Collection Development Policy




Media Inquiries

Library Objective

The primary mission of the Sarah Lawrence College Esther Raushenbush Library is to collect, maintain, and preserve materials needed to meet the research needs of students and faculty, as well as to support the undergraduate and graduate curricula.

Community Profile

Sarah Lawrence College is a private, coeducational institution located in Westchester County, New York, with roughly 1,400 undergraduates and 300 graduate students. Although undergraduates do not select an official major, they are offered a wide range of courses in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Creative Arts, and Natural Sciences. Masters degrees are offered in Dance, Writing, Women's History, Human Genetics, Health Advocacy, Art of Teaching, Child Development, Dance and Movement Therapy, and Theatre. The student-to-faculty ratio at the school is 9:1, ensuring that students will build close relationships with professors and other students in small classes.

Responsibility for Collection

The library has a collection development committee composed of staff members from the Access Services, Archives, Technical Services, Reference, Visual Resources, Music, and Interlibrary Loan departments. The committee meets once a month and is responsible for general oversight of the library's acquisitions and removal procedures.

Presently the acquisition of new items for the library is divided among the staff based upon areas of subject specialization. These selectors utilize a variety of methods to build the circulating collection, including:

  • Publisher catalogs
  • Choice Reviews Online
  • Reviews by academic librarians
  • Interlibrary loan requests
  • Patron requests

Sarah Lawrence College students, faculty, and staff may suggest items for purchase by filling out a brief form located on the main page of the library's website or via the following link: Decisions will be made based upon whether the item fits the collection's current needs. If a suggestion is unable to be purchased,the patron who suggested the item will receive a response from a librarian explaining the decision on the matter.

The Collection Development committee members are responsible for adding to the collection, as well as the library's online databases. Faculty and student input is highly valuable, and librarians make it a point to communicate with them regarding optimal library purchases.

General Collection Guidelines

The library bases its purchase decisions on whether it meets the main objective detailed above—support of the undergraduate and graduate curricula. According to the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, Sarah Lawrence is a “Baccalaureate college of the Arts & Sciences,” and not a “research university.” As such, the library collection reflects this status. While we also support faculty research needs items are primarily purchased for faculty and staff if the library staff believes that the materials in question will benefit undergraduate and graduate students.

While the library will collect some popular or general interest materials as they relate to the research needs of students, its status as an academic library prevents it from maintaining a large collection of popular works typically found in a public library. Patrons are invited to visit the nearby Bronxville, Yonkers, or New York Public libraries, as well as to utilize Sarah Lawrence's Interlibrary Loan system to acquire materials not in the College's collection.

Selection Criteria

  • Relevance to curriculum

  • Authority (reputation) of creator

  • Currency and enduring value of material

  • Format of content (electronic, print, DVD, VHS, CD, vinyl, etc.)

  • Strength of library's present holdings in the subject

General Selection Practices

  • The library examines the college bookstore list for relevant items at the beginning of the semester

  • Although the library will chiefly collect materials in English, items which support the curriculum of languages taught at the college will also be purchased

  • Duplicates will only be purchased if deemed necessary for the Reserve collection

  • Librarians will replace lost or damaged items as deemed necessary by usage statistics/continued relevance to patrons

  • Cost-prohibitive items will be decided on either by the library director or by the entire Collection Development committee

  • Databases, serials, and continuing resources are decided on by the entire Collection Development committee

Government Documents

The library was designated a selective depository of US government information in 1969. Currently, 1865 item classes are chosen reflecting a selection rate of 18 percent. Areas of emphasis include census statistics, health, education, labor, and foreign affairs. Located on the lower level of the library, the collection consists of both paper and microform materials and is arranged by the SuDoc classification system. A majority of the collection circulates.

The library is a member of the Cataloging Record Distribution Program sponsored by the US Government Printing Office. Our participation insures that we receive all the available electronic records that match our selection profile, and these are included in our catalog. The library and its staff abide by the law governing depositories (US Code, Title 44, Chapter 19) and follow the regulations and instruction issued by the Superintendent of Documents.


The library gladly accepts donations but cannot guarantee that the item in question will be added to the collection. Donations will be held to the same standards for inclusion as purchased items. If the item is not added to the collection, the library retains the right to handle the book in the manner that best fits its needs.

Faculty & Special Collections

In order to showcase books published by tenured Sarah Lawrence College faculty, we maintain a special Faculty Collection on the main floor of the library. Books in that collection are kept in a locked glass cabinet and can be accessed by asking the staff member at the information desk for assistance. These items do not circulate, but can be used for research purposes in the library. We strive to maintain a copy of every book in the faculty collection in the general circulating collection as well.

