Collection Development

Principles of Collection Building

Consistent with the concept of a collection, the Seminary Library prefers the ownership model of collection building over the leasing model.  While not excluding resources available via leasing arrangements, the Library prefers the stability of the ownership model, as well as the idea of paying only once for content.  In short, owned resources remain core, with leased resources filling a supplemental role.

Additionally, the Seminary Library emphasizes the quality of resources over the quantity, and it stresses the need for selection based on the value of the content rather than the price.  Consequently, the Library considers “packages” or “bundles” of resources with reserve, regardless of the attractiveness of the price.

Lastly, the Seminary Library strives to reflect the range of thought across the Christian continuum, and includes perspectives inflected by gender, race, denomination and/or nationality.

Format Considerations

One issue at the forefront of collection development is the proper role of electronic resources within the Library.  The Saint Mary Seminary Library is cautiously introducing electronic content to address specific problems that have arisen.  For example, as the cost of subscribing to paper journals continues to soar, we have chosen to moderate those price increases by discontinuing subscriptions to those highest-dollar journals to which we have access through EBSCOhost.  Also, to address concerns about shelf space, the Library has replaced the paper copies of select out-of-copyright titles with electronic versions that are available at no cost from trusted digital repositories like HathiTrust and  Finally, to make ebooks available across a variety of platforms, the Library participates in a consortial ebook subscription to Oxford Scholarship Online, and to ebooks available from Wiley and Springer.  Each instance has pros and cons, but the point is that each decision to incorporate electronic resources is considered individually, and the Library has not adopted a wholesale shift away from paper.

Acquisition Criteria

The general acquisition criteria that apply to materials purchased are as follows:

  • the needs of the faculty,
  • the authority and competence of the author,
  • the accuracy and objectivity of the presentation,
  • the relationship to the existing collection,
  • and the suitability to the purpose and clientele of the Library.

Recommendations from outside the faculty for additions to the collection are welcome.  However, such recommendations will also be subject to the acquisition criteria listed above.


An important part of collection development is the removal of books and other materials that no longer serve the Library’s purpose.  Factors to be weighed in the decision to keep or withdraw an item include:

  • the five general acquisition criteria listed above,
  • an item’s subject matter,
  • its amount of use,
  • its language,
  • its physical condition,
  • its availability from other libraries,
  • its historical value,
  • its format,
  • whether or not it is a duplicate,
  • whether or not it is part of a series.

Subject Criteria

In order to build a collection sufficiently strong to support study and research at the graduate level, the Library’s Collection Development Policy has established three levels of collecting intensity:

Level A            The collection shall include a wide range of basic and specialized monographs, complete collections of the works of the important authors, selections from the works of secondary authors, all major journals, and the reference tools and bibliographic apparatus pertaining to the subject.  This level of collecting intensity applies to the areas of Seminary Education, Scripture, Systematic Theology, Ecumenism, Moral Theology, Spirituality, Pastoral Theology, Religious Education, Canon Law, Official Church Documents, Liturgical Theology, Church History, Patristics, Philosophy and Religious biography.  The Vincent G. Marotta Collection shall acquire works focused on the systematic areas in the Perennial philosophical tradition, including the philosophy of nature, philosophical anthropology, epistemology, virtue ethics, logic, Thomistic metaphysics, and natural theology.

Level B            The collection shall include a selective representation of materials which serves to introduce and define the subject and to indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere.  It shall include major dictionaries, and encyclopedias, selected editions of important works, historical surveys, important bibliographies, and a selection of representative journals.  This level of collecting intensity applies to the areas of Religion, Psychology, the Social Sciences, Law, Education, History, and the influential texts from other philosophical traditions.

Level C             This level represents a subject area outside the scope of the Library’s collection, in which few selections are made.  This level of collecting intensity applies to the areas of Linguistics, Science and Technology, Arts and Recreation, Literature, and Fiction.