Collection Development Policy review at the UL
(Delivered to open ebooks meetings March 2012)
In November last year the Senior Management Team of the UL launched a
comprehensive review of the UL’s CDP. The aim is
 not only to update existing CDP
 but also to extend its brief to include
o Collection Management
o Digitisation
o Preservation
 to seek ways of incorporating policies for all affiliated libraries in a way that is
capable of being applied to future affiliated libraries
 finally, to ensure that the CDP is reviewed annually
A CDP review committee was established to discuss the format, scope and aims of
the new CDP, with a small editorial group to implement the agreed suggestions.
There have been two meetings so far. We are hoping the complete the review by the
end of the academic year, but that depends a bit on how ambitious a target we are
setting ourselves.
What is wrong with the old CDP?
While the affiliation process clearly supplied some stimulus for this endeavour, it was
also the fact that the existing CDP had been unsatisfactory in several ways for a
considerable time. Briefly:
Format: in PDF, without table of contents or index, hence not searchable and
difficult to navigate
This wasn’t helped by the fact that its structure is in parts confused and not
very logical (e.g. Special Collections all over the place, likewise formats and
categories), while some headings were not very meaningful at all
Most importantly: We feel that the current CDP is too UL-centred:
o A fairly outdated concept aimed primarily at librarians to inform them
about the library’s organisation and work practices
o As such, it reflects administrative and organisational structures created
in the distant past, some of which must now be regarded as
inappropriate guiding principles for a CDP, specially the division by
language and the UL’s classification scheme, neither of which are of
particular relevance to the academic community or to fellow librarians
in other institutions
o More worryingly, the UL has very few (and increasingly few) subject
librarians - as you know, we do things by languages, not subjects. In
spite of our best efforts, our knowledge - or at least, my knowledge - of
the majority of subjects taught and researched at Cambridge is
somewhat shaky, yet the UL’s CDP has been compiled and reviewed
with very little input from faculty and departmental librarians.
(it’s easier for foreign language specialists, than for English!)
I am not suggesting that any staff in particular are to blame for this
situation – the fault is, in my view, a structural one.
So, how far have we got in our deliberations?
New format: HTML / web-based, fully searchable and easy to navigate
New structure:
o There will be a general CDP covering the UL and its Dependent
Libraries, including all non-subject specific matters, as well as a section
on Collaborative CD, giving prominence to the JCS and the
[email protected] Service. Then there will be a
o Link to Special Collections, and a
o Link to subjects in which materials are collected
Now, the subject section is the one where there will be the greatest change. We are
currently drawing up a thesaurus/list of subjects which reflects most closely the
subjects taught and researched at Cambridge, as well as the libraries supporting
The aim is to produce a combined CDP for each subject covering both the UL and
the relevant Fac/Dept library (libraries), as well as referring to related collections in
other libraries. (At Oxford they have a similar scheme in place which seems to work
very well – though it is not applied consistently).
Now obviously, the affiliated libraries will be part of this new CDP, but it would be
great if we could somehow get all the Fac/Dept libraries to participate.
The exact format of the subject CDPs and the methology of involving the Fac/Dept
libraries needs to be thought about carefully.
Let me reassure you that every effort will be made to minimise the work required for
you, but we hope that you will be prepared to participate in this venture.
Such a scheme, if successful, has several strengths:
 Greater transparency for all stakeholders, i.e. all librarians and the wider
academic community in the University; easier to see what is collected where;
where collection responsibilities lie.
 We are hoping to achieve a more integrated collection development at
Cambridge by giving Fac&Dept librarians a greater say in what is collected at
the UL, as well as avoiding potential duplication (tapping into subject expertise
‘out there’)
 Finally, collection building will be more focused on the real needs for teaching
and research, rather than on assumed needs.
In short, the revised CDP could become a useful tool in driving forward the General
Board’s strategy for Teaching and Learning Support Services.
So, how do ebooks fit in with all this?
Clearly, with an increasing market in and demand for ebooks, decisions about the
most appropriate format are essential and need to feature in the CDP. It would be
nice to have clear-cut criteria for purchasing ebooks rather than print, or when to
purchase one in addition to the other. Some university libraries have opted for
ordering ebooks by default where titles are published in both formats. Others have
gone a step further and adopted PDA for all or part of their budget.
Unfortunately, decisions about ebooks are much less straightforward for the UL than
for Fac/Dept&College libraries:
 For a research library, those areas where a strong case can be made for
ebooks, i.e. multiple copies, short loan collections, textbooks, are less
 And of course, ebooks are more costly than print (VAT), so does it make
sense to pay more for titles that are likely to used only occasionally?
 On the other hand, the additional cost will in part be offset by a reduction in
processing costs at the UL (cataloguing??, binding, labelling, classification,
shelving, circulation, repair etc.)
 It is therefore essential to have clear guidelines/criteria for acquiring electronic
rather than print. Two examples:
a. if the book is of a textbook or reference-type nature (many ‘handbooks
in…’) but can’t be ordered through the [email protected] Service, or
b. if there is likely to be a strong interdisciplinary demand for it.
To PDA or not to PDA?
I have mentioned PDA. Many university libraries have taken a step further and
adopted PDA for all or part of their book budget.
This is indeed an extremely attractive model (no need to rehearse the arguments in
its favour here. Also, it is worth mentioning that PDA can be employed for both print
and electronic books).
We are currently looking into this, but again have to negotiate several obstacles that
are unique to a research library and to the Cambridge situation (and this is without
even looking at attendant ebook records and database issues):
1. Traditionally, the responsibility of a research library has been to collect
research materials of intrinsically valuable content. The ‘just in time’ principle
is therefore a less pressing one. We need to consider seriously to what extent
the UL needs to continue to fulfil this role of a research repository and collect
‘just in case’. In the future, as more and more scholarly titles are being
published electronically, books may no longer go out of print, and this issue
may well disappear.
2. The UL is a Legal Deposit library. Predicting what will be received by LD is not
straightforward and needs to be monitored constantly. Thus, populating
LibrarySearch with thousands of bibrecords for books, of which a very large
proportion is likely to be received free of charge, is at the very least worth
thinking about. Are there ways round this?
a. Only use PDA selectively, i.e. for publishers that don’t come Act
(Springer, De Gruyter, Peter Lang, Brill and others that publish e+p)
b. A more radical approach would be to allow readers to select even from
LD publishers. After all, we do currently acquire ebook packages from UK
publishers, and Fac&Dept libraries have to purchase these titles if they need
them. There may have to be a reconsideration of resource allocation
university-wide, though, as the UL can not be expected to foot the bill for so
many titles that would traditionally have been acquired by Fac/ Dept&College
libraries. This brings me to the third obstacle:
3. Unlike most universities, we do not have a centralised library administration at
Cambridge. In most universities, library funds are centrally administered using
a resource allocation formula for each subject (only works to a certain extent
as many books interdisciplinary!). With the current set-up of library services at
Cambridge it will be a lot more complicated to set up PDA on a
comprehensive scale – it certainly would require some creative thinking.
So, there is much to think about. I am sorry if I am presenting to you more questions
than answers, but I thought it would be useful for you to gain a better understanding
of the UL’ perspective.
There are many obstacles, but that does not mean that they cannot be overcome
with some creative thinking
GHW, March 2012.

Collection Development Policy review at the UL (Delivered to open