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Architecture & History of Art: Collection Development Policy




The policy is an inclusive statement of aims and sets out the Library's aspirations which are intended to be realistic while recognizing that their implementation is dependent on the availability of resources.

It is intended to provide information about the principles on which the Library's collections are acquired, to create an awareness of the Library's objectives and to form the basis for future developments and modifications as circumstances require.

The purpose of the Collection Development Policy is:

  • to provide a framework for the maintenance and development of the Library's collections;
  • to define priorities;
  • to establish selection criteria across the range of different subjects, languages and media;
  • to create a consistent and coherent basis for the future development of the collection while, at the same time, allowing for the library’s position as an affiliate within the wider framework of the Cambridge University Library.


The Library serves two Departments - Architecture and History of Art - each of which offers a full undergraduate Tripos. In addition, it serves the graduate student community, represented by PhD students in both subjects, MPhil degrees and two part-time MSt degrees in Architecture, as well as those enrolled in the Certificate of Post-Graduate Study in the Interdisciplinary Design for the Built Environment.

The primary function of the Library is to support the teaching and learning needs of the Faculty. It also aims to support the research of academic staff and postgraduate students. This responsibility includes providing material for current research and teaching, as well as anticipating future needs taking into account the development and introduction of new teaching programmes and new areas of research interest.

Whenever new courses are introduced, the Library seeks to support these by acquiring recommended titles in advance. It supports the research interests of individual staff in both Departments, especially when these are reflected in taught courses or build on existing areas of strength in the Library's collection.

As well as members of the Faculty, the Library's readers include members of the wider academic community, from within Cambridge University and beyond, as well as interested members of the general public. The Library cannot, however, undertake to build up research collections in subject areas or in languages which are outside the scope of the Faculty's research or teaching activities.


Selections for purchase are normally made by:

  • Faculty Librarians
  • academic staff
  • Students

Decision making is influenced by:

  • Budgetary restrictions
  • Too specialist/esoteric
  • Outside collection areas
  • Constraints of space
  • Other libraries have copies and/or a title is available as b  ebook across Cambridge


  • In the event of budget and space restrictions, titles relevant to courses taught within the Faculty will always take priority in the interests of supporting teaching and learning. The main areas covered by the Library are the history of art and architecture, the practice of architecture and design, building and environmental technology, the philosophy and theory of art and architecture, historical background, gardens and landscape design, and the decorative arts.
  • A limited number of standing orders are placed for series when it is clear that every volume, or almost every volume, in the series will be appropriate to the Library's collections and would otherwise be ordered individually.


The major part of the Library's holdings is in the English language. Nevertheless, English-language material is not in itself sufficient. Depending on the usual restrictions of funding, space and staff-time, books in languages other then English may be acquired if they fulfil one or more of the following criteria:

  • When they relate directly to the teaching and research interests of the Faculty
  • When they are works by an acknowledged expert in the field

  • When coverage in English, or in the language appropriate to the area, is generally perceived to be inadequate
  • When the Library's coverage approaches comprehensiveness

  • When it appears that the author is making an important and original contribution to the subject

  • When a book is not available in the University Library or reasonably accessible specialist libraries such as the Courtauld or Warburg Institutes or the RIBA
  • The principal European languages represented in the Library are French, Italian, German and Dutch/Flemish. Books in oriental languages are only acquired if they offer a parallel text in a common European language, or if they offer indispensable illustrative material.


  • Translations into English from a text already represented in the Library in the original language
  • New editions
  • Reprints and Facsimiles. Reprints are not normally acquired if the original edition is held, but exceptions may be made for reprints of heavily used items. Modern facsimiles may be acquired if it is necessary to save wear and tear on the original edition.
  • Pamphlets
Pamphlet material is purchased in the case of items of particular importance
  • Theses. Unpublished theses are purchased rarely and only if they cover salient teaching or research needs.


