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Collection Development Policy

Suzzallo Reference - Revised March 2000

I. Purpose

The Reference and Research Services Division of the University of Washington Libraries serves the University of Washington community including undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff with reference material of high quality, currency, and relevance to their needs. The reference collection reflects the curriculum and supports teaching and research needs to the highest level for the social sciences and humanities. The collection also supports the instructional services of the division. In addition, the collection supports the general information needs of the greater university community.

Reference and Research Services houses the core reference collection within the University of Washington Libraries. It is essential that a strong collection be maintained even in times of financial constraints as it is through the use of various reference sources that research materials are identified and located.

II. Collection Description

Suzzallo Reference houses the social sciences and humanities reference collection as well as materials supporting curriculum taught in K-12 school systems. The print collection of approximately 43,000 (as of the year 2000) items is supplemented by several hundred electronic sources. Currently most of the major indexing and abstracting sources are available as networked, web-based products; however, many more specialized resources can be accessed through networked or stand-alone cd-roms.

III. Guidelines for Collection Development

  1. Chronological

    The chronological periods covered vary according to discipline and are described more fully in individual subject collection development policies.

  2. Geography

    Reference collects material dealing with all geographic regions.

  3. Formats

    Reference collects in all appropriate formats according to availability, desirability, space and equipment requirements, and cost.

  4. Languages

    Though English is the primary language of print publications and access protocols for online sources, language is not an essential criterion for selection.

  5. Publication Dates

    The collection is continually coordinated with the university's curriculum and research programs and its materials must be timely and authoritative.

    Over 90% of what Reference selects is currently in print. However, Reference does order out-of-print sources and older materials as needed, especially as replacements, and, occasionally, as curricular needs change.

IV. Subjects Collected and Levels of Collecting

Subjects Collected

Biographical Sources 4
Reference collects national biographical sources for selected countries as well as: subject specific biographical sets, including discipline based, biographical finding tools, and bibliographies of biographical sources.

Book Review Sources 4
Reference increasingly relies on online databases for current book review sources. Reference also has a strong collection of retrospective review sources.

Dissertation Sources 4
Reference collects major bibliographies of doctoral level dissertations written in the U.S. and selected countries.

Funding Sources 4
Reference buys current sources on financial aid and directories of grants, granting agencies, foundations, public and private funding agencies, and sources aimed at specific groups. Reference relies on the Grants and Funding Information Service for in-depth coverage.

Indexes and Abstracting Services 4
Reference selects multi-disciplinary, national, subject-specific and narrowly focused indexes and abstracts that enable users to find articles and other materials elsewhere. Many online indexes and abstracts now include the full-text of the materials they index. Print subscriptions of indexes and abstracts may be canceled when online versions are selected.

Language Dictionaries 4
  • English language dictionaries: An extensive collection of general etymological and specialized dictionaries of dialects, slang, synonyms, acronyms, abbreviations, and subject-related dictionaries are collected.


  • Foreign language dictionaries: For those languages taught at the University or in which there is significant scholarly research, an extensive collection of general and etymological dictionaries is maintained. For other languages, the Reference Collection holds translation dictionaries plus the dictionary of the language.

Manuscript Catalogs 4
Suzzallo Reference adds manuscript catalogs very selectively, e.g., major collections and regional repositories.

Union Catalogs and National Bibliographies 4
The primary tools used for verifying sources are online databases, especially OCLC. For older materials, national library catalogs and union catalogs remain essential. Bibliographical sources, including national bibliographies, national library catalogs, catalogs of subject-oriented libraries, and union lists of serials are collected and maintained.

Writing and Research Guides 4
Reference collects authoritative guides to writing in the social sciences and humanities. General writing guides are also collected.

Encyclopedias, Topical Dictionaries, Handbooks, Fact Books, Almanacs and Yearbooks 4
Reference collects materials of these types in all the subject areas for which it takes responsibility.

Concordances 3c
Suzzallo Reference collects concordances to major works and authors.

Subject or Topical Bibliographies 3c
Reference selects bibliographies in areas of the social sciences and humanities. However, Reference generally does not select bibliographies on individuals. If the curriculum or interest warrants, narrowly focused or specialized bibliographies on individuals may be selected, with the understanding that they will be transferred to the Suzzallo stacks when interest wanes and other topics emerge.

Directories 3b
Directories of scholars, organizations, associations, institutions of higher education, learned societies, social assistance agencies, federal/state/local and governmental agencies, libraries, archives and publishers are selected. Currency is vital.

Quotation Dictionaries 3b
Reference buys quotation dictionaries in several languages and for specific subjects, as well as general works.

Sacred Writings 3b
Reference buys sacred writings of world religions. Reference attempts to buy different versions of the Bible. Reference relies on the East Asia Library for material on East Asian religions.

College Guides 3a
Reference maintains a small collection of general college guides. Current discipline-specific and graduate guides are also collected. Currency is vital.

Statistical Compendia 2b
Reference collects general statistical works. Currency is especially critical with these titles. Reference relies on Government Publications for in-depth statistical works.

Atlases and Gazetteers 2a
Reference collects general and national atlases and gazetteers. Contemporary, historical, and topical atlases are selected. Reference relies on the Maps Collection for in-depth coverage.

