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About the Field Museum Library

Marie Louise Rosenthal Library of the Field Museum

Collection Development Policy

Collection Development Policy

The Marie Louise Rosenthal Library (“Library”) of the Field Museum supports the current research, collection management, science action, education, and exhibitions activities of the Museum by ensuring that staff, volunteers, interns, and visiting researchers have access to a broad and diversified range of scholarly resources, both through its own collection and through resource sharing with other institutions. Licensed electronic resources are available at the Museum and remotely for registered users. Most print resources, with the exception of Special Collections and University Archives, can be readily shared with libraries participating in OCLC’s global library network. Through resource sharing, vast collections of materials held by other libraries are also available to Field Museum staff. The Library’s collections are open to the general public by appointment.

The Library Collections are comprised of four unique sub-collections: the General Library Collections; the Mary W. Runnells Rare Book Room; the Photo Archives; and the Institutional Archives. Special Collections and Museum and Photo Archives will be covered by other policies. 

Collection Guidelines

  • Develop and maintain high-quality collections in all relevant subject areas using multiple formats (print, electronic, etc.) that are essential to the Museum’s mission, goals, and programs.
  • Conduct regular assessments to optimize the collections within budget constraints and for prioritizing and conserving materials in all library collections. .

  • Monitor new and evolving areas of research and provide resources needed to support them.

  • Continue to develop existing collections through strategic acquisitions to retain and increase their research value. For example: prioritize acquisition of a particular item to complete a series or volume. 

  • Increase access to information resources through resource sharing and cooperative collection development with other libraries and institutions.

  • Ensure that existing collections grow in value through the strategic acquisition of complementary items; and, preserve and retain significant natural history reference material and periodicals that are held by few other libraries locally, regionally, nationally, or internationally.

  • Share the opportunities and impact of changing scholarly communication models with staff and participate in open access initiatives when feasible. 

  • Continue to develop collections for diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion (DEAI). 

Selection Criteria

  • Relevance to Field Museum research, collections, and programs 

  • Recommendations of staff

  • Anticipated use and demonstrated need

  • Cost, including both initial purchase price and ongoing fees, within the framework of available funding

  • Quality of user interface and accessibility for persons with disabilities

  • Remote access provisions, and other technical support requirements

  • Materials that document the history of the Field Museum

  • Items with few or no U.S. holdings 

  • Space constraints

  • Rarity of materials

Issues Affecting Collections Development

  • Important new journals often have such high prices that the library does not subscribe automatically, but rather tries to negotiate better pricing either individually or through consortia. In the meantime we will obtain needed articles for users via OCLC. 

  • Limited budgets necessitate choices among resources rather than subscribing to all. If the Library cannot purchase or subscribe to a resource, we will facilitate access through interlibrary loan and resource sharing if possible.

  • The priorities of the Library and the resources allocated to the acquisition of materials must strike a balance between serving the internal needs of the Museum staff and fulfilling the Library’s stewardship obligations to current and future external audiences, for whom the Library’s holdings represent a valuable research resource.   

  • Space constraints within the physical stack areas. 

Collection Retention

  • Print monographs: Most are retained. Hardback copies whenever possible.Duplicate copies, damaged items, and material no longer relevant to Museum programs are withdrawn from the collection. Depending on need and use, monographs may not be preserved in multiple languages. Steps are taken to ensure there is still a copy in the state of Illinois for any withdrawn item that is unique, in good condition, and of scholarly significance.  

  • Journals: Journals are retained in print or electronic format. If ownership rights to the electronic content are obtained from a reliable publisher or platform, print is usually withdrawn. 

  • Systematic and regular analysis of collection to weed out books that are no longer used: atlases, textbooks, encyclopedias, foreign language dictionaries. 

Resource Sharing and Collaboration

The Library seeks to expand access to its materials outside the boundaries of the Museum through its participation in CARLI (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois), the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL), and The International Environment Library Consortium (IELC).


  • The Library collections have been greatly enhanced by generous gifts. Due to space considerations and the costs of processing gifts, donations of books, journals, and other print content are carefully evaluated by librarians before acceptance. Items widely held in Illinois and available via OCLC for borrowing will likely not be added. Once accepted, the Library owns the gift materials and may choose to dispose of them.

  • No materials will be accepted on which restrictions are placed which would prevent effective research examination, normal exhibition use, loan, or disposal in accordance with this document. We cannot accept materials on conditions which would require that they be placed on permanent or long-term exhibition, or that the collection of which they form a part should be kept together permanently and/or displayed only as a discrete collection. 

