Reference Collection Development Policy

Purpose & Scope of the Reference Collection

The purpose of the Reference Collection is to provide users with information and/or access to information via print and electronic sources. The Information provided may be an end in and of itself (ex., facts from an almanac that answer a specific, finite question) or open-ended, leading to further research (ex., background information from a subject encyclopedia or citations to articles in an index). The Library's primary users are students and faculty of Gettysburg College.

The Reference Collection contains basic and detailed information sources in all academic disciplines to support the curriculum of Gettysburg College. The collection also provides selective coverage for those subject areas that may not currently occupy a place in the College curriculum but play an important role in human knowledge.

The Reference Collection has no absolute limit on size. Due to budget and space limitations, the Library generally does not maintain duplicate copies, formats, or resources (i.e., if available electronically, print is not maintained; different versions of the same electronic content are not purchased, etc.). The type of material and perceived frequency of use are the best criteria for whether or not a reference book is housed physically in the Reference Collection. Although certain books may not be current, they will be included in the Reference Collection because of their long-standing reputation or authoritativeness.

Format of Materials

Reference materials may be purchased in print or electronic format. Librarians will choose the most practical format for retaining, preserving, and accessing the information.

Types of Materials

  • Abstracts and Indexes - the department collects indexes and abstracts in all fields of knowledge in support of the curriculum. Print versions of indexes and abstracts are collected only in those areas where the library does not subscribe to the electronic version of the title.
  • Almanacs, Annuals, and Yearbooks - Reference collects current editions of major publications for the United States and for countries and subjects as determined from curricular emphasis. Current editions will be retained in the Reference Collection and some previous editions in the circulating collection.
  • Bibles and other sacred books - various versions of the Bible and concordances for the Bible and other sacred books will be collected.
  • Bibliographies - Those with narrow subject scope, such as single author bibliographies, are normally kept in the circulating collection. More general bibliographies on broad topics are included in the Reference Collection. Exceptions are made for topics in great demand or of considerable current interest.
  • Biographies - comprehensive works, both current and retrospective, national, and international biography will be collected
  • Career Guides and Information - due to the strengths of the collections of the Center for Career Development the collection will contain selected materials only. The Reference Collection will include current resume, cover letter writing guides, and other core books like the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
  • Concordances - only concordances for very important authors and works are included in the Reference Collection (ex. concordances for the Bible and Shakespeare).
  • Dictionaries - the collection will include both English and non-English dictionaries, unilingual and bilingual dictionaries. Specialized dictionaries covering slang, idiomatic expressions, word origin, and historical aspects of language and other specific subject areas will also be collected.
  • Directories - with much directory information freely available online or by subscription through online reference resources, the library collects print directories selectively (ex. phone books, company directories).
  • Encyclopedias - the collection will include major general English language encyclopedias, both single and multi-volume. Encyclopedias in other languages represented are languages taught at Gettysburg College. In addition to the general encyclopedia, the Reference Collection will include authoritative encyclopedias in specialized subject areas in support of the College curriculum.
  • Geographical Sources - the reference department will provide atlases and gazetteers for all areas of the world.
  • Government Information - because much government information is freely available online, only select United States and Pennsylvania documents will be collected.
  • Handbooks - appropriate (current and authoritative) handbooks, e.g., The CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics , will be collected.
  • Legal Materials - the reference collection will contain selected legal dictionaries and encyclopedias, and materials on constitutional law, supreme court cases, and public laws.
  • Literary Criticism - comprehensive sets of literary criticism will be maintained in the Reference Collection; however, works treating an individual's works will be placed in the circulating collection. Selected digests of books and/or plot summaries, such as Masterplots (but not study guides like Cliff Notes ) will be collected.
  • Quotation and Proverb Books - selected dictionaries of quotations and proverbs will be included in the collection.
  • Scholarship, Internship, Fellowship and Grant Materials - due to the strengths of the collections of the Center for Career Development, the collection will contain selected materials only.
  • Statistical Sources - selected statistical compendia will be collected including government information.
  • Style Manuals - current editions of any style manual currently being used by academic departments will be included in the Reference Collection.

Selection of Reference Materials

Responsibility - The Director of Reference & Instruction has final responsibility for the selection and maintenance of the reference collection. Regular maintenance and development of the Reference Collection is shared by other librarians in the department and is coordinated by the Reference Services Coordinator. Other librarians and faculty are encouraged to participate in the collection process and may recommend titles for inclusion in the collection.

The budget year extends from June 1 to May 31. Material is ordered and encumbered accordingly. Expensive items ($200 for a single volume; $500 for a multi-volume) must be approved by the Director of Collection Development. Items over $1000 will be discussed in a Collection Development meeting and must be approved by the Director of the Library and the Director of Collection Development.

Selection Methods - Librarians may employ any of the following procedures to make recommendations for the Reference Collection:

  • Publishers' ads and catalogs
  • Reviews from major reviewing sources (ex. Choice, Library Journal, etc.)
  • Review of notification slips from approval vendors (ex., Yankee Book Peddler)
  • Patron requests
  • Subject journals, bibliographies, and guides

Criteria for the Selection of Reference Materials - The following criteria will be considered when selecting materials for the Reference Collection:

  • Strengths and weaknesses of the existing collection
  • Significance and usefulness of the title to the College curriculum
  • Authority and reputation of the author and publisher
  • Favorable reviews in professional literature
  • Currency of the topic
  • Date of publication
  • Price of publication in relation to:
  • Format of item (print vs. electronic)
  • Availability of the information elsewhere
  • Length and frequency of use
  • Language of the publication
  • Duplication ¿ few materials will be duplicated; exceptions include style guides, dictionaries and thesauri. Heavy wear on an item may justify duplication.

In addition to the criteria listed above, evaluation factors to consider when selecting electronic versions of these resources include:

  • Subject coverage: Is the index coverage appropriate to Gettysburg College¿s existing or future curriculum? Is there demonstrable demand for the electronic resource? There should be courses that would regularly use this information.
  • Format: The preferred method of access to electronic products is via the Internet, however, some products may not be web-based and alternative access will be the local area network.
  • Ease of use: What level of training or education does the resource require the average user?
  • Ease of access: Electronic resources should be available to remote users and available to simultaneous users.
  • Full-text coverage: Does the resource include full-text documents?
  • Vendor: Is the vendor reputable? Is support service prompt and accurate? When the resource is offered by more than one vendor, librarians will compare interfaces, costs, and benefits.
  • Stability: The Library prefers to purchase or subscribe to electronic files in a non-rolling format. Newer data should not delete previous data; all data should always be accessible. The vendor should have a history of reasonable and stable pricing and should provide adequate technical support. The license must be acceptable to the Library's acquisitions department and College legal counsel.
  • Library Systems and IT Support: The library and the college should have appropriate equipment to use the electronic resource or should be committed to obtaining the necessary equipment. Information Technology must have the expertise and staffing to support the product. Information Technology must have (or be committed to obtaining) the necessary physical and/or virtual space to store and access the resource.

Evaluation of Reference Collection

In order to keep the Reference Collection current and useful to our users, ongoing evaluation of the collection is organized by members of the Reference & Instruction Department in consultation with the Director of Collection Development.

Guidelines for the Deselection of Reference Materials - The following criteria will be considered when evaluating items for withdrawal from the Reference Collection:

  • Frequency of use
  • Availability of new editions
  • Physical condition
  • Currency of publication
  • Significance of publication
  • Duplication of content
  • Comprehensiveness

Date policy enacted: November 2005

Written by: Reference & Instruction Department, Musselman Library, Gettysburg College