Collection Development Policy

Purpose of the Institute Library

Preston Library's collections and services exist to support the curricula offered by Virginia Military Institute, a liberal arts and engineering institution of approximately 1600 undergraduate students, to support the research interests of the faculty, and to provide materials for the pursuit of the intellectual and cultural interests of the community.

Although Virginia Military Institute is primarily a teaching institution, faculty and students engage in significant research which the Library supports through such services as on-line bibliographic searching, inter-library loan, access to a large collection of scholarly materials online, and the selection of research-level materials for the Library's collection.

Faculty members are strongly urged to distinguish between a research collection and one that is designed to meet the needs of undergraduates,


Relationship with other libraries

Preston Library is the Institute's library and holds or provides access to VMI's library collections. The Virginia Military Institute, Washington and Lee University, and Southern Virginia University have reciprocal borrowing privileges for cadet, faculty, and staff. Resources are also shared with the Rockbridge Public Library. The Institute's Library actively participates in inter-library loan programs to augment the Library's holdings.


Purpose of a collection policy

This document will provide guidelines for selection, descriptions of individual collections, and general information about the development and maintenance of the collections of the Institute Library. The policy is a planning device and an avenue of communication between the Library and the user community. It is hoped that a written collection policy will enable selectors to make the best possible use of finite resources.


Collection development responsibilities

The Institute Library has developed a strong collection to support the academic needs of faculty and cadets through the joint efforts of the faculty and the library staff. With the trend towards access over ownership, the Library's faculty and staff have increasingly built online and electronic collections. Our electronic collections have been vastly enhanced by The Virtual Library of Virginia (VIVA) which was founded in 1994. Members of the library faculty and staff have responsibility for specific subject areas (see Appendix E) and have final responsibility for additions to the collection. The Library's faculty and staff members review new requests, evaluate them against the present collection and Institute programs, and consult with the requestor about items which do not meet stated selection criteria. This procedure assumes a knowledge of the present collection, curricula, and research needs on the part of both the teaching and library faculties and a willingness of all parties to work together to achieve the fairest allocation of funds.


Selection criteria

In consideration of the acquisition of library materials the following points are considered:

A. The support a selection gives to the curricula as stated in the catalog and usefulness to the community the library serves;

B. Authority of the author;

C. Reputation of the publisher;

D. Timeliness or permanence of the resource;

E. Quality of the writing or production;

F. Accuracy of the information;

G. Language of the publication, English being preferred except for programs which require foreign languages such as Modern Languages;

H. Relation of the material to other resources in the collection;

I. Price (both purchase price and costs of maintenance and storage);

J. Availability of the same or similar material in the geographic area, especially the Washington and Lee University libraries;

K. Implications for preservation.


General Guidelines

The ultimate goal is to build a collection that supports an advanced undergraduate curricula including independent study and faculty research.

  1. Foreign language publications: The Library acquires materials in the foreign languages taught at the Institute which support those courses. These materials normally include literary works, selected newspapers and magazines, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and indexes. Materials to support other courses are purchased in English.
  2. Retrospective purchases and out-of-print materials: The Library will make retrospective purchases and have the out-of-print market searched for essential materials which cannot be obtained in any other manner. Additional screening of such requests must include such factors as other editions held by the Library or available through the marketplace and the condition of older volumes proposed for purchase.
  3. Duplicates: The general library policy is to purchase one copy of a title. Requests for multiple copies are considered by the library staff selectors and selected on an individual basis. With regard to journals, when a journal becomes available online, it will replace the print edition.
  4. Replacement: Titles in the collection reported missing will be promptly replaced if needed for teaching or research, if they are still obtainable. Items not needed for teaching or research will be replaced on a case by case basis determined by the selection criteria (Section V) if still available.
  5. Weeding: Periodically, the collection will be examined for material to be withdrawn. Candidates for disposal include materials which no longer support the curricula, superseded editions, unneeded duplicate copies, alternative formats, out-of-date text books, and materials in poor condition. Procedures may include consultation with faculty and selectors, analysis of the amount and date of circulation, available shelf space, and comparison of holdings with Washington and Lee University

Types of materials

General collection

Selection responsibility for items designation for the general collection rests upon the Library's faculty and staff. Presently, each department receives an allocation of funds based upon a formula (see Appendix A). The Library's faculty and staff review new requests and evaluate them on the basis of the present collection, Institute curricula, and selection criteria (Section V) and consult with the requestor regarding items not meeting these criteria. Monographs which cost more than $150.00 will be reviewed by the librarians.

