals for which UGA faculty serve as editors or editorial board members, budget limitations may prevent the Libraries from systematically or comprehensively collecting such journals.

In general, the electronic-only format, when available, is preferred for periodical subscriptions. High subscription costs preclude collecting both electronic and print formats in most cases. Electronic subscriptions have the advantages of not occupying physical space and not requiring as much handling by library staff. Exceptions to this policy include lack of acceptable archiving practices on the part of the electronic format vendor or superiority of the print format with regard to images or other considerations.

Upon the decision of the subject selector, back issues of print periodicals are bound and shelved, or retained until a microform copy is obtained, or discarded after a designated interval. Materials printed on low-quality paper such as newsprint, which will rapidly deteriorate, cannot be retained in print format in the general collection.


The newspaper collection of the University of Georgia Libraries is a significant information resource for the state of Georgia and the southeastern region of the nation. The collection’s greatest strength is in its coverage of Georgia news, but it also has a selection of regional, national, and foreign newspapers. New newspaper subscriptions, like other continuations, are initiated with great care and must be approved by the Director for Collection Development or Head of Science Collections.

Because of the availability of current news online, the Libraries’ collection of current print newspapers is relatively small, consisting of titles from major Georgia cities and representative regional, national, and foreign papers. Print newspapers are retained for periods ranging from several months to a year and then discarded; however, some of the same titles are also received in microfilm and retained permanently for research purposes.

The Georgia Newspaper Project was begun in 1953 for the purpose of microfilming at least one newspaper from every Georgia county, beginning with the earliest newspaper available, and with the ultimate goal of preserving “every state newspaper of value to future students of all facets of Georgia history.” As well as microfilming past newspaper issues, the GNP also films several hundred current Georgia newspapers on an ongoing basis.


Although the predominant language of the Libraries’ collection is English, followed by the major European languages, subject selectors acquire material in any language appropriate to a given subject area. The frequency of acquisition of materials in languages other than English necessarily varies from discipline to discipline and depends to some extent as well on specific research needs.


Literary works in major European languages are acquired in the original language as well as in English translation. Non-literary works may be acquired in the original language and/or in English translation, depending on the subject. Purchase of works translated from one foreign language into another is generally avoided but may be initiated if no English translation exists. In this case, translation into a more accessible language (usually French, German or Spanish) will be preferred. Translations from English into other languages are acquired only in the rarest of circumstances.

Theses and Dissertations (Electronic and Print)

Prior to 1999, the University of Georgia Libraries accepted only print theses and dissertations. Binding services were provided to students above and beyond the two copies (one for the Main or Science stacks and one for the Georgia Room) that were required to be submitted to the Libraries. In 1999, the University of Georgia’s Graduate School began accepting electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs). At that point in time, students could choose to submit either a print or an electronic version of their thesis or dissertation, but not both. Beginning with the Fall Semester of 2001 theses and dissertations were required to be submitted in electronic format only, and the Libraries no longer provided binding services for students who wanted to have a print copy of their thesis or dissertation bound.

Since the Fall Semester of 2001, print copies of theses and dissertations have not been systematically added to the collection when an electronic copy exists. However, when a bound thesis or dissertation is offered as a gift, it may be added to the collection at the discretion of any bibliographer or the Head of the Georgiana Collection to replace a copy that is fragile, damaged, or lost, or to supplement the electronic version. Normally the Libraries should only hold two copies of a thesis or dissertation: either two print copies or a print copy and its electronic version. Print copies dating from 1999 to the present that are added as gifts will become part of the Georgiana Collection.

For added copies of UGA theses and dissertations which do not have an electronic copy (i.e., those prior to 1999), added copies will only be added to the Georgiana Collection upon approval of the head of that collection, or to the stacks upon approval of the appropriate bibliographer.

