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The collections policy or selection criteria of a library, archive or museum collection is a statement of the institution's priorities as they apply to the acquisition of new materials. Collections policies guide the process of collection development.
Even the largest, best funded and most famous libraries (such as the Library of Congress, the British Library and Stanford University) cannot acquire, house, catalogue and maintain all works, so a policy or set of criteria is required for selecting which should be acquired. Generally collections policy is related to the mission or purpose of the library: for example national libraries collect materials related to that nation or published in that nation's territory, academic libraries generally collect materials used in teaching and research at the institution which they serve and public libraries collect materials which are expected to satisfy demands from the public they serve.
Sample collections policies include:
- Collections policy statements of the Library of Congress (organised by field)
- Collection Policy Statement of the B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library at the Long Island University
- Collections Policy of the National Library of New Zealand (integrated digital and physical policy)
- Collection and Preservation Policy for SunSITE (digital library)
As well as setting priorities for purchasing materials, collections policies also serve as a guide when libraries are offered gifts of materials or endowments. Acquisition of materials can be less than the ingest (sorting, cataloguing, etc.) and long term storage costs of many materials, so even free gifts to libraries usually have associated costs.
- For attempts to do this, see Universal library.
- Donated materials may be subject to less rigorous criteria and electronic materials are usually selected from large collections of serials and databases which may contain a mixture of appropriate and inappropriate materials