Special print formats

  1. Serials: The Library holds subscriptions to about 250 print periodicals and 275 "continuations," i.e. annuals, monographic series, or sets for which the Library has a standing order. The Library also has access to over 100,000 full-text scholarly journals online. Selection criteria stated in Section V apply to serials. Because serial purchases involve continuing expenditures made more critical by progressive increases, binding costs and/or microform additions, requests for new subscriptions should be accompanied by sample copies of the title (which the Library will obtain, if necessary) and a written justification for the purchase including relevance to the curricula (with specific courses named), to research projects, to the Library's collection, or the needs of the Institute's community (See Appendix B). A helpful guide to the potential usefulness of a serial title is its indexing, including both print and on-line indexing services. Current periodicals are usually acquired in print form, with the intention of retaining copies for binding. Back files are usually acquired in microform. Requests for new subscriptions are received by the Technical Services Librarian and reviewed by the librarians.
  2. Newspapers: The Library subscribes to about 20 print newspapers from different parts of the United States and foreign countries. Papers for which the Library's hold the indexes are kept permanently in microform. The microform holdings are for the indexed years with the exception of such local papers as the News-Gazette, the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and the Roanoke Times. Subscriptions are held for papers of regional interest--those acquired primarily for the students' "home-town" appeal and publications of neighboring colleges. Newspaper subscriptions come under the serials budget and control systems. New subscriptions must be justified by the requestor in the same manner as any other serial subscription. Both general selection criteria (Section V) and serials selection criteria (immediately above) apply to newspaper subscriptions. The complete serials list is reviewed by departments every two or three years.
  3. Maps and atlases: Preston Library does not maintain a map collection as such. Local area, major city, and highway maps are acquired as needed and filed (uncataloged) in the Reference Room. The Civil Engineering Department has a map collection which is maintained and administered by that department and is not part of the Library's collection. Some maps are received from the government publications depository system (see Section VIII B). Atlases are purchased and shelved as part of the general reference collection. Older materials are located in the stacks; some items qualify for special protection and are housed in the Archives.
  4. Music: Purchases of sheet music or scores are subject to the general selection criteria (Section V). They are cataloged into the general collection and shelved in the stacks or with the Timmins Collection if appropriate
  5. Archives:
    1. Official Institute Records. The Archives acquires and preserves official records that are of permanent historical or administrative value. These records include, but are not limited to, selected records of the Board of Visitors, Superintendent, and other senior administrators; Institute publications; non-current student records; records that document cadet life, significant events, programs, decisions, policies, or Institute activities; and records that are defined as permanent by the Virginia State Library and Archives in its records retention schedules. VMI Record Groups are periodically reviewed and updated as necessary to reflect organizational changes.
    2. Manuscripts. The department considers for acquisition manuscripts (personal papers) in the categories listed below. Final acquisition decisions are based upon many factors; if we feel that we are not the best fit for a collection, we will be happy to recommend other repositories. Manuscripts are typically acquired through donation. Except under unusual circumstances, we accept unrestricted gifts only and all material will be open to public research. We do not accept material on loan.:
    3. Papers of alumni, faculty, administrators, or other individuals connected to VMI, if such papers have current or potential research value or if they are of significant symbolic value to the Institute. Collections documenting the military service and leadership activities of alumni are of particular interest.
    4. Personal papers documenting Institute history and cadet life
    5. Papers relating to specific aspects of the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley, including the Battle of New Market, Hunter's Raid, other military engagements or activities involving the Corps of Cadets, and Stonewall Jackson.
    6. Other collections which relate to or complement collections held in the above categories.
    7. Photographs. The department actively collects images, 1839 - present, that document Institute history. These include photographs of individual cadets, buildings and grounds, faculty, and cadet life. We also collect images associated with the other broad areas listed under manuscripts (above). Particular emphasis is placed on the period before a yearbook was regularly published (1895) and on candid photographs of cadet life that do not routinely appear in official sources.
    8. The VMI Archives houses the Institute’s rare book collection. New holdings are acquired largely through donations.
  6. Non-print formats: The same criteria (Section V) will be used for the selection of audiovisual materials and other non-print media as is used for print media: scope of curricula, faculty and student needs, quality of item, and life expectancy of the item. The non-print collection must complement, not conflict or compete with other library collections. Media materials over $400 will be reviewed by the librarians.

