Library Policies


Preliminary; last revised 10/13/08


Development of the Whitworth Library collections is viewed as a joint responsibility of library faculty and classroom teaching faculty. This collaborative approach acknowledges that library faculty and classroom faculty each tend to bring particular strengths and contributions to the overall collection development process. Classroom faculty typically bring, in addition to high levels of disciplinary and specialty expertise, close familiarity with the needs of their department's curriculum and of their own courses, and awareness of potential acquisitions through the professional literature of their disciplines and through publisher marketing efforts aimed at the teaching and research professions. Library faculty typically have the advantage of more time and opportunity for systematic collection development effort, closer familiarity with patterns of collection usage and user demand, and awareness of potential acquisitions through collection development tools and marketing mechanisms catering specifically to the library profession.

Library Director's Role: The Library Director has ultimate responsibility for the development and maintenance of library collections. He or she is charged with providing oversight, leadership, direction, and support for the collection development efforts of library faculty, and well as for participation in collection development by classroom teaching faculty.

Library Faculty Role: Library faculty have special responsibility for developing the library's reference collection and its holdings of general (multi- or inter-disciplinary) resources. They also share in the development of collections in specific subject areas. Each discipline or subject area that is significantly represented in the Whitworth curriculum is assigned a library faculty member to serve as staff coordinator for that area, for collection development as well as other purposes. As far as possible, these assignments take advantage of the specific education, expertise, and interests of individual library faculty.

Departmental Library Liaisons: Each academic department or school is asked to designate a faculty member (or several) from its ranks to serve as its library liaison(s) for collection development as well as other purposes. Departments comprising two or more distinct disciplines (e.g., Business & Economics, Theology & Philosophy) may designate a separate liaison for each discipline, subject to the Library Director's approval. Interdisciplinary programs (e.g., Music Ministry, Women's & Gender Studies), especially if they draw faculty from multiple departments, may also designate a library liaison, subject to the Library Director's approval. Responsibilities of departmental library liaisons are described in a separate document (see Appendices). They include, importantly, the responsibility of monitoring the department's or discipline's annual library budget allocation and coordinating and approving all book orders to be charged against that allocation.

Other Contributors to Collection Development: All teaching faculty - not just library liaisons - are encouraged to participate actively in developing relevant and balanced collections to serve their disciplines. Details regarding procedures are provided in the separate document titled "Requesting New Library Resources: Information for Faculty" (see Appendices). Student and staff requests for acquisition of library resources are also welcomed and encouraged, and are evaluated by the same standards as are acquisition candidates generated from any other source. Requests or suggestions may be submitted via the "E-mail a Librarian" links on the library's web site or by communicating with any librarian.

Budgets and Allocations

The overall annual budget for library resource acquisitions is set by the university administration in response to requests by the Library Director through the annual budget process. The Library & Information Resources Committee may, at its discretion, weigh in on these requests. A portion of the library's acquisitions budget is generated by endowment funds designated for this purpose, distributed annually in accordance with institutional policies governing all endowment funds.

The Library Director is responsible for allocating the overall acquisitions budget (both regular budget funds and any endowment funds not designated for specific collection areas) among the principal categories of library resources. He or she may further sub-allocate funds within each category. In particular, funds for book (monographic) acquisitions are allocated each year to the academic departments to accommodate order requests from departmental teaching faculty. Expenditure of departmental allocations is coordinated and monitored by the departmental library liaisons. (For details of this process, see "FAQ for Departmental Library Liaisons" in the Appendix.)

Information about the allocation of the acquisitions budget, both in its broad outlines and in narrower detail as desired, is to be shared annually with the Library & Information Resources Committee. In particular, the Library Director will share with LIRC, if it so requests, details of the departmental book budget allocations and the rationale behind them. LIRC may choose to express its approval or disapproval, formally or informally, as well as offer advice and suggestions on the process. Although the Library Director is not bound by the committee's input, it will be respectfully and seriously considered.

Principal Acquistions Categories

The principal categories and sub-categories of library resources for budgeting and allocation purposes at present are:

  1. Subscriptions and standing orders
    1. Print and microform serials
    2. Online resources
  2. Monographs and other one-time purchases
    1. Books
    2. Electronic, digital, and audiovisual resources

When allocating funds among these broad categories, the Library Director considers past acquisitions and expenditure patterns; developments in technologies and modes of scholarly communication and information distribution; changes in the relative costs of various information media; university curricular or program changes; plus any data and his or her best judgment on the comparative cost/benefit of expenditures in these categories.

Departmental Book Budget Allocations

Funds for book acquisitions are allocated on the general principle that all disciplines have a need for books and funds to acquire them, but not an equal need (just as they do not have equal needs for journals, lab equipment and supplies, or research funding). Factors considered in the allocation formula are reflective of the varying needs for book resources among disciplines, and include principally the following:

  • Actual usage of books in the discipline, measured chiefly by circulation records
  • The rate of book publication in the discipline

In applying these factors, proportional adjustment is made for the often considerable variation in average book prices among subject areas.

Certain factors sometimes advocated, and used by some libraries, to allocate book budgets - what might be termed "demographic" factors such as number of faculty teaching in a discipline, number of student majors, credit hours taught, or course enrollments - are not given significant weight at Whitworth because they have no demonstrated direct correlation with need, or to the extent they do, are effectively represented by actual usage patterns. However, some allowance may be made for such factors, for instance in the case of exceptionally high-enrollment disciplines or those offering graduate degrees. Special circumstances, notably new programs or courses that have not had opportunity to demonstrate need through usage, may be considered as well.