Levels of Collecting

0. Out of Scope
The Libraries do not collect in this area.


1. Minimal Level
A subject area in which few selections are made beyond very basic works. A collection at this level is frequently and systematically reviewed for currency of information. Superceded editions and titles containing outdated information are withdrawn.
  • 1a. Minimal Level, Uneven Coverage
    Few selections are made, and there is unsystematic representation of subject.
  • 1b. Minimal Level, Even Coverage
    Few selections are made, but basic authors, some core works, or a spectrum of ideological views are represented.


2. Basic Information Level
A selective collection of materials that serves to introduce and define a subject and to indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere. It may include dictionaries, encyclopedias, access to appropriate bibliographic databases, selected editions of important works, historical surveys, bibliographies, handbooks, and a few major periodicals. The collection is frequently and systematically reviewed for currency of information.
  • 2a. Basic Information Level, Introductory
    The emphasis at this level is on providing resources that introduce and define a subject. A collection at this level would include basic reference tools and explanatory works, such as textbooks; historical descriptions of the subject's development; general works devoted to major topics and figures in the field; and selective major periodicals. The introductory level of a basic information collection is only sufficient to support patrons attempting to locate general information about a subject or students enrolled in introductory level courses.
  • 2b. Basic Information Level, Advanced
    At the advanced level, basic information about a subject is provided on a wider range of topics and with more depth. There is a broader selection of basic explanatory works, historical descriptions, reference tools, and periodicals that serve to introduce and define a subject. An advanced basic information level is sufficient to support students in basic courses as well as supporting the basic information needs of other patrons.


3. Study or Instructional Support Level
A collection that is adequate to impart and maintain knowledge about a subject in a systematic way but at a level of less than research intensity. The collection includes a wide range of basic works in appropriate formats, a significant number of classic retrospective materials, complete collections of the works of more important writers, selections from the works of secondary writers, a selection of representative journals, access to appropriate machine-readable data files, and the reference tools and fundamental bibliographical apparatus pertaining to the subject. At the study or instructional support level, a collection is adequate to support independent study and most learning needs of the clientele of public and special libraries, as well as undergraduate and some graduate instruction. The collection is systematically reviewed for currency of information and to assure that essential and significant information is retained.
  • 3a. Study or Instructional Support Level, Introductory
    This subdivision of a level 3 collection provides resources adequate for imparting and maintaining knowledge about the basic or primary topics of a subject area. The collection includes a broad range of basic works in appropriate formats, classic retrospective materials, all key journals on primary topics, selected journals and seminal works on secondary topics, access to appropriate machine-readable data files; and reference tools and fundamental bibliographical apparatus pertaining to the subject. This subdivision of level 3 supports undergraduate courses, including advanced undergraduate courses, as well as most independent study needs of the Libraries' clientele. It is not adequate to support master's degree programs. The collection is systematically reviewed for currency of information and to assure that essential and significant information is retained.
  • 3b. Study or Instructional Support Level, Advanced
    The advanced subdivision of level 3 provides resources adequate for imparting and maintaining knowledge about the primary and secondary topics of a subject area. The collection includes a significant number of seminal works and journals on the primary and secondary topics in the field; a significant number of retrospective materials; a substantial collection of works by secondary figures; works that provide more in-depth discussions of research, techniques, and evaluation; access to appropriate machine-readable data files; and reference tools and fundamental bibliographic apparatus pertaining to the subject. This level supports all courses of undergraduate study and master's degree programs as well as the more advanced independent study needs of the Libraries' patrons.


4. Research Level
A collection that includes the major published source materials required for dissertations and independent research, including materials containing research reporting, new findings, scientific experimental results, and other information useful to researchers. It is intended to include all important reference works and a wide selection of specialized monographs, as well as a very extensive collection of journals and major indexing and abstracting services in the field. Pertinent foreign language materials are included. Older material is usually retained for historical research and actively preserved. A collection at this level supports doctoral and other original research. Research collections represent national investments attracting scholars and researchers who normally work elsewhere.


5. Comprehensive Level
A collection in which a library endeavors, so far as it is reasonably possible, to include all significant works of recorded knowledge (publications, manuscripts, and other forms), in all applicable languages, for a necessarily defined and limited field. This level of collection intensity is one that is essentially a "special collection"; the aim, if not the achievement, is exhaustiveness. Older material is retained for historical research with active preservation efforts.

Taken from the American Library Association, Collection Development Committee, Guidelines for Collection Development.

V. Subjects Excluded

Suzzallo Reference collects very selectively in those areas of the social sciences and humanities which are covered by another library unit or are not central to the teaching and research activities of the University. Generally, the following are not collected: travel guides, city directories, telephone books, consumer guides, genealogical materials, career information, and admission tests handbooks.

VI. Acquisition of Reference Materials

Primary selection responsibility for reference materials rests with the reference selector in consultation with other selectors. Much of the material is purchased outside the reference budget by subject selectors. Selectors in the social sciences and humanities are encouraged to purchase appropriate reference materials to be housed within the division. Shared purchases of expensive items are pursued as appropriate.

VII. Collection Maintenance

Systematic weeding or collection maintenance is performed as needed. Items that are in need of repair are sent to the mendery as they are identified by librarians or staff members.

VIII. Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

The subject-specific branches and units in the UW Libraries system maintain reference collections in their subject areas. For example, the Government Publications and Microforms/Newspapers divisions house many reference tools that are not duplicated in the Suzzallo Reference collection.

Reference relies on other area libraries, especially Seattle Public and King County Library systems, for reference resources in areas that are peripheral to Suzzallo's collections. Reference directs patrons to the appropriate local public or academic library. Subscriptions to electronic union catalogs and direct links to library WWW pages simplify such referrals.