The Libraries’ collection development philosophy is rooted in the missions of the University and of the University Libraries. The primary purpose of collection development is to provide the information resources necessary to carry out the University's teaching programs and to support the research of its students and faculty.
The Collection Development Policy acts as a guide for planning the long-term growth of the collection.
The development of library collections in each subject area is the responsibility of the liaison librarians. Liaison librarians are the designated library contacts for the various Schools and Departments, managing library funds for the purchase of publications in their assigned areas.
We participate not only in national cooperative efforts (interlibrary loan), but also in two local consortia (The Washington Research Library Consortium [WRLC] and The Washington Theological Consortium). Through our membership in the WRLC, the Libraries engage in cooperative collection development that aims to increase the scope of information available and preserve items that are distinct to each University.
What We Collect
The Libraries acquire or license materials in support of the research and instructional needs of the University’s degree programs.
The following format guidelines apply to the selection of titles:
- Primarily, English-language materials are collected.
- Language audio materials and audio books are not collected.
- Textbooks are not collected.
The Libraries subscribe to a large number of serials in both print and electronic formats in order to support the research and learning needs of the students and faculty. Since each subscription represents an ongoing financial commitment that increases annually with inflation and enrollment growth, the liaison librarians regularly review each title based on usage, cost and scholarly impact.
The Libraries subscribe to several general multi-subject databases, as well as many subject-specific databases ranging in content from article citations to primary texts. Existing and new subscriptions undergo annual review for retention, based on usage statistics, relative value, and full text content.
The Libraries seek to acquire books authored by faculty. Faculty are welcome to inform the Libraries about their publications so library staff is able to acquire the titles in a timely manner. Faculty members are encouraged to donate copies of their publications as well.
Our liaison librarians consider donations of books to the Libraries’ general collections when, in advance of delivering any books to the University Libraries:
- The potential donor contacts the appropriate liaison librarian or the Director of Research and Instruction.
- The potential donor provides the librarian with a list of the titles he/she would like to donate, including author, title, publisher, and date of publication
- The liaison librarian has reviewed the list, determined if the titles are within the Libraries’ collecting scope and are useful additions to the collections, and communicates to the potential donor that she / he will accept all or some of the titles offered.
- Donors may not place special restrictions on the use or disposal of the gifts. The University becomes the owner of all donated materials and reserves the right to determine considerations related to its use, maintenance, and retention.
In the case of the Libraries' special collections, potential donors are to contact the administrators of those units:
- American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives (ACUA): W. John Shepherd, Associate Archivist, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Rare Books and Special Collections: email@example.com
- Semitics/ICOR: Dr. Monica Blanchard, Curator, firstname.lastname@example.org
As articulated in its mission statement and particularly through its special collections the Libraries organize, manage, and preserve unique materials that serve as records of our Catholic intellectual heritage and culture. Our special collections consist of the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives (ACUA), Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC), and the Semitics Collections and the Institute of Christian Oriental Research (Semitics/ICOR Library). These special collections contribute to Catholic University's teaching and research missions and to the realization of goal number five of the University’s Strategic Plan: “Raising The Catholic University of America’s national and international visibility and reputation.”
Serving as the official depository for such organizations as the National Catholic Educational Association, Catholic Charities USA, the National Councils of Catholic Women and Men, and the United States Catholic Conference, the American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives is unrivaled as a source for the history of the American Church’s central institutions in the 20th century.
Rare Books and Special Collections houses one of the nation’s premiere historical canon law collections, with strengths as well in church history and theology, and a notable collection of 17th and 18th century materials surrounding the Jansenist controversy. Modern works on the book arts and history of the book support a collection of early printing, including the products of the Vatican presses.
The holdings of the Semitics/ICOR Library reflect the University’s interest in the languages and thought of the Bible and in the study of the early Church. They include important research collections for the study of Semitic languages and scripts. Valuable Coptic, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic collections document the heritage of Christianity in the Middle East and North Africa.
Mullen Library also houses the Oliveira Lima Library, one of the finest collections in the world for the study of the history and culture of the Luso-Brazilian world. Because there is no specialized collection in the United States that is of comparable depth, this library gives the University a prominent international profile in the fields of Latin American and early modern European studies. The Oliveira Lima Library reports directly to the Provost.
The collection development policy of ACUA provides details on the acquisition of the materials.
The Libraries’ acquisitions are funded, in large part, by an annual appropriation from the University.
The majority of the University’s materials appropriation pays for subscriptions to print and electronic journals, databases, and other electronic resources. The remainder pays for purchases in subject areas that support the University’s curriculum.
When new majors or programs enter the curriculum, the Libraries will attempt to build a collection of sufficient depth to sustain course work and basic research. Building the collection is dependent on communication between the appropriate School or department area and the liaison librarian. In most instances, this will call for a new source of funding or a reallocation of the existing subject area budget(s) to cover these costs.
Balance and Intellectual Freedom
The Catholic University of America upholds academic freedom as a fundamental condition for research and delivers information following the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church, a tradition grounded on respect for truth, social responsibility, and individual rights. It is a tradition that posits freedom of inquiry, open discussion, and unrestricted exchange of ideas as essential to the pursuit of knowledge.
The Library is committed to providing a balanced collection that represents a diversity of perspectives. In developing our collection, we adhere to the principles expressed in the following statements from the American Library Association's Library Bill of Rights:
Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.
Within the defined scope of our collections, we attempt to represent all points of view and to consider objectively all purchase requests.
In order to maintain the quality and currency of the collections, and to preserve space in the Libraries, staff regularly monitors materials for condition and relevance. When possible, staff repairs damaged items. Many older items are housed at the offsite WRLC Storage Center and can be retrieved upon request. In some cases, items are released from the collections.