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Our Collection Development Philosophy

The Duke University Libraries collections are developed in pursuit of multiple goals.

  • We provide access to resources that meet the current research and teaching needs of the University. This involves monitoring usage, trends, and areas of emphasis across campus.
  • We build an exceptionally deep collection in focused areas. These are determined with consideration to our peer institutions’ collections, in order to ensure the broadest possible swath of materials is collectively preserved for future study.
  • We seek to invest with our values, supporting development of the scholarly publishing system in directions that benefit Duke and the broader society.

In practice, collection development is a collaborative effort across many subject and functional specialists within the library. These include archivists and special collections curators; subject librarians focused on disciplines across the natural sciences, engineering, social sciences, humanities, and international and area studies; and acquisitions, licensing, and access experts. We weigh multiple quantitative and qualitative factors when evaluating resources ranging from individual books and manuscripts to large journal packages and databases.

Changes to the Collection

We build the collection at the level of individual titles and larger scale, often multi-year agreements. Resources also leave the collection, for reasons that include weeding and curation, changes to availability by the publisher or vendor, and financial constraints and reductions to the library budget.

Licensed electronic resources comprise the collecting area for which we are the most data-informed in our decision making and that require the most lead time in order to make changes. These resources constitute a large portion of our spending and are subject to extremely high cost inflation. In many cases, we may be leasing current access, not building the permanent library collection.

Occasional cancellations are routine events that allow us to remain responsive to emergent needs and to balance our budget. When we undertake a review of a resource, we consider a variety of factors, including, but never limited to, estimated cost per use. We may examine usage trends over time, the quantity of Duke authors publishing in and citing a given publication, the importance of the resource in supporting a field of study, and how the resource contributes to the diversity of our collection, among other factors.

Input from our patrons is an essential component in keeping our collection development strategies appropriately focused. Please reach out to the Head of Collection Strategy & Development or to a subject specialist if you have thoughts to share.