    Non-print formats will include microfilm and microfiche; computer software; audiocassettes for the spoken word; compact discs for music; DVDs for motion video; and other emerging formats. The format selection should reflect the quality and quantity of equipment available for its utilization.

    Selection will be made by the Media Services Librarian who will solicit help in the evaluation process from subject specialists among the faculty. Faculty will also be encouraged to make selections within their discipline. The major areas to evaluate are: content, educational value, technical aspects, and quality of presentation. Whenever possible audiovisual materials will previewed before purchase or ordered on approval.
  7. Textbooks: Defined as information that is written particularly for use by students to introduce a subject, typically incorporating such characteristics as surveying or giving an overview of the subject, containing excerpts from other literary works, listing review questions at chapter endings, etc., textbooks will not ordinarily be acquired. Exceptions will be made upon specific, justified, requests.



  1. Reference
    The reference collection contains encyclopedias, indexes, directories, handbooks, bibliographies, dictionaries, and other materials which are generally not meant to be read consecutively but rather to be consulted for definite items of information. These materials have historically been in print formats. Recently, however, an increasing number are becoming available electronically. The greatest concentration is placed upon those needs that arise from study and research activities directly related to the undergraduate curricula. Also, an attempt is made to acquire basic or standard reference sources which may not be directly relevant to any particular academic department or discipline at Virginia Military Institute such as materials on travel, employment, consumer information, and education. Reference materials are chosen by the Reference librarians with assistance and suggestions from library staff, faculty members, students, and others. Reference materials which are over $500.00 will be reviewed by the librarians.

    Decisions regarding the acquisition of materials for the reference collection are made on the basis of several criteria:
    1. The purpose of the work (Reference works are intended to be referred to or consulted, rather than read through);
    2. Relevance to the Library's needs (The Reference Department staff takes into consideration both the undergraduate curricula and past demand for information, usually made evident at the Reference desk);
    3. The authority of the work (Are the publisher and the author reputable?);
    4. The scope of the work (The scope of an item should not be so narrow that a researcher is likely to need to make extensive use of it. For example, a bibliography of criticism of William Faulkner's writings should be in the main collection, while bibliographies of criticism of American literature could be in Reference);
    5. The intended audience of the work (Consider level of education, foreign language, etc.);
    6. The currency of information (Though some Reference materials are "timeless," currency is important when up-to-date information is needed);
    7. Organization of the work (Though personal inspection previous to purchase is frequently not possible, reviews and other communications can describe the usefulness of the manner in which information is presented);
    8. Local availability of the work (Is it owned by Washington and Lee University?);
    9. Price of the work.
  2. Government publications
    Preston Library is a selective depository for United States government publications. New series are selected by the Documents Librarian in consultation with library selectors and faculty. Presently these documents are controlled under the Superintendent of Documents classification and, generally, not cataloged into the collection. Specific documents are identified and fully integrated into the collection. (See Appendix C for a complete statement).
  3. Rare books
    Rare is defined as follows:
    Old and valuable for content, binding, illustration and/or printing;Recent and valuable for content, illustration and/or printing;Some first and limited editions;Fragile materials of permanent interest;Published material of special interest to the Virginia Military Institute or to the local area.  Rare books are housed in the VMI Archives.
    These books are mainly acquired as gifts, though from time to time purchases have been made for this collection
  4. Timmins Music Collections
    The Timmins Music Collection is a memorial collection of classical music on LP phonograph records and compact disks. Additions to the collection are compact disk only and selection is made by library staff, members of the Timmins Society, and the Society's faculty advisor.


Intellectual freedom

The principles of intellectual freedom as outlined in the Library Bill of Rights of the American Library Association will be adhered to in the selection of library materials. It is the responsibility of the librarians and faculty selecting materials to ensure that all points of view are represented in the collection and that materials are not removed from the collection because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.



The Virginia Military Institute Library abides by all regulations of relevant sections in the Copyright Revision Act of 1976 (U.S. Code Title 17, sections 107 and 108).


Revision of collection development policy

The policy will be reviewed regularly and revised as needed.

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