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About the Field Museum Library

Marie Louise Rosenthal Library of the Field Museum

Collection Development Plan

1.1. Purpose and Aim

The purpose of the Collection Development Plan (“the Plan”) is to provide

  • Criteria and guidelines for the selection of library materials and the ongoing assessment and maintenance of the collection.
  • Procedures for interaction between the collection and its users.

The aim of the Plan is to provide a working tool to

  • Expedite the collecting of material or provision of access to information that meets the information needs of Field Museum of Natural History (FMNH) library users.
  • Extend limited resources to provide a well-rounded collection of materials to the greater scholarly community. 

1.2. Guiding Statements and Policies

Criteria & Priorities: 

  • Acquire materials that support the current research, education, and public outreach interests of the scientific, education, and exhibitions staff.
  • On an annual basis, provide a written report/evaluation of the subjects found in the collection to the Director of Collections.
  • With consultation from colleagues, further define subject collection priorities for the institution. 
  • Ensure existing collections continue to be developed through strategic acquisitions in such a way as to retain and/or increase their research value.
  • Acquire materials in both print and digital format that document the history of the Field Museum. 

1.3. Copyright Compliance

The Library complies with copyright laws and regulations when acquiring, circulating or duplicating materials and in its other internal processes.  However, the Library does not assume responsibility for verifying copyright compliance by staff or circulating or duplicating materials. Neither does the Library assume responsibility for verifying copyright compliance by users, whether staff or visiting researchers, who operate the public copy machines, scanners and/or computers.

1.4. Collection Priorities

First priority is given to the research needs of the Field Museum staff.

Secondary priority is given in support of the professional development of staff. 

For those members of the Field Museum community whose informational or research needs are beyond the scope of this policy, librarians will help to identify, locate, and borrow materials through inter library loan.

2.1. Location and Access

The Marie Louise Rosenthal Library is located on the third floor of the Field Museum. Its stacks are closed except to registered users. The Library catalog is freely searchable from any computer anywhere with Internet access. Subscription databases, e-books, and many other electronic resources are accessible from both on and offsite to staff; however, offsite users must have a password to access these proprietary resources. Email for remote access to resources. 

2.2. Areas of Emphasis

The collection emphasizes those subject areas most directly related to Field Museum research: 

  • archaeology
  • biological systematics
  • evolutionary biology
  • ethnology 
  • geology
  • material culture.

2.3. Areas of Responsibility

The Museum Librarian is administrative head of the Library. The Museum Librarian monitors expenditures for library materials, renders decisions on costly or questionable items, and is the final authority for all selection and purchasing decisions. The Library accepts recommendations for library materials from any user; however, ultimate responsibility for the overall quality and balance of the Library collection rests with the professional librarians.  Staff are encouraged to request Library materials to support their research or instructional needs, to recommend general items for the Library’s consideration, and to incorporate Library materials and online resources into their work.

2.4. Budget Allocations

Under the general supervision of the Library Director, the Library expends its budget allocations at its own discretion.  

2.5. Resource Sharing

The Field Museum Library is part of CARLI (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois), which is a membership organization for libraries, providing services at scale to Illinois academic and research libraries. Beyond CARLI, inter library loan is possible through the WorldCat Discovery, which identifies holdings at millions of libraries worldwide. 

3.1 Critical Environmental Factors

The following environmental factors will be taken into account in all selection decisions:

  • the rapid proliferation of information in a variety of formats
  • available financial resources and projected return on investment
  • costs of continuing obligations
  • costs of acquisition, preparation, storage, maintenance and provision of access
  • accessibility by onsite and remote users

3.2. General Criteria

The following general criteria will be used for the selection of resources:

  • authoritativeness
  • c.d. issues
  • chronological focus
  • format
  • geographic focus
  • items with no u.s. holdings 
  • quality of the writing/production
  • Library's role or connection to collection
  • price
  • readability and popular appeal
  • reading level
  • relevance of the subject matter
  • reputation and significance of the creator(s)
  • subject focus 
  • suitability
  • support level  
  • timeliness or permanence

3.3. Choice of Format

The following criteria influence the choice between print, non-print or online/digital formats:

  • needs of onsite users vs. remote users
  • price
  • ongoing maintenance costs

3.4. Retrospective Coverage

Major emphasis is on acquiring new or current titles, although older titles may be collected when retrospective subject coverage is desired, or in the cases of classics in literature or in a subject field.  The Library will generally attempt to acquire the latest edition of a title, providing that edition contains new content or added value over earlier editions.

3.5. Language

Materials will be made in English, and/or bilingual, or multilingual purchases. 