Faculty Publications

Because there is a strong possibility that faculty-authored works will be frequently used for teaching and research, such publications are regularly acquired. Many of these publications are supplied by the Libraries’ approval plan for scholarly materials. The Libraries do not, however, make a systematic effort to collect every publication produced by UGA faculty. The general guidelines for textbooks, reprints, multiple copies, replacements, and translations, found elsewhere in this policy, are applicable to faculty publications.


The term “textbook” is used to describe a variety of publications, and thus a clear, concise definition is not possible. Most textbooks do not present new information about a topic but are rather designed to present summaries, surveys, or introductions. They may include sections with problems or exercises.

In general, the Libraries’ emphasis is on collecting works presenting new and original research or primary source material rather than textbooks. However, in addition to material supporting advanced teaching and research, it is important for the Libraries to provide basic instructional material for members of the university community who may be beginning new areas of inquiry. A selection of textbooks or other introductory publications aimed at a university-level audience is therefore appropriate for the Libraries’ collection, but no effort is made to collect systematically or heavily in this type of material. Study guides and materials accompanying textbooks, such as instructor guides and workbooks, are rarely purchased.

A major exception is material purchased for the Curriculum Materials Library, including textbooks, curriculum guides, and tests, collected in support of the College of Education’s programs in teacher training.

If a professor wishes to have a textbook placed on reserve for a class and the textbook is not already in the general collection, Reserves will order a single copy, but the Libraries do not acquire multiple copies of textbooks that are required for coursework. Students may use the copy on reserve or purchase their own copy at a bookstore.

Popular Works

The Libraries’ primary collection development commitment is to the acquisition of scholarly materials supporting the University’s teaching and research needs; however, on a limited basis popular reading materials are also acquired. The general collection contains a selective representation of specific popular genres, for example, classics of mystery or American western fiction, and science fiction materials.

In addition to the limited amount of popular material in the general collection, separate “Reading for Pleasure” collections in the Main and Science Libraries and the Miller Learning Center Reading Room contain titles of popular interest to the University community. Requests for specific titles and for multiple copies are considered on an individual basis. Titles remain in these collections until either their popularity diminishes or their physical condition deteriorates beyond repair. When books are removed from Reading for Pleasure, subject selectors for the general collection are given an opportunity to evaluate any in usable condition for possible addition to the general collection.

Multiple Copies

Greater emphasis is placed on the acquisition of unique material rather than multiple copies of the same title. However, multiple copies may be ordered at the discretion of the subject selector based on demonstrated or predicted demand. In addition to the general collection there may also be a need for copies in other locations in the collection such as Reference or special collections.

As noted in the section on textbooks, classroom assignments sometimes create temporarily high demand for certain titles. In this situation ordering multiple copies for the general collection is not recommended because even multiple library copies may not be sufficient for the immediate need and may not arrive until after the need has subsided. A preferable alternative is for the professor making the reading assignment to place the library copy of the book on reserve (Reserves will order a copy if the title is not already in the general collection) or encourage students to purchase their own copy.


Evaluating the continued need for material worn or damaged beyond repair or lost by users is a fundamental part of collection development. Standard works, classics, and studies on topics of current interest are usually the most heavily used material in the Libraries, and as such, the material most susceptible to damage or loss. Subject selectors should make every effort to replace material that is still of value to current or future users, but they may also determine that a lost or damaged item does not need to be replaced if other copies or editions are available in the collection or if the title was of marginal significance to the collection.

