Collection Strategy for University Libraries – Supporting the Mission of The University of Alabama

Founded in 1831 as the state’s flagship university, The University of Alabama is the senior comprehensive doctoral level institution in Alabama and is the state’s oldest public university. 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.

University Libraries (UL) supports the University’s mission:

“The University of Alabama will advance the intellectual and social condition of the people of the state, the nation and the world through the creation, translation and dissemination of knowledge with an emphasis on quality programs in the areas of teaching, research and service.”[1]

University Libraries works to ensure that our collections meet the call of this mission and directly represent the immediate needs of faculty and students as they teach and conduct their research. With this representative approach, University Libraries makes decisions for purchasing and providing access to materials through a variety of methods, including the following:


  • Engaging with colleges and departments through an active library liaison program. Liaison librarians provide advice on collection decisions through critical relationships with students and faculty in their subject areas as well as through research and knowledge of the broader needs of how discipline specific resources benefit an R1 institution. University Libraries utilizes these recommendations at the single title purchase level, in developing approval and DDA selection profiles, in determining offerings of scholarly journals, and in making large collection or database purchases.
  • Utilizing direct recommendations from faculty and students, especially organized student advisory groups such as the Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Assembly.
  • Ensuring continued access to shared collections and following recommendations from state, regional, and national library cooperatives. These cooperatives include the Association of Research Libraries, the Association for Southeastern Research Libraries, and the Network of Alabama Academic Libraries. The University of Alabama also works closely with the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham on cooperative purchasing when applicable.
  • Facilitating a “just-in-time” approach to procuring materials through our Demand Driven Acquisition (DDA) program for acquiring electronic monographs. The DDA program makes available thousands of eBooks in our EBSCO Discovery Service based upon a detailed profile designed to meet the research and curricular needs of faculty, staff, and students. Usage of those eBooks by our users drives the purchasing and perpetual access for frequently used titles.

All collection related decisions go through review to ensure the content meets the needs of our teaching and research community. This commitment allows University Libraries to take an agile approach in focusing expenditures on resources that support the University Libraries Strategic Plan, while also contributing to overall strategic goals and mission of this R1 university.

Strategies for Developing Collections

University Libraries is committed to purchasing, licensing, and providing content to support the strong teaching and research agendas of our faculty as well as our undergraduate and graduate students. In 2016, content acquisition began to shift from primarily purchasing print to primarily purchasing electronic materials. In addition to our approval plans for subject area purchase and recommendations from our liaison team, we now use a DDA model to provide access to eBooks that faculty and students are seeking at their time of need. This focus on “just-in-time” access has proven successful for library users and those who manage access to content. University Libraries also provides options for on-demand purchasing at the article level from some key journals that would otherwise be unavailable to our users because of high annual subscription costs.

Collecting Print and Electronic Resources

University Libraries is focused on acquiring access to online and print resources across several formats, including increased availability for streaming video as well as rich primary sources supporting all disciplines. Electronic resources comprise most of our current collection. These resources include databases, electronic journals, electronic books, and streaming video to support the curricular and research needs of the campus community. Further, priorities for expending state and endowment funds have shifted in recent years toward support for acquiring high-quality databases that are multi-disciplinary with an emphasis on resources that increase the diversity of library resources. Upon request, we explore alternative methods for providing access to high cost, low use electronic resources through our resource sharing partners and Interlibrary Loan (ILL).

Utilizing Cooperative Memberships

University Libraries maintains a number of cooperative memberships which aid us in providing resources for scholarly research and for teaching.  These include: Center for Research Libraries (CRL), Association of Research Libraries, and Association of Southeastern Research Libraries.  We are also a member of HathiTrust, which provides our users access to a large collection of digitized materials, including monographs, periodicals, journal articles, and government documents. When possible, access is provided to these rich collections through our Voyager catalog or EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) as is the case with CRL records. Regular updates to the University Libraries catalog include adding and updating records from the Center for Research Libraries which provides students and faculty with access to the diverse and rich collections held there. The CRL resources are easily acquired for students and faculty through ILL. As members of the Center, we are providing access to a second premier research library.


Generally, we do not purchase titles that are defined at the publisher level as textbooks. However, we do actively purchase books that lend themselves to adoption as course texts. We also maintain large, electronic reference collections in which many titles are regularly used as textbooks in courses. Examples of these may be books published by university presses or literary or historical works that are also used as texts in a course. As faculty seek assistance from University Libraries in ensuring access to texts for their students, we encourage them to work closely with their liaison librarian to identify materials that are already in our collections or are available for purchase. Library liaisons can also assist them in developing OER (Open Education Resources) texts.


The University Libraries frequently receives print book donations, and our teams review these and add them into the existing collection when appropriate, based on current needs. For information on donations to the general collections of the University Libraries, please see the Gifts Policy and the General Collections Gift & Donation Form.

Statement on Diversity of Collections

University Libraries is committed to providing collections that are accessible, inclusive, and culturally diverse. We strive to provide resources in all formats that reflect diverse experiences and perspectives, including Black, Indigenous and People of Color, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and people of differing abilities. To this end, we are purchasing, licensing, and providing access to content that features more diverse and inclusive perspectives, evaluating collections for currency and accuracy, addressing concerns regarding historical collections that include offensive language and imagery, and increasing purchasing of primary sources and other digital content that contributes to diversity within the overall collection.

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. Librarians are guided by these principles of intellectual freedom rather than political, religious, or personal biases in making selection decisions. Content made available through University Libraries contains varying opinions which apply to important, complicated, and controversial questions, including unpopular and unorthodox positions. Curricular alignment, scholarly merit, campus community needs, and other important factors are considered when materials are selected for the University Libraries collection.

Special Collections

The University of Alabama Libraries Special Collections has a separate Special Collections collection policy. This policy focuses on acquiring, and preserving materials of enduring historical value in the following areas to advance the research, teaching, and instruction missions of The University of Alabama:

  1. Alabama history and culture, 18th century – present
  2. Exploration and settlement of territory in the Gulf of Mexico, 16th century – early 19th century
  3. Southern history and culture, 17th century – present
  4. Civil War and Reconstruction
  5. Slavery, abolition, and emancipation
  6. African American history with special emphasis on the Civil Rights Movement
  7. Latin America, with special emphasis on Brazil and Mexico
  8. University of Alabama history, 1831 – present



Revised 8/24/17; 9/8/17; 3/8/24


[1] The University of Alabama. (2024). Mission and Objectives. Accessed at