  • Encyclopaedias, dictionaries, bibliographies and other reference works are acquired for the reference collection. This aims to include not only scholarly works of reference but also books meeting general faculty needs
  • Many reference works are available in electronic form. Some are acquired in electronic form in addition to, or instead of, the hard copy


  • In general the Library's policy is to acquire one copy of as many books as possible which meet the overall criteria. For core texts which are heavily in demand, the purchase of multiple copies may be justified. The Faculty Library circulates reading lists with essential texts highlighted to the College Librarians on a regular basis and encourages them to supply additional copies of core teaching texts wherever possible. Increasingly, the UL-administered e-book scheme (a collaborative venture between the UL and departmental and college libraries throughout Cambridge) acquires core texts in electronic format. The advantages of such provision make this is a viable alternative or addition to print copies.
  • Where just a chapter or a limited section of a text is required for a course, library staff can upload the material onto Moodle in the interests of providing increased access to students. All scanned material must remain within copyright restrictions.
  • Replacements for missing books which support the Faculty’s teaching and learning may be ordered when Library Staff become aware of the need (i.e., as a result of a stock check) or if requested by readers. It should be noted that books are often out of print when they are reported missing, and a replacement copy may not be available.


  • The Library contains special collections which contribute to the overall richness of its holdings. The most important of these is the collection of rare or especially valuable architectural books and periodicals. The Library has, in the past, acquired material to build on these existing strengths when available and affordable.


  • The Faculty Library is a research and teaching collection. Its holdings are complemented by those in the University Library, the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Hamilton Kerr Institute and individual Colleges.
  • For academic use (core research areas and taught courses), it is often essential to acquire titles that are also held in other Cambridge Libraries. Borrowing restrictions, access restrictions and distance from the Faculty are all considerations that limit the reliance of members of the Faculty on alternative libraries in the University.
  • The Faculty relies on the individual Colleges to reinforce the resources for undergraduate use. The CCLF or Cambridge Colleges Librarians Forum has, in recent years, appointed a college librarian for specific subjects to collate annual/updated reading lists and circulate these to all librarians on the list. Liaison between the college librarian responsible for the dissemination of art & architecture reading lists is a vital part of the process. It is also important to remind Directors of Studies and students to recommend the purchase of art and architecture books where there exists a lack of key texts to their College Librarians.


  • New titles recommended by readers and by staff and are presented for consideration by the members of the University Library’s Journal Coordination Scheme (JCS). Factors such as academic importance, depth of coverage, language, cost and format are taken into account. The Library subscribes to a limited number of publications which are outside the scope of the funding available via the JCS. In some cases where a journal title is solely accessible electronically, the Library may subscribe to the print edition (costly print subscriptions may be discussed formally at a meeting of the Library Committee or via consultation with the Chair).
  • If financial restrictions require a choice between continuing a long run and ordering a new title, preference is normally given to the former.
  • The Library only terminates a long-established periodical run that has demonstrably not been consulted for a number of years. Expensive titles of marginal interest are most likely to be considered for cancellation.
  • Periodicals are purchased in major languages to support research and teaching in the Faculty. Purchases are normally restricted to academic and professional journals but may also include significant titles of general relevance.
  • Purchases may be made to fill gaps in existing sets, and to provide sample issues to consider for subscription.


  • The Faculty normally restricts the purchase of maps to those of the Cambridge area, and to parts of London when needed by architecture studios. Other maps may be acquired if they are essential for teaching or research purposes. Alternatively, the Librarians may direct readers to the Map Room at the University Library which houses an excellent and extensive collection overseen by a subject specialist.
  • Atlases are purchased for the reference collection. City guides containing plans form an essential part of the topography collection.


  • The Library has an excellent collection of DVDs, the bulk of which were donated by an academic member of staff who was responsible for the MPhil in the Architecture of the Moving Image. New DVDs are added from time to time, for instance when requested for a specific paper by an academic member of staff or student dissertations/theses. 
  • Should the current format of transmission be superseded – as was the case with video recordings – the Library would endeavor to replace the existing collection over a reasonable timescale.