Reprints and Subsequent Editions

Collecting new and unique titles is generally preferred to acquiring different editions of items already in the Libraries’ collection. However, adding another edition is entirely appropriate if the edition already in the Libraries’ collection:

  • Is lost or missing
  • Is worn or damaged beyond repair
  • Dates from the era of publications that are now becoming brittle (approximately 1870-1930) due to acidic paper. Subject selectors should consult with Preservation staff to determine whether a volume is actually brittle rather than merely old and whether any repairs are possible.
  • Has a high circulation count (the definition of high varies from one subject area to another)

Adding another edition is also appropriate when:

  • The edition under consideration makes an important contribution to scholarship in the discipline because of the author’s or editor’s reputation, approach, etc.
  • The edition under consideration is likely to be in demand by users
  • The content of the edition under consideration has been substantially revised or updated

Hardbacks vs. Paperbacks

Experience has demonstrated that hardcover bindings provide significant protection against normal wear and tear as well as more serious damage from fire or water disasters. The Libraries acquire hardcover volumes either by purchasing them in hardback or by purchasing paperbacks and having them commercially bound. When a title is available in both hardback and paperback format, the hardback format is generally preferred. However, if the price difference between the two formats is significant, the selection of the paperback edition may be warranted even though binding the paperback will incur some additional expense and time.


The Libraries welcome gifts of scholarly materials, whether in the form of large collections or individual volumes. In order to facilitate the Libraries' commitment to access, donors are asked not to place restrictions on the gifts they provide. All gifts are reviewed by subject selectors or special collections staff to determine their appropriateness for addition to the collection. Gifts are not added to the collection when their content is outside the scope of the collection, their physical condition is poor, or they would represent unnecessary duplication of material in the collection. Gift materials not added to the collection are donated to other libraries, sold, or discarded.

Books are sometimes produced in a preliminary state that predates the first published edition; these are known as uncorrected proofs or galleys.  Because further changes may be made to the book manuscript before publication, uncorrected proofs and galleys do not represent the final version of the publication.  They are not added to the Libraries' general collection, but they may be considered for special collections.  Books labeled as "advanced reading copy," "review copy," "free copy not for commercial distribution," or similar wording do represent the final version of the publication and may be added as gifts to any area of the  collection.

Library staff cannot appraise the value of the gift material. Donors may have independent professional appraisals performed for especially valuable gifts. For more information about gifts to the Libraries, visit the Gifts Unit on the Libraries' website.


Normally the Libraries attempt to fill all orders and honor commitments to ongoing publications such as periodicals, but from time to time it is necessary and sometimes even desirable to cancel orders and subscriptions.

Firm orders that have not been filled within a reasonable time are reviewed by subject selectors and cancelled if the material is no longer wanted or if the chances of obtaining it have become unacceptably low. Cancellation frees up encumbered funds so that they may be spent on other resources.

Publications and products requiring an ongoing commitment should be evaluated not only when first considered for purchase, but also in subsequent years to make sure they are still appropriate for the collection and worth the cost of continuing. The following circumstances may prompt cancellation:

  • The resource no longer offers valuable, reliable, or current information
  • The resource is no longer well-maintained
  • Another resource offers superior coverage
  • Use statistics reveal unacceptably low use or high cost per use
  • Price increases are unsustainable
  • Budget shortfalls force the Libraries to cut back on subscriptions
  • Some volumes (as in a publisher’s series) are still desired, but not all. The desired ones would be better purchased by firm ordering them individually

Remote Storage

Because there is not sufficient room in the Main and Science Libraries to house all of the Libraries’ collections, subject selectors choose materials to be transferred to remote storage, from which it may be retrieved at the user’s request. The selection criteria for storage vary by subject, but typical factors are the age and circulation history of each title and whether additional copies or later editions are available.


The University of Georgia Libraries are committed to retaining most materials in perpetuity for future generations of scholars. While some materials may seem more relevant and valuable than others, scholarly emphasis changes over time, and it is impossible to predict with complete accuracy the research trends of the future. Information considered outdated by today’s standards may be of historical research interest in years to come.

Exceptions to this rule include:

  • Materials that are too damaged or worn to use and impossible to repair
  • Materials produced on newsprint or other poor-quality paper that will deteriorate quickly
  • Serial publications in which the new volume completely supersedes the previous one
  • Additional copies of titles that are receiving little or no use, as long as at least one copy is retained