Donation & Gift Policy

The Library welcomes gifts of books and other materials that enhance or develop the library collection. Due to the high cost of managing the donation process, the acceptance of gifts depends on the criteria listed below. The Library has the right to reject donations when necessary or appropriate.

Many of the same standards of selection will be applied to gifts as are applicable for purchased material. Primary criteria includes:

  • Relevance to Field Museum collection and research needs
  • Timeliness
  • Appropriateness of content and format
  • Scholarly quality
  • Physical condition

Potential donors are asked to prepare a spreadsheet that contains the following information for the items he/she wishes to donate:

  • Books: author/editor, title, publisher, date
  • Journals: title, publisher, volume & dates of publication (when applicable)
  • Note: if you have a small number of items to donate (1-5 items), creating a spreadsheet is not necessary. But, we ask that you still send the bibliographic information to Museum Librarian Gretchen Rings ( via email. Please do not drop off items without prior notification.

Assigned Library staff will review and screen donated material using the standards stated above.

Donor will be responsible for:

  1. Delivering materials to the Library
  2. Filling out a Deed of Gift form provided by the Library

Library will be responsible for:

  1. Preparing a Donation Letter
  2. Completing the Deed of Gift form and returning it to the donor.

All donations become property of The Marie Louise Rosenthal Library and the Library retains the right to dispose of unneeded items in any way it sees fit (trade, sale, discard, donate). The Library will not place a value on gifts for tax purposes.

Donors’ names are often entered into our local catalog records. Please inform library staff of your preference to acknowledge your gift or remain anonymous.

Food & Beverage Policy

Be mindful that food, beverages, and their containers can attract insects and rodents and can damage and destroy library materials, equipment, and furniture. Eating and drinking are not permitted in the Reading Room or any Library stack areas. Please help us protect the Museum's investment in collections and resources by following this policy.

Reading Room Policy

The Reading Room of the Marie Louise Rosenthal Library serves as the center of activity for the daily operations of the library. Museum staff, volunteers and the general public visit the Reading Room for its reference services, access to computers, entrance to the general stacks, and as a quiet atmosphere in which to study. It has been a long-standing tradition in the museum to provide open access to library collections and services. That being said, some full time staff may be granted 24-hour access to the Library’s collections via card readers.

While the Reading Room is often used to host evening events, lectures and tours, the Library discourages the use of the area for daytime functions, unless it is specifically for a library-related purpose. Daytime events in the reading room are disruptive to library service and access to the collections is subsequently denied to any potential users. The use of the Library Reading Room for special events is at the discretion of the Museum Librarian. In some extraordinary cases, exception can be made.

Computers & Scanners

The Reading Room provides 3 computers for research use. Users can search the Library's website, online catalog, photo archives database, or check their museum email. Please be respectful of other users and limit use if others are waiting.

Please note that the Library does not have a photocopier for visitor use. We do have a book-friendly, overhead scanner that takes image captures from book and journals and converts them to PDF's for your research use only. Please bring your own USB drive.

New Books & Periodicals

Items located on the New Book Shelf are available for immediate check out to registered Library users (borrowing privileges reserved for Museum staff and associates). New periodicals are displayed in the Reading Room every Tuesday and remain there for 1 week. These periodicals do not circulate until the following Tuesday.


The Reading Room is unlocked Monday-Friday, 8am-4pm. After hours access is available via the ID card reader. Requests must be made to the Museum Librarian who will grant privileges at her discretion. Please note that visitors from the general public must make an appointment, register with security and be escorted to the Library. Hours for the general public are Monday-Friday, 1-4pm (appointments required).

Use of Electronic Devices

Please help us to protect and maintain our collections by adhering to the following guidelines:

  1. No food or drink is allowed at the Reading Room Tables.
  2. All coats, outerwear, bags and briefcases can be left on the large table in the northwest corner of the room.
  3. Only pencils are allowed at the Reading Room tables. Pens are still available (and essential) for filling out circulation charge slips.
  4. To avoid putting stress on the bindings of books and journals when photocopying, put the crease of the book or journal along the slanted edge of the photocopy machine and copy one page at a time (rather than pressing the material flat on the machine in order to copy two pages at once). Consult Library Staff before attempting to photocopy rare, fragile, or oversize materials. Do not use paper clips or sticky-notes on any library materials.
  5. No materials may be removed from the Reading Room. Please return all materials to the Reference Desk and check out with staff before departing from the Reading Room.