Library Services


UCL Library Services Collection Management Policy

The Collection Management Policy sets out the principles according to which Library Services acquires, maintains, stores and makes accessible the collections it holds.

The policy applies to material in all formats: printed, electronic, audio-visual or other. It is subject to regular review by UCL Library Committee.

1. Introduction


UCL is one of the world’s leading research-intensive universities and its outstanding library collections reflect this status. The Library holds approximately two million print volumes. The extensive digital library offers access to approximately 80,000 e-journals and over 800,000 e-books. The physical collections are located across the UCL family of 14 site libraries and an additional off-site storage facility.


UCL Library Services seeks to deliver a library service in line with UCL’s ambition to be London’s Global University. The UCL Library Collections Framework describes our overall approach to managing and developing our diverse collections, including the categorisation of collections, to ensure appropriate management and development.


Collections are designated Flagship, Heritage or Teaching & Research. UCL Teaching & Research collections are mainly subject-focused collections that support current teaching, research and clinical practice. Flagship collections retain a focus on teaching and research needs, but also have national or international significance. Heritage collections are historically strong but are not being actively developed.


This policy outlines key principles of our approach to acquisition, selection, retention, relegation and disposal. It applies to all Teaching & Research collections and is the default for all collections. It applies to material in all formats. Differences relating to collections designated Flagship or Heritage are expressed in more detailed Collection Development Policies specific to those collections.


This policy is owned by UCL Library Committee and will be reviewed annually by UCL Library’s Collection Management Advisory Group.

2. Selection and Acquisition


UCL’s library collections are primarily used by UCL staff and students, and staff of associated NHS trusts. They are funded by UCL, via the UCL Library Services budget, and by the NHS Trusts with which the Library has Service Level Agreements.


Day-to-day responsibility for the selection of materials lies with the relevant Subject Liaison or Site Librarian. The key point of contact for policy and strategy is Head of Collection Strategy. Ultimate responsibility for collection management lies with the Pro-Vice-Provost (UCL Library Services).


Priority for purchasing is given to reading list material and material to provide for the needs of taught course students. All recommended texts will be made available where possible.


Next in order of priority is material requested by academic staff. The Library works closely with academic colleagues in the provision of resources to support new and developing areas of teaching and research.


The Library also actively encourages suggestions for purchase from UCL students and other users of the Library.  Consideration will be given to all such suggestions but the decision to purchase or not rests with the library.


Investment in purchasing models such as Patron Driven Acquisition (PDA) and Evidence Based Acquisition (EBA), which make new digital resources available on demand, may be made where the content is likely to add value to the UCL experience and where budgets allow.


Remaining funds will normally be allocated in line with the Collection Strategy, and selection will draw on Library staff subject expertise in Flagship collecting areas.


Only material at undergraduate level or above is generally acquired.


Material is acquired only in English language, except where there is a disciplinary requirement for other languages. Translations of English works into other languages are not routinely acquired.


Digital is the preferred format. Print will be purchased when no digital copy is available. Where there is a choice of format, digital resources will generally be purchased. Print will be purchased in preference to digital where the digital costs are unreasonably high; where digital licensing conditions are too restrictive; or where the digital copy is incomplete or is otherwise an inadequate substitute for print.


Library Services is also working to ensure Open Access (OA) material is discoverable and promoted for adoption in teaching and research.


Library Services will buy multiple print copies of items that are identified as core readings on a reading list only where we are unable to purchase suitable digital versions. The ratio of copies to students is flexible, as deemed appropriate by the Library staff and takes into account factors such as number of students, the needs of specific subject areas, electronic availability and mode of study.


Library Services actively monitors usage of reading list material in print, and applies a range of measures, e.g., varying loan periods, to ensure maximum circulation of high-demand material. Library Services also offers additional services such as the digitization of specific chapters for high-demand material, copyright permitting.


Library Services will determine the most appropriate location for physical items. UCL staff and students have access to all UCL libraries and are expected to use different libraries to access the print materials they need. Some print material may be duplicated across sites, at the discretion of the Library Services.


UCL staff and students also benefit from access to a range of other London and national libraries. The holdings of other libraries to which UCL members have access will be taken into account for some purchasing decisions.


Material will be acquired, preserved and made available to facilitate access to expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity. For the purposes of teaching and research, it is sometimes necessary to acquire material that will be offensive to some. However, the inclusion of a work is not to be taken in any way as an endorsement of the views expressed within the work or a mark of approval of the work’s author(s) by UCL or by UCL Library Services.

3. Journals


E-journals are preferred where possible.


Suggestions for new journal subscriptions, accompanied by a suitable academic case, are added to a wish-list and will be considered periodically by the Library depending on resources available. Cancellations of existing subscriptions may be required in order to release funds for new journal titles.

4. Donations


Donations or bequests of historical material are considered only for our Flagship and Heritage Collections. We do not accept donations of historical material for our Teaching & Research Collections. Library Services has a separate Donations Policy.


It should be noted that Library Services:

  • Reserves the right to refuse donations or bequests.
  • Does not accept material in poor physical condition.
  • Will not accept back runs of periodicals that duplicate existing holdings or that are incomplete.
  • Reserves the right to dispose of material, either at the time of receipt or subsequently.

5. Storage and retention


Open access library shelf space is limited, and priority will be given to material required to support current teaching and research activity and clinical practice. Open shelf material may periodically be relegated to the Library’s off-site storage facility.


Material relegated to the off-site store remains available for use and can be requested via Explore.


Monographs will not be retained indefinitely as a matter of course except in our Flagship and Heritage collections.


The criteria used for monograph relegation and retention decisions will vary depending on subject area and may include:

  • Currency.
  • Usage.
  • Digital availability.
  • Availability of accessible copies of material elsewhere.


Safeguards will be in place so that material which is uniquely held by UCL, or very scarcely held nationally, will be retained.


Print journals will not permanently be retained unless:

  • They are unavailable electronically and are deemed to be part of Flagship or Heritage collections; or
  • They are available electronically, but long-term electronic access is not assured; or
  • They are included in a contractual or collaborative agreement under which UCL has agreed to retain them (e.g., the UKRR consortia national collection scheme).


UCL Library Services actively participates in national collaborative collection management and storage initiatives and ensures that the availability of material in other collections is considered on a local and national level before decisions not to retain are taken.

6. Disposal


Where Library Services has decided not to retain material, it will be disposed of responsibly. Material will be offered to alternative institutions where appropriate. If no suitable institution is found, material will be donated to book charities or recycled.

November 2021