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Philosophy Statement

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This statement, completed December 1997, defines the library's collection development philosophy around two essential goals: support of the academic curriculum and sustaining faculty research and artistic performance. Separate collection development policies exist for specific subjects and for different types and formats of materials. Older policies are subject to revision in view of this statement of philosophy, and in keeping with recent changes in the curriculum. Substantive changes in the ways in which we now provide access to materials at other libraries and to electronic resources on the Web also influence our collection development philosophy.

Academic Curriculum Support

The primary principle guiding the development of library collections at Oberlin is support of the academic curriculum. The curriculum is by nature very broad and diverse, and it has expanded significantly during the 1980s and 1990s. In addition to introductory and intermediate courses, it includes many advanced classes that are relatively specialized as well as a substantial number of interdisciplinary courses.

The library's collections support the curriculum in a variety of ways. In addition to supplying materials that are placed on reserve, the collections respond to numerous library-related assignments and projects, including those that involve directed independent learning. The highest level projects (in terms of the library support they require) are senior honors theses, which in some instances approach the equivalent of masters thesis work.

Both the curriculum and the type of students who come to Oberlin (who by nature tend to be both very creative and inclined to independent work) place significant demands on the collections. Students at Oberlin are given great freedom and encouragement to explore areas of individual interest. Their interaction with the faculty, who tend to come from the nation's best graduate schools, leads them to topics that are often of a specialized or "cutting-edge" nature.

Sustain Faculty Research and Artistic Performance

Faculty at Oberlin are expected to excel in teaching and also be active in research and publication or artistic performance. Library support for faculty concentrates on the development of collections that enable them to be fully prepared for all aspects of teaching and curriculum development. Given Oberlin's emphasis on undergraduate liberal arts education--in addition to fiscal realities--the library does not attempt to develop collections that fully support faculty research. The library does, however, sustain faculty research in limited and carefully defined ways. Emphasis is placed on providing strong bibliographic collections that enable faculty (as well as students engaged in more specialized work) to identify materials that can be accessed through various resource sharing arrangements, such as OhioLINK and interlibrary loan. In addition, the library subscribes to a limited number of journals that support individual faculty research interests. When possible, the library acquires microform collections that facilitate interdisciplinary research or build upon specific areas of collection strength that support long-term teaching and research interests. A high priority is given areas that involve collaborative faculty-student research.

Collection Strengths in Specific Subject Areas

The library takes into account several factors in considering the depth at which collections should be developed in specific subject areas and how funds should be allocated to support such development. These include the "library dependency" of the subject (some subjects, such as language study, entail relatively little library support, while others, such as history, require intensive library work); the number of faculty, courses, and majors in the discipline; and the cost of library materials in the field. The library's goal is to develop collections that meet the curricular needs of all subject areas and to facilitate more specialized research by providing convenient access to library materials that cannot be purchased for the local collections.

In order to insure that the collections respond to academic needs, the library has worked extensively with faculty to develop detailed collection development policy statements for all subject areas covered by the curriculum. These statements include specifically defined levels of collecting for sub-divisions of each subject area. The collecting levels follow a national standard that allows for comparison and cooperation among libraries.

The collecting levels and corresponding codes are as follows: out of scope, 0; minimal level, 1; basic information level--introductory, 2a; basic information level--advanced, 2b; study and instructional support level--introductory, 3a; study and instructional support level--advanced, 3b; research level, 4; exhaustive level, 5 (more information on collecting levels and codes). Most subject areas are supported at either the introductory or advanced study and instructional support level (3a or 3b), reflecting the library's commitment to providing excellent support for undergraduate study as appropriate to the Oberlin context. The library attempts to collect at the research level only a limited number of areas, most notably some aspects of the Conservatory of Music collections. It collects at the exhaustive level only for Oberliniana.

Special considerations

Reference collections. Given the importance of supporting research by providing excellent access to resources not located on campus, the library places a high priority on developing excellent reference collections, including strong bibliographic resources that are essential in the identification of materials.

Serials subscriptions. Journals provide essential library support in many disciplines. The library currently follows a general policy of adding new journal subscriptions only when titles of equivalent cost can be identified for cancellation. The library is also committed to regular review of all journal subscriptions in order to insure that titles received are responsive to current curricular needs.

New curricular areas. The library provides support for new curricular areas both by building retrospective collections and acquiring current library materials. Retrospective collections are supported by a variety of gift and budgeted funds. Ongoing support for new curricular areas is created by reallocating funds within the existing library information resources budget.

Electronic resources. Given its potential for enhancing access to information, the library has actively developed access to electronic resources, particularly in the form of electronic bibliographic databases and, more recently, electronic journals. The library's basic approach has been to substitute electronic for print version only in instances where the electronic format provides equivalent or superior access to the print version.

revised 8/23/01

Last updated:
September 30, 2012