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Development and management of our collections: Operating procedures

1. Aims of this page

This detailed document is intended to be read in conjunction with our overarching 'Statement of Principles' document / web page.

It lays out the operational framework in which the Library develops and manages its outstanding collections, including print and e-books, journals, digital primary sources, and our internationally significant unique and distinctive Special Collections.

2. Acquisition of Content

2.1 How we decide what content to add to our collections

2.1.1 Demand driven

The content we add is primarily driven by our academic users, although we make our own decisions about whether to buy, borrow, or license content. We make it easy for our users to make direct requests for relevant content. As regards format, we favour an e-first policy in order to take advantage of all the benefits provided by e-resources. Print is sometimes the only option but, where content is available in a variety of formats, preference will be given to electronic.

2.1.2 Reading lists

We provide taught course students with seamless access to their reading lists by maintaining an online reading list system, fully integrated into the Virtual Learning Environment. We negotiate for and deliver individual e-textbooks with enriched functionality for learners and access for tutors to integrated teaching and learning tools and granular usage analytics. Where a limited section of the text is set for study, and no viable electronic access can be purchased, we use digitisation as a sustainable and accessible delivery option.

Reading list material is provided according to the Library policy for the purchase of reading list books and in line with The University of Manchester Library Reading List Strategy.

2.1.3 Collection Development

Although most of our content provision is driven directly by our users, the Library ensures collections are developed and maintained according to strategic directions. We will use our Library budgets to support the acquisition of material to develop our collections in line with our status as a National Research Library. We also aim to develop inclusive and diverse collections that foster a sense of belonging for all our library users and support their pathways towards wellbeing. Our approach to collection development is a strongly data-informed model blending statistics with academic liaison, in a framework which takes account of University priorities and Library collection strengths.

2.1.4 Intellectual freedom

The Library supports the University’s commitment to providing our students with access to a broad range of Library materials, including those which may be of a challenging and controversial nature, in order to pursue their studies and develop critical perspectives. The inclusion of a work in our collections is not to be taken as in any way an endorsement of the views expressed within the work or a mark of approval of the work’s author(s). We aim to acquire, preserve and make available a wide variety of materials, reflecting the plurality and diversity of society.

2.1.5 Special Collections material

Special Collections material is usually acquired through gift or purchase except in the case of archives which are also acquired on fixed-term or indefinite loan. We identify and acquire rare and unique material that will support the research and teaching of the University of Manchester and develop our internationally significant collections. Full details can be found in the separate Special Collections Content Development Policy on the Library website.

2.2 Different ways of acquiring content

2.2.1 Buying

  • The Library’s content budget is structured to facilitate equitable support for the teaching and research of the University and ensures that there is the flexibility to respond quickly and cost-effectively to changing user needs and demands.
  • The Library participates in national and international partnerships (such as the National Framework agreement for books, e-books and standing orders and the official Framework for serials and periodicals) in order to maximise purchasing power, to secure significant discounts, to investigate new purchasing models and to work with publishers and suppliers in order to widen access to content and ensure value for money.
  • We also use off-contract purchasing to ensure we can access specialist material and support a diverse range of smaller publishers/suppliers

2.2.2 Borrowing

When purchasing is not an option that is either available or appropriate the Library will provide users with access to copies held at other libraries in the UK and overseas. We maintain and develop links with regional, national and international networks as a means of providing the widest range of resources to our users.

2.2.3 Licensing

The majority of the Library’s major annual digital content purchases operate under licensing terms negotiated nationally by bodies such as Jisc. The Library also negotiates and manages a significant number of complex and evolving contracts to provide the best possible access terms, support the financial management of the Library’s content budget, and to ensure the University receives the best value for money.

2.2.4 Donations

  • The Library does not actively seek donations or printed material. We apply the same criteria to unsolicited donations as we do to new purchases, since donated material carries with it considerable hidden costs.
  • Our principles for managing unsolicited donations are set out in more detail on our ‘donating books’ web page. Only items which match our collection development priorities can be accepted.
  • Potential donors are requested to submit full details of items to an online form.

3. Finding and using our collections

Bibliographic metadata is the foundation for discovering our content and collections. The Library’s metadata teams provide descriptive data for content in all formats, to help our users find the most relevant material. We maintain an online catalogue which provides access to our owned or licensed content, as well as to open content. We also promote our collections through national and international discovery tools.

3.1 Cataloguing and classification

We aim to provide comprehensive and accurate description of content and collections. We create in-house as well as importing descriptive metadata from multiple sources.

  • We adhere to international bibliographic and other standards to:
    • Permit interoperability with other services at local, national and international level.
    • Widen access to collections by exporting records to national and international databases.
  • We provide subject headings and classification numbers to facilitate access and collection analysis.
  • We use a modified Dewey Decimal Classification scheme to provide shelfmarks to help locate physical books.
  • We enable immediate and direct access to digital resources.
  • We provide data to support collections analysis and benchmarking.

3.2 Metadata standards supporting access to our collections

3.2.1 Books, journals and e-resources

Newly acquired material is catalogued using the Resource Description Access (RDA) standard which is held in MARC format.

3.2.1 Older material and rare books

Pre-1801 material is catalogued to AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules) and DCRM(B) standards, and held in MARC format. Where appropriate, new acquisitions are reported to English or International Short Title Catalogues, or other ongoing external bibliographies. The Library aims to be a regional centre of excellence for rare-book cataloguing practice.

3.2.2 Manuscripts and archives

The Library aims to become a centre of excellence in the documentation of manuscripts and archives. We catalogue archives according to relevant national and international standards, notably Encoded Archival Description (EAD). Archive catalogues are made available online via the Archives Hub and our microsite, ELGAR. Currently few of our internationally important manuscript collections are available online, so hand lists may be used. Manuscripts will be catalogued according to Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) P5, with links to name authority records in Virtual International Authority File (VIAF).

