The University of Alabama is the senior comprehensive doctoral level institution in Alabama and is the state's oldest public university. The University's purpose is to advance the intellectual and social condition of the people of the state through quality programs of research, instruction, and service.

The University of Alabama provides library facilities and services to its faculty, students, staff, and other scholars and information users through a system of discipline-oriented libraries. These libraries hold more than two million cataloged items consisting largely of books, periodicals, and microform materials. However, the libraries attempt to serve their entire constituency, not just those currently using the collections.

University Libraries is developing collections primarily to support the current and anticipated instructional, research and service programs of the University. The main function of the collection development policy is to guide the systematic selection of the world's recorded knowledge. The essential principles behind the policy are a system perspective, flexibility, and communication. An underlying assumption is the conviction that the Libraries' collections must be viewed by those who develop them and those who use them as a total coordinated resource.

Mission Statement of University

As The University of Alabama's principal locus of information services, University Libraries strives for excellence in advancing the University's teaching, research and outreach programs by anticipating information needs, providing access to resources, and promoting effective use of information by students, faculty, and staff.

Objectives of Collection Development

The service objectives of the Libraries encompass both the needs of the campus academic community and those of the wider regional and scholarly community. The collection development objectives, however, are focused primarily on the needs of the campus academic community. The collection development goals of the Libraries are to identify recorded information pertinent to existing research, instructional, and institutional programs, and to acquire and preserve selected materials at levels appropriate to the scope and depth of those programs. The purpose of materials selection at The University of Alabama is to provide the right information for the right reader at the right time. This collection development policy is intended to be flexible enough to reflect changes and trends in the University's academic programs.

Intellectual Freedom

University Libraries adheres to the position governing censorship and intellectual freedom adopted by the Council of the American Library Association and published in the Association's Library Bill of Rights. Collection development librarians are guided by these principles of intellectual freedom rather than political, religious, or personal biases in making selection decisions. The Libraries' collections contain and will contain various opinions which apply to important, complicated, and controversial questions, including unpopular and unorthodox positions. Factual accuracy, effective expression, significance of subject, and responsibility of opinion are factors that are considered when materials are selected for University Libraries.

Collection Development Principles

Collection development at The University of Alabama is viewed as a public service function and is a joint effort of the Libraries and teaching faculty with the Libraries managing the process. Faculty members are encouraged to recommend and to request the acquisition of specific titles through the faculty liaison program. University Libraries recognizes that the liaison program is the primary ingredient necessary for the successful development of its collections. While this policy statement enumerates library intentions and actions, cooperation between the Libraries and teaching faculty is seen as a precondition for success. Every teaching faculty member is considered to be an integral part of the collection development team.

Collection development librarians give broad interpretation to their subject responsibilities as they build the collection and work closely with each other to insure that the research and teaching interests at The University of Alabama are supported adequately. These librarians place an emphasis upon the development of "core" collections that support the undergraduate experience. Only by understanding fully both the nature of the curriculum supported and the research interests of a wide number of faculty and students, can the collection development librarians shape the collections in an effective configuration. They support the instructional programs and scholarly research interests of the University by assessing areas of present strength and weakness in the collection, by consulting teaching faculty members for suggestions and advice, and by building the collections accordingly within existing collection development policies. Data related to demand (circulation reports, ILL reports, hold/recall reports, etc.), anticipated demand, and short-term speculation are utilized by the librarians when developing the collection. Less emphasized is long-term speculation. The librarians are expected to maintain close communications with the teaching faculty and academic departments within their disciplines to insure appropriateness of selected material and to prepare for departmental needs.

Faculty liaisons are an integral part of the Libraries' collection development program. The duties of the faculty liaisons are three-fold: first, to coordinate recommendations for materials to be purchased from "firm/form" book funds allocated to the department, school, or discipline; second, to represent the interests of the department to the Libraries by informing the Libraries' staff of teaching and research developments that affect the Libraries; and third, to represent the interests of the Libraries to the department by informing colleagues of relevant developments in the Libraries.

Recorded information that meets the instructional and research needs of the University community is by policy appropriate for inclusion in the collections, regardless of format or language. Policies as encompassing as this one, however, are subject to pragmatic adaptations; and throughout the collections consideration of budget, space, and other practical limitation have led to variations in practice with regard both to languages and formats collected. Finally, the Libraries' materials budget is allocated and expenditures are monitored in a manner that insures proper and systematic collection development.

Approval Plans

Currently published scholarly books are acquired primarily from vendors through variously tailored and periodically updated approval plans. Profiles for the approval plans have been developed in consultation with the collection development librarians and members of the teaching faculty. These profiles are the implementing agents of the collection policies.

Duplication and Replacement

Works in most demand by patrons are also the items most likely to be damaged or lost. Therefore, the Libraries' policies governing duplication of materials form a necessary element of the collection development policy. Library materials are duplicated, i.e., acquired in multiple copies, to satisfy the needs of library patrons primarily on the basis of past or anticipated use. However, the high costs of acquisition, processing, and stack storage limit the Libraries' ability to satisfy all such demands. Replacing lost, damaged, or stolen material is a fundamental responsibility of the collection development librarians. Not only are these librarians responsible for building the collection, but they must also maintain its quality by monitoring the use, physical conditions, and accessibility of materials in assigned subject areas.

Resource Sharing

University Libraries acknowledges a dependence on external resources. University Libraries is therefore exploring, developing, and utilizing strategies for the sharing of resources in cooperative programs with other institutions. The goal of resource sharing at Alabama is to extend the range of publications available to scholars in our academic community, compensating with cooperative services for the impossibility of building in any one location a totally comprehensive collection. This policy statement presumes cooperation between the Libraries and the various endeavors of which it is part, i.e., the Center for Research Libraries, the Coalition for Networked Information, the Association of Research Libraries, Southeastern Library Network, and the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries.


There is a change in emphasis from a print and local-based collection to a collection which emphasizes electronic resources and remote access. University Libraries is developing integrated information environments that will offer this increasing access to information on the latest published and unpublished research, information about primary data, gateways to remote databases, and in some cases, provision for full-text information. It is therefore anticipated that the print and electronic collections will increasingly supplement and complement one another so as to best serve the needs of the academic community.


University Libraries is firmly committed to a rationale-based collection management program which provides a framework for accountability and establishes the priorities necessary in governing day-to-day selection, acquisitions, and processing decisions.

December 3, 1993

Updated January 1999

Updated August 2003