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Collection Development Policy: Reference


The Reference Collection is the primary source within the library for locating information, and for identifying other sources of information.  It reflects the broad and interdisciplinary program of study provided on the Willamette campus.  The Reference Collection contains works geared to the subject interests of specific programs and departments.  Curriculum offerings and user demand determine the extent to which reference sources are needed within a particular subject area.  At the same time, those overseeing the collection have a responsibility to collect and maintain, at least on a minimum level, reference sources in areas that may fall outside the University’s academic scope, but which will be of general use to the clientele the University and the library serve.  These items will be acquired as funds permit, and will not be acquired at the expense of reference materials supporting primary University programs.


Resources in reference often stand as keys to items in the circulating collections.  Selected reference items that do not circulate may be housed outside the Reference Area as a matter of convenience.  In the case of continuations, recent volumes may be kept in the Reference Area while superseded issues are kept in the stacks.  Reference items that receive particularly heavy usage or are at high risk of theft, mutilation, etc. may be placed on permanent reserve at the Circulation Desk.  Reference works that are frequently used by librarians may be shelved in the Ready Reference Area by the Reference Desk. 


The librarians have primary responsibility for overseeing selection of materials for the reference collection.  The Associate University Librarian for Collections, Teaching, and Research coordinates selection activities in cooperation with other librarians and faculty.


General Criteria

Materials selected for the Reference Collection must contribute to the delivery of information and research resources in an academic context.  The reference collection is composed of information sources, predominantly in English, which reference staff need close at hand in order to assist with information requests; these materials are intended to be used in the library and do not circulate.  Reference materials are generally not meant to be read continuously from beginning to end, but contain relatively short, concise articles or information bites that can be consulted one or a few at a time.  Reference materials include, but are not limited to, almanacs, atlases, bibliographies, dictionaries, directories, encyclopedias, handbooks, indexes, and statistical compilations.

All acquisitions are subject to budget constraints.


Language Criteria

Reference sources will be collected primarily in English, with works in other languages collected as appropriate to the foreign languages taught at Willamette.  Some non-English reference sources may be selected and maintained because they facilitate needed research that is best conducted in another language.


Other Reference Collection Guidelines:

  • Chronological--All periods of history are covered.
  • Geographical--All areas of the globe are included.
  • Format--Reference sources are acquired and maintained without prejudice as to format.  The format most suited to the purpose of the reference tool, whether paper or electronic, will be given the most weight in consideration for acquisition.
  • Date of publication--The most recent editions of reference books will be collected and updated as needed.  However, no desirable reference item will be excluded solely because of age.


Duplicate Holdings

Duplicate holdings will be maintained only in exceptional cases.  Exception will be made for works whose high use and need for convenient access are notable, as is the case with English language dictionaries and style manuals.


As far as is possible, the Hatfield Library will not duplicate holdings of the J.W. Long Law Library, but adequate resources will be purchased to support law related courses offered in the Atkinson Graduate School of Management and the College of Liberal Arts.

Types of Materials

The following is a list of special considerations for particular types of information sources.  Allowance must be made for variation in collection criteria between types of materials in one subject area and the criteria for the same type of material in another subject.


Almanacs and Yearbooks--Selected almanacs and yearbooks are acquired on a continuous basis for statistical and ready reference purposes.  Older editions will be maintained in some cases; generally older volumes will be located in the circulating stacks.


Atlases, Maps and Gazetteers--True cartographic coverage will be given greater weight in selecting an atlas than will be given a publication calling itself an atlas but containing predominantly non-cartographic information.  Redundancy in topic scope will be avoided, but not at the cost of access to a variety of scales of presentation and topographical features.  Current accuracy of maps represented in the source will be a primary selection criterion.  Convenience of data access, as contrasted with the presence of the same data dispersed in multiple publications will give a geographical dictionary added value.  An inadequate place-name index will be grounds for granting a low-priority purchase status to an atlas.  Individual maps may be purchased selectively; free National Geographic maps are periodically added to the collection.


Biographical Sources--Special care will be taken to prevent redundancy in coverage, and to include information on individuals germane to subjects included in Willamette’s curriculum.


Business/Management Sources--These resources are maintained in support of specific University graduate programs in management.  Library policy is to provide at least the minimum of sources needed, as defined by standard business collection guides and accreditation program requirements, and to surpass this where user demand or program emphasis warrants and where budget constraints allow.  Evaluation of minimal sources versus enhancements will be made regularly.


Dictionaries and Thesauri--The decision to acquire a dictionary or thesaurus will be based upon a competent review of the publication, the appropriateness of the information for our collection, and current holdings in the subject area.  Thesauri for specific printed or electronic indexes or abstracting services will be considered when they are needed.


Directories--Selected current directories are acquired and maintained on a continuing basis.  Superseded editions may be relocated to the circulating stacks.  Since much of the information included in directories is often freely available online, purchase of directories is a low collection priority. 


Encyclopedias—Acquisition of a general or subject encyclopedia will be based upon a competent review of the publication, appropriateness to the curriculum, and user need. 


Government Publications--Federal, state, and local government publications will be considered for the Reference Collection under the same general criteria established for evaluating non-government sources in that subject area. 


Handbooks--In selecting a title for the Reference Collection, a concise reference aid will be given preference over detailed textual material.  Use patterns will be considered in selecting and positioning handbooks.  In the area of science and technology, a handbook may be of more value than an additional subject dictionary.


Indexes and Abstracting Services--Indexes and abstracting services are collected in order to utilize the resources they analyze, whether the source materials are available locally or not.  The decision to maintain an abstracting or indexing service rests upon the actual or potential demand for access to it as a resource in the University curriculum.  The majority of these resources will be made available online; in rare instances the library may offer the service in print.

Processing New Materials

New reference books are processed into the collection on a continuing basis.  Reference Collection holdings will be fully cataloged and classified, and when applicable, include location tags.  Colored tape will indicate special locations:  red tape indicates the Gale literary criticism collection, purple tape indicates the English language dictionaries, and green tape indicates Ready Reference books.

Standing Orders

Standing orders may be established for selected sources that are issued in continuations in an effort to simplify the acquisitions process.  Many sources may be collected on a regular but rotating basis, so that every few years a new edition of a source is acquired.  This may include expensive items that need periodic updating, but which cannot be absorbed by the reference budget each year.


Deselection, or weeding, is necessary in order to keep the Reference Collection current and to maintain its small, manageable size.  As new materials are added, superseded materials should be removed, and older titles evaluated for retention, relocation to the circulating stacks, or withdrawal.  The removal of materials will be reflected in the online catalog.  The Reference Collection will be reviewed and reevaluated periodically.

Willamette University

Willamette University Libraries

Mark O. Hatfield Library
900 State Street.
Salem Oregon 97301
Pacific Northwest College of Art Library
511 NW Broadway.
Portland Oregon 97209