  • Art and architecture researchers and students are extremely well-served by the availability of a wide range of electronic resources through university-wide subscriptions. An important function of the current electronic collection has been to support the reference collections by providing electronic versions of existing reference works which can be consulted more easily, effectively and widely than the printed versions. This category includes general encyclopaedias, directories of organisations, yearbooks and almanacs, who's whos and foreign language dictionaries.
  • Bibliographic titles -
General and national bibliographies, along with `books in print' publications and directories of periodicals and non-book material, provide support for the Library's acquisitions and cataloguing and form an important part of the reference collection.
  • Bibliographic databases, including titles on JISC-funded hosts, periodical contents indexes, and abstracts and indexes of dissertations form the core of the current electronic collection. Coverage of historical bibliography is already extensive since the University Library makes available the ESTC, Incunable, and 18th and 19th Century short-title catalogues.
  • For a number of reasons the most effective way to make these major databases available is via a University-wide subscription, administered by the University Library. The University Library already subscribes to the most important indexes of periodicals and dissertations (PCI, Dissertation Abstracts and Index to Theses) and makes them available on-line across the University.


  • Catalogues of second-hand books are used to select material for purchase. Purchase decisions are made in accordance with the importance of the individual item, taking into account its price and physical condition. Items purchased include material acquired by the Library but which has subsequently been stolen, damaged or subject to deterioration, and books for which there is a demand from readers or which fill gaps in existing holdings.
  • When the University's research and teaching interests expand into subject areas not previously covered by the Library this approach is likely to be especially appropriate.


  • When collections are offered to the Library for purchase or by donation they are considered on their merits. Collections are normally acquired on the understanding that unwanted material can be discarded. Often the items in the collection duplicate the Library's existing holdings to a considerable extent, thus limiting the value of the collection. Occasionally the specialist nature of a collection is such that its purchase enhances the Library's collections significantly, but collections are not purchased unless they contain a substantial proportion of material which is not held by the Library and which the Library would wish to acquire in accordance with its normal criteria. The physical condition of items in the collection is also a significant factor.


  • The Rare Book collection is a remarkable research resource, frequently consulted by staff, students and visitors. Increasingly, the collection serves as a teaching tool by academics for small groups of students (such seminars are always held in the Rare Books Room). Normally these are volumes printed before c. 1900, but later items of extreme rarity and/or value may be classified as 'rare' for security reasons. To maintain the calibre of the collection it is vital to augment it in existing areas of strength.
  • On occasion, the Library purchases rare books in major European languages, usually when a relevant item has been noticed in a book dealer's catalogue. Specialist knowledge by members of the academic staff often allows the Library to locate rare books at reasonable prices.
  • The general principle for book selection is that of building on the existing strengths of the Library's collection, thus increasing its already rich research potential, especially the Library's exceptional collection of rare architectural books. At times when space restrictions become particularly acute, it may be a wise policy to purchase a rare title rather than a number of new books. Since much of the Faculty's teaching is historical in emphasis, such purchases have wide usefulness.
  • Rare books are only purchased if there are funds available in the normal purchasing budget, or using funds from a specific donation.


  • Manuscripts and archives are not normally collected. Owing to limitations of physical space, it is not envisaged that future archives will be added.


  • First Class undergraduate and diploma dissertations submitted to the Department of Architecture are retained by the Library.
  • All other higher-degree dissertations are stored in the University Library.


  • Since the Library is a research library with a strong historical bias, its general philosophy is to retain material indefinitely. Items regarded as suitable for de-accession are usually confined to out-of-date reference works, legal manuals, and computer handbooks. Many technical books which appear outdated increase in historical value for that reason and are therefore retained. Books in very poor condition may be de-accessed if they can be replaced by a newer copy. De-accessioned material is normally carried out after consultation with the Chair of the Library Committee
  • The Faculty Library is under an obligation to offer to the University Library any book of which it wishes to dispose.


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