Library Policies

Selection Guidelines

Ratified October 2009

General Criteria

Preliminary; last revised 10/15/09.

Criteria used in selecting individual items include the following:

  • relevance to the university's curriculum
  • known or projected demand
  • specific requests from the library's primary clientele
  • appropriateness of level of treatment
  • currency
  • cost and availability of funding
  • strength or weakness of existing holdings on the same or similar subjects
  • authoritativeness of the author or reputation of the publisher
  • favorable reviews in reputable reviewing sources such as these:
    • CHOICE: Reviews for College Libraries
    • The New York Times Book Review
    • Library journal
    • American Reference Books Annual
    • Books & Culture: A Christian Review
  • favorable reviews in the professional literature of the relevant discipline or professional interdisciplinary literature
  • recommendation in authoritative bibliographies or lists, e.g., Resources for College Libraries, or inclusion in selective subject bibliographies
  • usage history of similar items (e.g. as reflected in circulation records)
  • condition
  • availability of item in other nearby libraries, particularly availability via direct borrowing

Formats Included and Excluded

Physical formats currently acquired by the library include:

music scores
periodicals (journals, magazines, newspapers)
microfilm (35 mm rolls)
videotapes (VHS only)
CD-ROM (chiefly when accompanying books)
multimedia kits
archival records


The following physical formats are normally not collected at this time, though the library may own materials in these formats through past acquisitions. Exceptions may and often should be made for archives or special collections, but otherwise should be made only for truly exceptional circumstances. This list should not be considered exhaustive:

loose-leaf materials
“consumables” (workbooks, test forms, survey forms, etc.), except in
curriculum library
overhead transparencies
realia (art objects, historical artifacts, science specimens, etc.)


“Virtual” collections developed and maintained by the library include online resources acquired by purchase or a one-time access fee or accessed through subscription or annual (or other periodic) licensing, hosted remotely on servers provided by a third-party vendor, and accessed via the Internet using interface software provided by the vendor. These include the following:

indexes and abstract databases, either with or without full-text
online collections of periodicals
e-books and e-book collections
online collections of images
audio and video streaming services


The library does not develop and maintain such electronic resources on its own, nor does it host them on its own or other institutional servers or provide access to them via locally developed interfaces.

See also Policies for Specific Collections: Electronic Resource Collections


Generally, the library acquires resources only in those languages in which academic programs or courses are offered at Whitworth. In subject fields other than foreign languages and literatures, the library concentrates on works in English, and will add foreign language items (even by gift) only if justified by exceptional circumstances.

Policies and Guidelines for Specific Formats

Books and E-books

Books in their traditional, common physical formats are collected subject to general selection criteria, the criteria for specific collections, and/or policies applicable to special categories of acquisitions such as gifts, faculty publications, etc.

The domain of electronic books, or e-books, is presently in considerable flux, undergoing rapid changes in modes of delivery, technological innovation and adaptation, marketing, user acceptance, and access restrictions under copyright law. The following policies are therefore provisional and subject to rapid revision in light of changing conditions:

  • Subject to its general selection criteria, the library will acquire an online (web-accessible) e-book or e-book collection that will serve a clearly identified program need that cannot be effectively served with a copy or copies in its physical collections, such as for a distance education course or program (offered online, partly online, or at an off-campus location). This is conditional, however, not merely on the book’s or collection’s availability in an online format, but its availability on an online platform already in use by the library or a platform that may be added following a careful assessment of cost, technical feasibility, workload implications, and other pertinent factors.
  • Barring a specifically identified program need for an e-book version or some other exceptional condition, individually selected titles will generally continue to be acquired in physical rather than e-book format, except as provided below.
  • In areas where there is no clearly identified program need that would favor e-books over physical copies, the library will selectively build a representative collection of e-books in order to establish a base of experience and to test user acceptance and interest. For the most part, such acquisitions will seek to take advantage of consortial or package pricing opportunities on e-book collections, to reduce the cost per title.
  • For major reference works, the access afforded by an e-book or online version is preferable to a physical copy in the library’s reference collection, other things being equal. However, current marketing practices for such resources, usually involving substantial annual licensing or access fees, typically render this alternative cost-prohibitive or difficult to justify. The library will proactively watch for opportunities to afford cost-effective online access to major reference works.
  • As a general rule, duplication of the same title in e-book and physical formats is to be avoided. However, exceptions may be justified, even mandated, by a variety of specific reasons that are not readily enumerated but should be judiciously considered and weighed.

The library does not at this time collect or acquire e-books in other than online formats, such as downloadable copies to be read on proprietary or generic hand-held reading devices.

E-books or e-book collections freely available on the web are not considered part of Whitworth Library collections. However, the library may selectively facilitate access to some of these through links on its web pages.


Serials and Continuations - Print, Microform, Electronic

Preliminary; drafted 4/8/2008, last revised 10/15/09

Definitions : Serials include periodicals (journals, magazines, and newspapers), loose-leaf services, and some classes of reports. Continuations include annuals such as yearbooks, some statistical reports, proceedings, books in series, and other such materials issued on an on-going basis, as well multi-volume sets (e.g., complete works, collected papers, memoirs, commentaries, etc.) that are projected to be finite but are issued in stages over an extended period.

General principles:The library administration tries to manage serial and continuation titles very carefully, because these require an on-going commitment of funds. In the library environment of today, many serial titles are available in electronic format and thus are not acquired or maintained in paper or microform. However, each title must be reviewed and judged individually for historical importance and the value of the format in which the title originally appeared.

In general, continuations require retention in the original format, usually monographic in nature. Once the library begins the acquisition of a continuation, additional years of the title may be added in order to offer as complete a series as currently feasible.