The exact implementation of the above-mentioned factors in the annual allocation formula may vary somewhat from time to time, based on new information or the Library Director's best judgment on how best to serve fairness in the distribution of funds and effectiveness in book budget expenditures. It must be acknowledged that allocation of the book budget, no matter how well thought out or how mathematically sophisticated the allocation formula, is never a matter of exact science but inevitably involves a measure of judgment.

If a department or discipline does not spend its annual allocation by announced deadlines, its allocated funds revert to the general library budget. Barring special circumstances, however, such funds are not considered freed for just any purpose, but are assigned to the appropriate library faculty coordinator who will make an effort to spend them on books within the relevant subject area. This policy is intended to promote balanced collection development and assure future availability of appropriate resources even if departmental faculty are unable or perhaps unwilling to fully carry out their part. Ordinarily, allocations will not be artificially reduced because of past failures of a department or discipline to spend its allocation.

Intra-Library Book Budget Allocations

Book budget funds other than those allocated to academic departments are allocated within the library in two principal parts:

  1. "General" allocation: used chiefly to purchase reference works, but may also be used for other general acquisitions, for example, works that cross disciplinary boundaries, works that straddle or fall outside assigned areas of collection development responsibility, expensive sets, etc. Acquisitions against the "General" allocation must normally be co-requested or approved by at least two library faculty members.
  2. Allocations to individual library faculty: to be used primarily for acquisitions in the subject areas for which they serve as coordinator, or for specific collections for which they bear primary responsibility, such as the curriculum library, archives, or one of the Special Collections divisions.

Fund Allocation for Other Library Media

The over-all allocations for media other than books are presently not sub-allocated by department or discipline, save in the case of music recordings. The following considerations and policies apply to specific categories.

Serial subscriptions and standing orders: Since every new subscription or standing order involves a continuing budget commitment, each requires individual approval of the Library Director, who usually consults with the library faculty coordinator for the pertinent subject area and sometimes with the entire library faculty. Requests are considered and decided on a case-by-case basis. In the interest of fairness and effective use of funds, those decisions will consider (along with the usual selection criteria) the specific rationale presented in the request, the long-term as well as short-term budgetary impact, and the share of the subscription and standing order budget already attributed to the department or discipline from which the request originates. Toward the latter end, library staff track subscription and standing order expenditures by department or discipline, as far as they are able, though this is complicated by the multi- or interdisciplinary nature of many serial publications. Subscription and standing order decisions will be made with an eye toward fairness and equity in meeting the needs of all departments, while recognizing the general principle (parallel to that for books) that needs for journals or other serial publications, and for funds to acquire them, are not equal for all disciplines.

Subscriptions or licenses to online resources: Since these involve continuing budget commitments and, typically, very substantial expenditures, they require case-by-case consideration and ultimately the Library Director's approval. Candidates for new online resource subscriptions, which may be presented by faculty or student requests or identified through internal library processes, are normally evaluated collectively by the library faculty, who then make a collective determination subject to the Library Director's final decision. Determinations are made with an eye toward fairness and equity in meeting the needs of all departments, while recognizing that not every departments has equal need and that the library's financial ability to satisfy these needs equitably can be significantly affected by market variables such as vendor pricing policies, consortial licensing opportunities, etc.

Videos, DVD's, and Other Audiovisual or Digital Media: Because departmental needs for acquisitions in these media categories tend to be much more variable from year to year than is the case for books, and because the available budget is usually more limited, funds are not allocated to departments by an allocation formula or similar mechanism. Requests are considered and decided on a case-by-case basis. In the interest of fairness and the effective use of funds, those decisions will consider (along with the usual selection criteria) the share of available funds used by the requesting department year-to-date and in the recent past, as well as the department's actual use of its existing media collections.

Funds budgeted for acquisitions in these categories are allocated largely or entirely to build the collections maintained by the Instructional Technology and Media Services (ITMS) department. The ITMS Manager administers this allocation, and must approve all orders against it. In exceptional cases, if an academic department's need for video or other audiovisual or digital media cannot be met from this allocation, it may request approval from the Library Director to divert a portion of its book budget allocation for this purpose.


Once selection decisions have been made, all subsequent phases of the acquisitions process, up to actual payment of vendors (which is handled by the university's Business Office) are the responsibility of the library's Technical Services Department. This includes pre-order verification, vendor selection, order placement, monitoring order status, receiving, preparing and approving invoices for payment, and maintaining the library's internal fund allocation accounts. These procedures are carried out by the Acquisitions Specialist and his or her assistants, under general supervision and oversight of the Coordinator of Technical Services and Library Automation. The latter is charged with overall responsibility for the acquisitions function, which also encompasses key decisions, made in consultation with the Library Director as appropriate, regarding major vendor contracts or agreements, organization and automation of acquisitions functions, and broad acquisitions policy issues.

The Acquisitions Specialist is charged with ensuring that orders against any fund account are submitted or approved only by those authorized to obligate that account.

Centralization of acquisitions as described above promotes operational efficiency, avoids inadvertent duplication, and maximizes the purchasing power of acquisitions funds (e.g., by taking into account vendor discount and return policies and ancillary acquisitions costs such as taxes, shipping/handling charges, and processing overhead). Neither library faculty nor teaching faculty, including departmental library liaisons, are to purchase or order library resources on their own, unless they have prior authorization from the Coordinator of Technical Services or the Library Director. In rare instances when a purchase or exceptional discount opportunity would otherwise be lost, such authorization may be requested and granted after the fact. However, care must be taken in such instances that there is no irrevocable obligation of library funds. Individuals who make purchases with personal or non-library institutional funds or charge cards cannot be assured of reimbursement if, for example, their purchases prove to be duplicates, result in larger expenditures than necessary, or are deemed inappropriate for the library collections (the Library Director serving as final arbiter in such cases).