Format Statements

The library is committed to collecting materials in the formats deemed most relevant to the college curriculum. In addition to print materials, the library will acquire microform, DVDs, audio, and any other formats as needed. The library will maintain viewing rooms furnished with the hardware necessary to utilize audio-visual material.

Unpublished/Self-Published Works

At this moment, we are not collecting self-published works (excluding zines and those by tenured faculty), due to the additional work involved in processing them.

Alumni Works

While we are happy when alumni works match our selection criteria, we are unable to create a collection dedicated to the acquisition of all alumni works at this time.


All new books requested for reserve are purchased as e-books, if available, in order to make them more accessible for students. Single user licenses are purchased by default, though the library will upgrade to multi-user licenses upon faculty request if the publisher offers that option. Additional scholarly e-book titles selected by librarians are also available in the library catalog.

Digital Recorded & Sheet Music

At this point in time, the library is unable to purchase digital music (e.g. MP3s) or digital sheet music. The library only collects audio materials in compact disc format, or via streaming electronic databases.


The library has chosen to include a small amount of zines in its collection. “A zine is a self-publication, motivated by a desire for self-expression, not for profit.” (Barnard Library). We will focus on collecting zines related to Sarah Lawrence College, those by current students and also alumnae/i, but also will complement these with zines in areas that mirror student interest, such as zines on the environment, LGBTQ issues, music, poetry, DIY culture, feminism, disability, and minority interests.

Taking from Colorado College, “we define zines broadly to include almost any self published item that is produced in editions of multiple copies (i.e., not artists’ books or similar one-of-a-kind items).” Zines are currently located in the Periodicals Room and can be checked out like books.

Collection Evaluation & Maintenance

In order to maintain a current and pertinent collection, the library staff frequently evaluates the collection to ensure that it continues to meet the user population's needs. Faculty are often consulted during these evaluations and offer useful input on discarding and replacement decisions.

Deselection Criteria

  • Physical condition

  • Frequency of patron usage

  • Duplicate copies

  • Availability of newer edition or format (e.g. electronic)

  • Outdated information

  • Irrelevance to college curriculum

  • Availability through interlibrary loan

Collection Locations

  • The College Archives is located on the lower level of the Esther Raushenbush Library and is maintained by the Archives staff.
  • The main circulating collection is located on all three floors of the Main library.
  • Current print periodicals are located on the main floor of the library in the periodicals room, while older print periodicals are located in the lower level.
  • The Faculty Collection is located on the main floor of the library.
  • Government documents are located on the lower level of the library.
  • Microform collections are located on the lower level of the library.
  • The William Schuman Music Library is located in the Marshall Field building.
  • The Visual Resources Library is located in room 207 of the Heimbold Visual Arts Center.
  • The reference collection is located on the main floor of the library.
  • The reserve collection is located on the main floor of the library.
  • The Special Collections is located on the main floor of the library.
  • Sarah Lawrence theses are located on the main floor of the library.
  • Zines are located by the classroom on the main floor of the library.
  • DVDs, videos, and audiobooks are located on the main floor of the library.
  • Oversized books are located on the lower level of the library.

Intellectual Freedom

Sarah Lawrence College pledges to uphold the tenets of intellectual freedom as denoted in the following documents of the American Library Association:

Challenge Statement

The library strives to cultivate a collection that recognizes and respects a broad range of viewpoints. As a result, it is possible that some materials might be deemed controversial and offend certain patrons. Patrons retain the right to register their disapproval of an item with the library staff. A challenge form is available at the information desk, which a patron can fill out and submit to be reviewed by library staff. Following the review the patron will be notified of the library's decision regarding the challenged item.

Policy Creation

  • Created August, 2010 by Janet Alexander, Katelyn Angell, Kristina Bucher, Geoffrey Danisher, Angelica Freitas, Sharlene Prasad, Charlotte Price, Carl Reglar, and Bobbie Smolow.

  • Updated June, 2012 by Janet Alexander, Geoffrey Danisher, Angelica Freitas, Charlotte Price, Carl Reglar, and Bobbie Smolow.

  • Updated December, 2014 by Janet Alexander, Kristina Bucher, Geoffrey Danisher, Angelica Freitas, Bianca Hook, Abby Lester, Gina Levitan, Charlotte Price, Carl Reglar, Megan Shove, and Bobbie Smolow.

Revision/Review History

The collection development policy will be reviewed periodically by library staff and changes will be made as needed.