3.2.3 Visual collections

Our works of art, photography and object collections are catalogued using the UK’s SPECTRUM Standard 5.0.

3.2.4 Digital images

Where there is an academic or conservation need we create digital surrogates of some Special Collections materials.  We make these accessible on-line through a digital image management system. Each digital image is catalogued to international standards enabling cross-collection searching and data exchange. These digital assets form part of the Manchester Digital Collections.

3.2.5 Research data

We undertake data curation tasks in the University’s current research information system using a version of the Dublin Core Schema.

3.3 Uncatalogued collections

In common with all libraries with our longevity of collecting we inevitably have collections which are not catalogued to modern standards. This uncatalogued material is carefully documented at collection level, and decisions on cataloguing prioritisation are made at a strategic level. We seek funding from external sources to support our programme of cataloguing and improving the discovery of these collections.

4. Management and curation of digital and physical collections

University research libraries face rising pressure for study space and new services while continuing to build and develop their collections. This material is increasingly digital but there is still a continuing, although decreasing, demand for print materials and a large legacy of stock to consider. The Library’s collections are regularly evaluated to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the University.

4.1 The Library’s digital collections

  • eBooks and eJournals may be bought from or licensed by publishers. These are normally held on publisher managed servers with access provided via the online catalogue, online reading lists, or through the publisher website/portal. The Library will make access available to anyone where it is able to do so, but access may be restricted to University of Manchester staff and students where this is a condition of the licence agreement.
  • Digitised taught course materials. These are accessible only to students on the related course via the Virtual Learning Environment and are held within the Copyright Licensing Agency’s Digital Content Store
  • Digitised items from the University’s physical collections. These are accessible via the online catalogue and the Manchester Digital Collections section of the Library website.
  • Born-digital items in the Library’s collections. We store born-digital items in a third-party preservation system to ensure their long-term availability.

4.2 The Library’s physical collections

We continually review our library stock to ensure the optimum use of our openly accessible shelving, where the space available for expansion of the collections may be limited. We also look to collaborate with other libraries in initiatives to ensure that we have a collaborative, strategic approach to collection management, including the UKRR (UK Research Reserve) for journals and other similar developments for monographs.

4.2.1 Location of printed stock

General principles:

  • Priority for openly accessible shelving is given to material to support teaching and learning and current research.
  • Material in low use will normally be located in our stores.
  • Current journal titles and recent content will be located on open shelves.
  • As there is currently still a limited requirement for audio-visual and microform materials and equipment for customers to use, these will be provided.
  • With the exception of certain discrete named collections, all pre-1801 printed material is located at the John Rylands Library.

4.2.2 Retention and disposal

The pressures on stock and space, and the need to maintain a working collection of library materials on the open shelves mean that, on occasion, material is identified for disposal. It is important that any material selected for disposal is carefully assessed and we are mindful that it is the strength of our collections which lead to our recognition as a major UK research library and enhance the University of Manchester’s reputation.

The Library uses the following criteria as a guideline to assess our holdings:

  • Relevance to current research and/or teaching and learning within the University.
  • Potential relevance to future research and/or teaching and learning within the University.
  • Level of usage.
  • Duplication across the Library system.
  • Rarity in the UK context.
  • Availability and suitability of digital equivalents.
  • Accessibility of other copies (e.g. loans from other libraries).
  • Historical value.
  • Physical condition.
  • Currency of edition (academics may make a case to keep an older edition of a work on the open shelves).

Stock for disposal will be identified by librarians in liaison with academic colleagues where appropriate. There is a presumption that Special Collections will be permanently preserved. Special Collections material would be disposed of only in exceptional circumstances.

The Library has long-standing procedures for dealing with material selected for disposal. Such material will be dealt with in an ethical manner in one of the following ways:

  • Making use of charitable organisations to sell material on our behalf and divide income between the charity and the Library.
  • Selling to legitimate booksellers.
  • Giving away to another library, a charity or similar organisations.
  • Disposal using an environmentally responsible method.

All proceeds from any sales would be used to either catalogue existing material which would not otherwise be made available, or to purchase new library materials.

4.2.4 Stores

In addition to the significant amount of material held on open access shelves, the Library also makes use of closed access storage. We use our stores to dynamically manage our printed collections. These stores are located in different places on and off site. Material can be requested at any time and will be made available by the next working day.

4.2.5 Special Collections locations

We aim to take an object-centred approach to the way we store our unique and distinctive materials, to ensure that they are kept in environments that support their long-term preservation. We continually review the disposition of the collections, to optimize the use of our storage facilities, aiming to locate the most significant and sensitive collections in the highest quality storage environments. In particular, all archives, manuscripts, 15th-century printed collections and historic photographic collections should be located in secure, environmentally controlled storage, compliant with British Standard PD5454:2014.

4.3 University of Manchester Theses

The Library is responsible for the preservation, curation and discovery of the University’s doctoral theses. The collection is a combination of print and digital theses and we have a long-term programme of digitisation of the printed theses, making this exceptional research collection available globally. We do not keep Master’s or Undergraduate dissertations.

4.4. Care of Collections

The purpose of collection care activities is to enable access to the Library collections while prolonging their life and minimising the risk of damage, through conservation and preservation specialisms. Our mission is to fully realise the potential of all media and collections of the Library as a world-leading research resource. Full details can be found in the Collection Care Policy and information on external  loans of John Rylands Library holdings are governed by a Special Collections loan policy document.