3.6. Scope of Collections

The Library will focus its acquisitions on subjects related to current research focal points at the Museum.  Generally, materials are collected with intent to provide a broad overview of subjects with balance as to various viewpoints.  Online resources providing journal access will usually suffice to cover niche topics and leading-edge information.  Interlibrary loan should be considered in support of the occasional exception, especially when the need is of limited duration.

3.7. Exclusions

The Library does not purchase:

  • multiple copies of a title
  • dictionaries
  • encyclopedias
  • textbooks
  • titles that will lose their value after a brief time
  • titles with content that is deliberately misleading or of dubious reliability
  • audiovisual items in formats that are no longer in general use

The Field Museum Library acquires materials that support the current research, education and public outreach interests of the scientific, education, and exhibitions staff. Each year, the Library provides a report/evaluation of the subjects found in the collection, and looks at the current distribution and rank along collection and research priorities. With consultation of Collection Area Teams (CATs), we can further define subject collection priorities for the institution. 

The Library also ensure that existing collections continue to be developed through strategic acquisitions in such a way as to retain and increase their research value. For example, the Library may prioritize the acquisition of a particular item that will complete a series, or volume. Acquire materials in both print and digital format that document the history of The Field Museum.

4.1. Print Materials

FORMAT:  Hardback books are preferred if all considerations, particularly price, are equal.  If there is a substantial cost difference between the trade paperback and hardback formats, the trade paperback format may be preferred, except where size of the item or anticipated heavy usage makes the hardback format a better choice for longevity.  Mass market paperbacks are not purchased.

REFERENCE:  The Reference collection should be somewhat limited in size; preference is given to materials that can circulate.  However, there is still a need for basic factual information, introductory or overview information for specific subjects, and/or direction to further information and resources.  Such titles which exist as multi-volume items or expensive items should be placed in Reference to help ensure against loss, since items in this collection do not circulate. 

The collection of general print reference materials is expected to diminish as more and more trustworthy sources of general information are made available on the Internet.  This may become true as well for more specialized reference information since online databases are more accessible to remote users, and the prices of print resources continue to escalate.  The price of reference materials warrants serious consideration of the projected return on investment in such titles, especially if alternative, less expensive or free sources exist.


Types of materials included/excluded in Reference: 

  • Almanacs 
    Print almanacs are not purchased due to the availability of copious online sources of such ready-reference information. 
  • Bibliographies 
    Bibliographies are purchased for Reference.
  • Biographies 
    Online sources are preferred over print works dealing with professional, national and international biography. Specialized biographical sources (those having narrow regional, chronological or subject orientation) are considered on their individual merits and on their relevance to the curriculum.  Individual biographies are usually placed in the General Collection; only compendiums of biographical information are considered for Reference.
  • Compendia of Facts 
    Explanatory compendia of facts, especially in the sciences, are collected only if not readily available online.
  • Dictionaries 
    Unilingual, bilingual and polyglot dictionaries for major languages; thesauruses and etymology guides for English; specialized dictionaries in English for major dialects, regional variation, slang, synonyms and antonyms are collected. Specialized subject dictionaries relevant to the curriculum are also selected for the collection based on price and/or likelihood of theft, with less expensive subject dictionaries placed in the General Collection. While dictionaries may have a long lifespan, current editions are preferred for Reference, with older editions transferred to the General Collection or weeded.
  • Directories 
    Directories are not collected. 
  • Dissertations
    Dissertations are collected.
  • Encyclopedias 
    Due to the expense and the availability of information through both our databases and online, encyclopedias are no longer collected. 
  • Geographical Sources 
    Geographic sources collected consist primarily of thematic (e.g. historical, social, economic) atlases and a limited collection of general atlases (e.g. world atlases). Topographic maps, atlases, gazetteers, and thematic maps are not collected.
  • Grant Information 
    Comprehensive materials on grant sources in the educational and non-profit fields are collected on a very limited basis if not available online; books on techniques of grant-writing are placed in the General Collection.
  • Handbooks 
    Authoritative, current handbooks in subject areas that support the research are selected, with expensive or multi-volume titles placed in Reference and less-expensive or single-volume titles placed in the General Collection.
  • Indexes and Abstracts 
    Indexes and abstracts are not collected.
  • Legal Resources 
    Legal references are not collected.
  • Statistical Compendia 
    Online sources for statistics are preferred because they tend to be more up-to-date.  Major print statistical compendia related to Chicago or the nation at large may be collected if not readily available online. Sources of statistics in the humanities, life sciences and social sciences may be collected if necessary to support research and if not available online. Older editions of such titles should be weeded as newer editions are acquired.
  • Style Manuals 
    Chicago and APA style manuals are selected, with copies in Reference and General Collections as well as online.  Other style manuals may be added if demand arises.