Requests for new serial and continuation titles are reviewed carefully by the Library Director, as well as other library faculty where appropriate, based on the following guidelines:

  • Does the title meet any programmatic needs and/or research needs?
  • Does the title duplicate in any extensive way current holdings in the field?
  • Will the title be retained and if so in what format?
  • In comparison to other titles in the same field, is this title an affordable addition to the library's holdings?
  • Is this title indexed in current resources in the library field?
  • Is full text for this title available electronically?
  • How is the serial/continuation title viewed by peers in the field?

Many periodicals made available by the library in electronic format are included in collections of periodicals or “aggregator” databases to which the library subscribes, rather than selected individually. In many cases, they would not be selected individually based on the criteria above, but are acquired only because of the overall value of the collection, database, or database package of which they are part. However, the library makes no attempt in such cases to suppress, hide, or de-emphasize the publication even if judged to be of low local value, apart from educating its clientele to be discriminating in their use of its online collections.

Choice of format (serials): As a general rule, once a serial title has been selected, the library will seek to acquire it in online format if available, in preference to physical (print) format, other things being equal or nearly so. This general rule acknowledges the widespread preference among library users, by now well established, for online access to serial literature, particularly journal and magazine articles. It also takes account of the substantial proportion of Whitworth’s enrolled students who spend limited time or no time on campus and rely heavily on online access. This presumption in favor of online versus print may be overridden, however, by specific considerations, notably comparative costs but also such factors as content differences (e.g., exclusion of graphics or color), assurance or lack of assurance of continuing access, or technical complications of online access.

In general, there should not be duplication in current subscriptions to print and online versions of the same title. However, uncertain reliability of continuing access to the online format of a title – particularly for titles included in so-called “aggregator databases,” from which they can typically be removed at the publisher’s or vendor’s whim – may and sometimes should override this presumption against duplication. Such cases require careful but often difficult judgments weighing the cost of duplication against the risks of future loss of access. In some instances, the latter can be mitigated more cost-effectively with a microform subscription in lieu of a print subscription.

Given low user preference for (and unfamiliarity with) microforms, subscriptions to serial titles on microform will be initiated or maintained for one or both of the following reasons only:

  • To provide long-term access to the content of a serial that is too voluminous or otherwise difficult to maintain in print beyond a limited number of years, and that cannot be made cost-effectively available online with an acceptable degree of assurance of continuing access.
  • To assure long-term access to the content of a serial to which we have access online but only with low assurance of continuity, and only if that serial is judged to be particularly important for Whitworth’s curriculum and programs.

The standard microform format collected by the Whitworth Library is 35 mm roll microfilm. Microfiche may be acquired when provided free or when 35 mm microfilm is either not available or not cost-effective.

The library will regularly scrutinize its subscription commitments to avoid unwarranted duplication and even “triplication” of serial formats. “Triplication” – simultaneous access to the same content in print, online, and on microform – is rarely justifiable.

Special Categories of Acquisitions


The Whitworth Library welcomes donations of books and other items. Gifts are a helpful and sometimes invaluable supplemental source for enriching collections and providing students and faculty with needed resources. Ordinarily, gifts are accepted subject to these conditions:

  • Library staff will make the final decision whether gift books or other materials are added to the collections.
  • Duplicate copies and items judged not appropriate for adding to the collections will be placed in a book sale or offered to other libraries.
  • The library does not provide estimates of value.
  • Donated books or other items are not specially identified.

Exceptions to, or variations of, these conditions can be considered and may be approved by the library director if warranted by the nature or circumstances of the donation. Approval of such exceptions or special conditions will be in writing and signed by the library director and the donor. A donation record form is provided for this purpose. So far as possible, a donation record form should be completed and signed for every donation, to ensure that donors understand and accept the conditions listed above or else raise any reservations or requests for variance before completing the donation.

In determining whether to add a gift item to the collection, librarians will apply the same criteria used to select materials for purchase, though considerations of cost relative to (likely) benefit will of course be different. The indirect costs of adding a gift item -- costs of cataloging, processing, shelf space, preservation, etc. -- do, however, need to be weighed. Nothing is to be added to the collections merely because it comes as a gift.

Gift materials representing controversial viewpoints will not be rejected for that reason, as long as they are appropriate under general selection criteria. However, librarians will exercise careful judgment and will guard against gifts that have the intent or effect of creating a severely unbalanced representation in the collection of some controversial viewpoint.

The above policies apply to monetary gifts designated for purchase of specified items, just as they would to direct donations of those same items.

Faculty Publications

As far as feasible, books authored or edited by Whitworth faculty during their time at Whitworth, or while in emeritus status, will be acquired for the Whitworth Collection in Special Collections (see Special Collections Policy).

Second-hand and Out-of-Print Materials

When a requested item is out of print, the library will not automatically initiate a search for a second-hand or remaindered copy. Library faculty may, on their own initiative or at the request of a patron, conduct or ask the Acquisitions department to conduct a search of the online second-hand and remaindered books market for a copy in acceptable condition at a reasonable price. The value of or need for the work should be carefully weighed against the price, the cost and time of searching and ordering, and the extra risks associated with purchasing in this market. In rare instances of high need or unusual desirability (e.g., for a Special Collection) only, searches for out-of-print materials may go beyond searching for available copies in standard online sources to other strategies such as submitting “want” requests to specific dealers.

A secondhand copy will not ordinarily be purchased when a new copy is available, even if there would be a saving in price, because of the extra time, effort, costs, and risks of purchasing in the secondhand or remaindered market. This policy may be waived in rare instances where the price of a new copy is unjustifiably or unmanageably high and a good secondhand copy is available at very substantially lower cost.