Collection Development & Deaccession Policy

Last revised date: July 2019
Next revision scheduled: July 2021

Purpose of Policy

To communicate transparently to the CMU community and beyond about the processes and considerations underlying decisions about acquisitions and deaccessioning of materials in the University’s general library collections; to identify what materials are collected and what materials are not collected, and on what basis materials are removed from collections; to detail the process for community members to make acquisition requests or requests to remove material from the collections. A full version of this policy with procedural information for library faculty and staff is available internally.


Print and digital collections, current use materials, archives and special collections.


Individual purchase and deaccession decisions for all of the library’s electronic and physical information collections are made by selectors across the libraries. The general collection is curated by a team of library faculty who are disciplinary subject specialists.

The University Archives are curated by the Libraries’ team of archivists.

Special collections, including artists’ books, architecture archives, and the Roberts Collection, and fine and rare materials are curated by appropriate library faculty. 

Members of the CMU community, including faculty members, staff members and students, are consulted regularly by faculty to inform the development of the library’s collections. Input on University-wide collections activity is collected via standing committees and governing bodies, such as the faculty senate; and collections activity specific to a school or discipline is informed through communication between the library’s subject specialist faculty member and their colleagues in the relevant academic department. Library faculty are available to attend department-level faculty meetings and willingly engage in individual outreach to understand the academic information and resource needs of the community. Library faculty also welcome and seek out input on specific collections, items, and resource trials.


Purposes of the Collections
Collections support the teaching, learning and research needs of the CMU community.

The University Archives collects materials of significance to the history of Carnegie Mellon University. Its mission is to document, preserve, and provide access to records documenting life at CMU and the contributions of its students and faculty. Examples of Archives material include academic department records, student organization records, faculty and alumni papers, and publications like the Tartan, the Thistle, and the Faculty Bulletin.

The Libraries curate special collections of fine and rare materials that are acquired and de-accessioned on a case-by-case basis in accordance with educational and research needs.

Library faculty select materials for the general collection in support of departmental teaching and research needs.


Physical collections sites
The library’s physical holdings are maintained either in the Hunt Library, the Roger E. Sorrells Engineering Library, the Mellon Institute Library, the Qatar Library, or the University’s off-site storage facility on Penn Avenue. The holding location of an item is determined by its anticipated usage and held in the location with best proximity to the academic classrooms and offices of the anticipated user group, by academic department.

Materials are held off-site when informational value is high but anticipated usage is low; and/or to better preserve materials in the climate-controlled warehouse environment.


Identifying possible acquisitions
Library selectors are fluent in their respective disciplines and maintain familiarity with notable scholars, works, citations, and outlets for scholarship in those disciplines. Selectors consult a wide variety of sources to maintain this familiarity and to identify possible collection acquisitions in print and digital formats. These include:

  • Disciplinary publications, news, newsletters, and trade literature
  • Publisher/vendor materials
  • Published reviews
  • Library user suggestion or request

The Libraries selectively accept limited gifts for the collections. For more information, see the library’s full policy on gifts.


Types of Resources Acquired
Selectors draw from a wide range of available resource types and formats to meet the needs of the CMU community. Acquisitions may include digital or physical instances of:

  • Audiovisual material
  • Sheet music
  • Software
  • Data sets
  • Monographs
  • Serials
  • Still images
  • Newspapers
  • Artworks
  • Flash cards or other learning manipulatives

In most cases, the libraries do not purchase textbooks for the collections, as textbooks are typically assigned as class material and add little educational value to the library’s collection. Selectors may diverge from this practice as deemed appropriate.


Selection Considerations
When determining whether to add any item to the library’s general collections, selectors consider, in no particular order:

  • Discipline and significance of title or author within discipline
  • Relevance to current or anticipated teaching & research needs
  • Format (Print/Digital) and storage space required
  • Currency
  • Critical acclaim
  • User request
  • Price
  • Publisher or vendor reputation and business practice


Deselection Considerations
When determining whether to deaccession any item from the library’s general collections, selectors consider, in no particular order:

  • Relevance to current and anticipated teaching & research needs
  • Currency
  • Historic disciplinary importance
  • Availability of the material from alternative sources, including digital versions or other institutions, and duplicates within the CMU collection
  • Physical condition, for print collections
  • Historical usage data
  • Costs of storage space for physical and digital materials
  • Feedback from users of the collections
  • Recurring subscription costs
  • Publisher or vendor reputation and business practice


How to Request a Purchase
Any member of the CMU community is invited to suggest a purchase.

Students, staff, and faculty members are also invited to contact a library faculty member to discuss collection recommendations in greater depth.


How to Request Review of an Item
If you have a concern about an item and wish for us to review its place in the collection or otherwise consider deaccession of items for any reason, please contact a library faculty member.