General Selection and Price Guideline for Inclusion in Reference:

The Reference Collection should consist of materials that contain short, relevant “bursts” of information that are easily noted or copied.  Materials which require the user to sit and read at length are better placed in the circulating collections.  However, the Library needs to protect its investment in expensive items and in multi-volume titles where loss of a volume renders the remainder of the set void or less usable.  Multi-volume sets and single volumes costing more than $150.00 should be assessed for placement in reference.

READING LEVEL:  The Library primarily collects books at college or undergraduate reading level. 

SERIALS:  Print serials are acquired via subscription.  Individual issues will not be purchased. Factors to be considered in the acquisition of print serials are:

  • support of research programs
  • suitability for intended audience
  • uniqueness of subject coverage
  • costs, including rate of price increases, cost of storage, and/or access costs
  • professional reputation
  • projected usage
  • indexing and abstracting in sources accessible to library users
  • demand for title in interlibrary loan or document delivery requests
  • accessibility within resource sharing groups, consortia, and/or through document delivery or courier services

PAMPHLETS:  Pamphlets are generally not collected due to their ephemeral nature and likelihood of theft or loss. 

4.2. Non-Print Materials

EBOOKS:  Electronic books are purchased as part of the Library's membership in CARLI (Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries Illinois). Individual electronic books are not purchased at this time.

DATABASES:  Subscriptions to proprietary online databases are considered when such databases provide the most current and/or cost-effective resources.  Possibilities for new database acquisitions may be set up for trial at any time, but decisions about subscribing are generally made annually in the summer by the reference librarians as a group.  These resources may include electronic books; citation, abstracting, and full-text databases covering journals, magazines, newspapers, or reference materials; and databases providing information portals for specific subject areas. 

In addition to general selection criteria, the following criteria will be used for selecting online databases:

  • the product compares favorably with similar products, i.e. the content is not available in less expensive databases or free Web sources and the interface is equal or superior to rival products
  • adequate user access is provided, with unlimited user access from on-campus and remote locations preferred
  • the product has adequate levels of support, with a user-friendly interface, appropriate online help  and accessible remote technical support (24/7 availability preferred)
  • usage statistics are available
  • product trials are allowed and provide sufficient access over a long-enough duration to allow adequate evaluation
  • the Library is not required to maintain paid subscriptions to both print and electronic versions of the product
  • the license agreement allows normal rights and privileges accorded libraries under copyright law and gives the Library indemnification against third party copyright infringement

4.3. Government Documents

The Library is not a governmental depository at any county, state, or federal level.

5.1. Repair of Damaged Materials

Print items with minor damage may be repaired in-house.  Major repair of damaged books is a highly technical and time-consuming process that the Library has neither the staff nor the resources to undertake.  If an item with major damage is still in demand, it may be replaced or updated based on availability of funds and other collection priorities.  If demand is low, the item may be withdrawn without replacement.

5.2. Replacement

Lost or withdrawn items are not automatically replaced.  Factors considered in replacement decisions are:

  • adequacy of coverage in the collection
  • demand
  • whether the item is still available
  • availability of more up-to-date materials or alternative formats
  • costs of replacement

5.3. Deselection (Weeding)

Deselection, also known as “weeding,” is the removal of materials from the Library collection, and this dynamic process is an integral part of collection management. Excess duplicate copies, seldom used titles, older editions with out-of-date or incorrect information, and badly damaged copies having an appearance that might discourage use are all candidates for weeding. When applicable, decisions to remove materials are made after consultation with the CATs most directly affected.

Materials will be evaluated for deselection by applying the MUSTY formula developed by Joseph P. Segal in Evaluating and Weeding Collections (Chicago: American Library Association, 1980):  Misleading, Ugly, Superseded, Trivial or You no longer need it. The Illinois state library is our local Regional Depository library, their holdings will be consulted for any state/federally produced publications.

Criteria to Consider for Weeding:


  • Dated Information
  • Incorrect Information (may be related to date)
  • Older editions, when determined that they are no longer useful
  • Materials that no longer meet program-specific accreditation standards
  • Contains outdated terminology


  • Books which have not circulated or been used in-house in 10 or more years, with the following exceptions:
    • Classic works
    • Works by eminent authors in their respective fields


  • Damaged or worn items beyond the scope of in-house preservation
  • Space constraints

5.4. Catalog Database Maintenance

Any item withdrawn from the collection will have its information removed from the Field Museum catalog, with the exception of items which have outstanding patron transactions linked, such as overdue fines.  Any item not in its home location nor checked out should have its current location modified to reflect the appropriate setting (e.g. “missing,” “repair,” “in process,” “lost,” etc.).  These non-location “locations” should be investigated periodically for resolution of anomalies.  Non-replaced lost, missing or discard items should be treated the same way as deselected titles.