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Our Organization: Collections Policies

Collections Policies

The Caltech Library’s collection development for circulating and general reference collections is managed by Subject Librarians in the Research Services (RS) group. These Librarians choose material that reflects current campus research and teaching needs given limitations such as space, price, and processing. The Subject Librarians work together to make every effort to distribute resources equitably between Caltech Divisions and other campus stakeholders. Librarians collect and license material exclusively for current Caltech students, researchers, faculty, and staff and only accept purchase requests from said groups. 

Format Preferences

Unless specifically requested, we prefer to acquire books and journals electronically.

With respect to electronic books our format priorities are: unlimited access with concurrent users, DRM-free, and downloadable chapters/ebook. We will buy print, cost permitting, if there are no ebooks available, if available ebooks do not match our above priorities, or if we don’t have a license from that publisher to acquire their ebooks. We will also buy print books when specifically asked to do so by a Caltech library patron.


We only collect textbooks if they are being used for a class or are requested by a Caltech patron. We make sure that there is at least 1 copy of each book identified for each class in ARES (the course reserve system) on reserve. For classes we try to have 1 book on reserve for every 15 students registered in the class.

We do not keep multiple copies of older editions of textbooks. When a new edition is released we try to withdraw extra older editions and keep just one print book of each edition. Exceptions to this include but are not limited to: high use, Caltech authorship, rarity, or an older edition is used for a class.


The Caltech Libraries collect primarily to support current research.  As faculty members change, or change their research foci, the library responds by shifting its resources to support new areas of research.  Just as Caltech is not a comprehensive university, the Library is not a comprehensive collection; nor is it an intentional archival collection.  Nevertheless, last copies are closely scrutinized before deselecting.

Therefore the Caltech Libraries use available space to provide current and/or relevant print materials primarily for current research and curriculum needs.  To meet this goal, the library’s collection is periodically evaluated based on the criteria listed below.

Criteria for consideration:

  1. Usage: Does the item show evidence of recent or frequent use?

  2. Physical condition: Should a damaged item be repaired?  Should it be replaced?

  3. Format: Is the content reliably available on the Web in digital format?

  4. Duplication: Is demand sufficient for multiple copies of the item? 

  5. Edition: Is a newer edition available or already held by the library?

  6. Intrinsic value: Is the item a seminal work in its field?

  7. Research value: Are older materials still valuable for research interests in this field?

  8. Completeness:  Is the item part of an incomplete set or series, or part of a complete set that the library should maintain intact?

  9. Collection level: How vital is the item for current Caltech research and coursework?

  10.  Rarity: Is the item held only by Caltech, or only by Caltech and fewer than 10 other US libraries? Contact Archives and Special Collections to evaluate transfer rather than deselection.


  1. Deselection decisions are overseen by a subject specialist.

  2. If desired, other librarians and interested faculty may be consulted.

  3. Library staff use standard library statistics and methods (e.g., circulation statistics, evaluation of the item’s physical condition, duplication, uniqueness, etc.) to identify candidates for withdrawal.

  4. Items listed as missing in the Library Catalog for longer than one year will be reviewed for replacement or withdrawal.


The Caltech Library considers two categories of donations:

We consider donations of books, as well as dissertations and technical reports by Caltech-affiliated researchers, for our circulating, reference, and web-based collections. We consider such donations only from current and past Caltech faculty.  Acceptance is dependent on selection criteria (below). The Library reserves the right to refuse any offer of donated materials. All faculty book donations will be reviewed according to a selection policy and the review of materials may need to be conducted in faculty offices. For large collections, the Library may request an inventory list to facilitate the donation assessment. To discuss or schedule an office assessment of materials, please email

We also consider donations of unique, unpublished materials documenting the history of Caltech and its faculty, as well as rare books, for the Caltech Archives. Most such donations also come from current and past faculty, but we consider those from others as well. Acceptance in this category is dependent on a different set of selection criteria. To discuss a prospective donation, please contact University Archivist Peter Collopy at

If requested, the Library acknowledges gifts by letter with a count of the items received. Library personnel will not provide an itemized list, appraisals or estimates of the value of donated materials. If the donor provides an itemized list of the donation, it will be included with the acknowledgement. It is the donor’s responsibility to place a value on gift items as required for tax reporting purposes. Donors are referred to IRS publication #561 for further information.

Selection criteria for adding donated materials to circulating, reference, and web-based library collections:

  • Materials are in good physical condition and are not legally prohibited from transfer to the library

  • Materials are not subject to special restrictions on placement, treatment, retention, or any other requirements

  • Priority is given to current or seminal academic books; and conference proceedings or and technical reports difficult to acquire from booksellers

  • Priority is given to books, dissertations, and technical reports authored by Caltech-affiliated researchers

Except for those produced by Caltech, the Library cannot accept journals, magazines, and other periodicals; unbound materials; disposal materials such as workbooks; and out of date reference works.