Arts & Humanities Division Libraries
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Statement of Purpose

Library Collecting in the Humanities

Principles of Collection Development


  Major Interdisciplinary Resources

Arts & Humanities Libraries

Humanities Websites

Nature of the Humanities



Principles of Collection Development
(January 2002)


  1. To maintain strong and deep collections in the humanities, there should be an unwavering institutional commitment to support acquisitions in these disciplines systematically. Financial resources should be allocated in sufficient measure to humanities funds on a permanent, regular basis. Without sustained support, gaps quickly develop that are ultimately more expensive to make up retrospectively (if they can be made up at all) than to prevent by steady current acquisitions.

  2. In the interests of maintaining balance in the collections, there should be an institutional recognition of the importance of the humanities and an affirmation of the principle that all branches of knowledge are of equal value in a research university. We hope that all members of the Library community will agree that one discipline cannot be decimated in order to support another.

  3. Ownership of research material remains the sine qua non of our humanities collections. Document delivery, consortial sharing, and conventional interlibrary borrowing are important adjunct measures, but are inadequate substitutes for permanent ownership of the source material of humanities scholarship. The desktop delivery model for library research in the sciences does not transfer effectively to the exigencies of humanities scholarship.

  4. The distinctive features of humanities publishing should be taken fully into account in the restructuring and refining of funding mechanisms. Quantitative measures currently available do not adequately reflect the universe of publishing in the humanities. Blanket orders, citation databases, and other indicators of output and use represent only portions of the publishing universe for our disciplines. The highly diffuse nature of humanities publishing, which mandates title-by-title selection of a large volume of literature, defies easy or formulaic quantification.

  5. Electronic full text occupies an important niche in humanities collections, but the percentage of scholarly material available as digitized text in the humanities is miniscule compared to the volume of digital material available in the sciences and social sciences. Moreover, the costs of acquiring access to digitized humanities texts are, in the main, astronomical and not cost-effective. The digitized collected works of a single author may cost tens of thousands of dollars; Luthers Werke, for example, is priced at $45,000. Because of the costs of production and a relatively small market, thousands of authors central to humanities research remain available only in print format. For these reasons, it is not practical or possible to acquire electronic full text on a widespread basis. To maximize our purchasing power for electronic resources, we should take advantage of consortial offers, both for subscriptions and for one-time purchases of digital resources, whenever possible.

  6. The growing interdisciplinarity of humanities scholarship provides an opportunity to develop new approaches to acquisitions and collection development. New paradigms are evolving, but these are in the earliest stages of formation. Cross-divisional cooperation will be one feature of the new acquisitions landscape. Collections funding mechanisms should not discourage experimentation and collaboration as we work to establish new approaches.

  7. Collections funding should be devoted to acquiring materials and should not be raided to support other library functions. There should be adequate funding from the campus for preservation, document delivery, and other basic services.

  8. Gifts and endowment funds are important means of nurturing collections. We should be careful to ensure that they remain adjunct strategies and are not used in lieu of regular, sustained funding.