Collection Development Policy

Updated by Teri Koch, Andrew Welch, Mark Stumme, Laura Krossner, Meredith Scherb, Pam Brennan, and Leslie Noble
Adopted by the Cowles Library Faculty Council, July 10, 2019

The landscape of higher education in which Drake exists is changing rapidly. Cowles Library continues to support the educational mission and programs of Drake University, but in ways that are markedly different than in previous years. Increasingly, the library exists in an environment in which:

  • acquisition decisions must be data-driven, and the two most important data points are cost and usage;
  • collections are increasingly digital, networked, and shared; 
  • financial and physical space constraints necessitate an emphasis on acquiring materials with a demonstrated curricular use as opposed to purchasing materials that might be utilized.

Statement of Purpose

The Cowles Library Collection Development Policy is intended to guide the selection, evaluation, and deselection of print, electronic, and digital materials for the collection. The purpose of this policy is to provide a written statement of the Library’s values and objectives in managing its collections, to communicate these objectives and guidelines to all members of the Drake community, and to guide selectors when making individual decisions.

Guiding Principles

  • The collection continues to be a shared responsibility of teaching and library faculty, with the primary communication vehicle being the Library Liaison program.
  • Cowles Library emphasizes curricular needs over faculty research needs in the development of the collections.
  • Cowles Library will place an emphasis on acquiring and curating collections that are unique to Drake.
  • Cowles Library will continue to place an emphasis on acquiring materials that reflect diverse viewpoints and bolster Drake University’s mission to support diversity and inclusion.
  • Cowles Library will continue to facilitate both the identification and the delivery of unowned content through robust discovery and delivery systems.
  • Cowles Library is committed to the principles of open access (OA), as outlined in the IFLA Statement on Open Access to Scholarly Literature and Research Documentation, and supports the growth, promotion, and discovery of OA content where appropriate and technically feasible. (See Textbook Alternatives section.)
  • Cowles Library will strive to make data-driven decisions and evaluate resources during their complete life-cycle, including selection, usage, storage, preservation, and deselection.
  • Cowles Library retains the ability to make the final decision for all collection, retention, and deselection of materials and resources.
  • Cowles Library will utilize existing and pursue new partnerships and collaborations to maximize access to resources for the Drake University community.
  • Guided by the American Library Association (ALA) Library Bill of Rights, Cowles Library seeks to serve as a free marketplace of ideas, providing equal access to all points of view on all subjects, regardless of controversial content, or because of the political, moral, religious, sexual, social, economic, or scientific views expressed, or because of the race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or political affiliations of the author.
  • Guided by the ACRL Standards for Libraries in Higher Education, Cowles Library strives to be innovative and to model appropriate best practices as identified and utilized by peer academic libraries when it comes to managing collections and providing access.

Library Collections

  • Books, eBooks (How to order a book or media)
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Audiovisual: DVDs, audiobooks, videos, media storage (How to order a book or media)
  • Bound periodicals (print journals)
  • Music scores/sheet music
  • Theses/dissertations
  • Databases, eJournals (How to suggest an electronic resource for the library)
  • Equipment (e.g. remotes, headphones, DVD players)
  • Government Documents –  Cowles Library is a selective depository for federal government publications. More information is available at the Government Documents Research Guide.
  • Microfilm
  • Leisure/New
  • Reference
  • eScholarShare – Drake’s institutional repository.
  • University Archives & Special Collections – collects, arranges, preserves, and makes accessible the permanent records of the University, as well as rare and unique collections that support the University’s administration, teaching, research, and service.  University Archives & Special Collections has a separate Collection Policy

Budget Allocation / Supplemental Funds 

Cowles Library receives an annual budget allocation from Drake University that is expected to meet the learning resource needs of library users. In the past, the library distributed these funds across departments and formats. Given the interdisciplinary nature of much of the material acquired, and the philosophy of facilitating access to content as needed, this distribution method is no longer employed. Instead, we strive to provide access to content as it is requested and needed, with a balanced approach. Cowles Library uses a number of access-based models to achieve these goals (see Methods for Supplementing Owned Collections), as well as a number of endowed funds that allow for purchasing materials in designated subject areas.

Selection Factors

When adding resources to the collection, Cowles Library considers several criteria, including but not limited to:

  • Accuracy of information
  • Cost
  • Curricular relevance
  • Format – Print, electronic, and digital formats are considered, preferably without duplication. Online courses should also be considered when selecting a format.
  • Possibility of obtaining material through other means (See Methods for Supplementing Owned Collections)
  • Potential for use/Known need
  • Pricing model (one-time vs. continuing)
  • Strength/weakness of collection in particular areas
  • Timeliness and/or permanence of the material
  • Vendor adherence to library expectations

Cowles Library has created a more detailed list of evaluation factors considered for electronic resources.

Collection Evaluation

Cowles Library continually evaluates its collections for content, usage, and accessibility.  For electronic resources, databases and journals are reviewed annually. Resources that received low usage over the past calendar year will be posted to a private research guide and shared with library liaisons and faculty.  The goal is to make both librarians and faculty aware of journals and databases in their area(s) that are not being well used and to encourage increased usage in the next calendar year. If, however, the library does not see improved usage in the next year, the item will be canceled and the money reallocated to item(s) that will be used. Those item(s) will then be subject to the same process.  For more detailed information of this process, please visit this open access book chapter.

For print resources, the library considers the physical condition when evaluating an item for retention.

Methods for Supplementing Owned Collections

In addition to purchasing and subscribing to materials, Cowles Library uses several services to acquire materials for Drake students, faculty, and staff. Such services supplement our collection development strategy by greatly expanding access to a wide variety of materials that may only be needed once or that the library could otherwise not afford to purchase.

Interlibrary Loan (ILL) – Cowles Library belongs to a network of libraries worldwide that have agreed to lend books, journal articles, and other materials to each other. More about ILL.

FastTRAC – Cowles Library also belongs to a group of regional libraries known as the Two Rivers Alma Collaborative (TRAC). Because TRAC libraries use a common platform for checking out materials, we are able to lend to each other’s patrons directly. This service, known as FastTRAC, differs slightly from ILL in that the patron’s home library does not mediate the transactions, which makes the FastTRAC lending process slightly faster than ILL. More about FastTRAC.

CI-CCI – Cowles Library is a member of the Central Iowa Collaborative Collections Initiative, a partnership of libraries that have developed a shared print collection and participated in collective eBook purchasing. CI-CCI libraries have agreed to prioritize and provide longer borrowing periods for ILL requests from each other. More about CI-CCI.

Demand Driven Acquisitions (DDA) – Also known as Patron Driven Acquisitions (PDA) or Evidence-Based Acquisitions (EBA), DDA models provide temporary access to a wide array of content (usually eBooks) and, depending on the access model, the library purchases those materials that receive the most use.

For each title, PDA and DDA models charge the library a small portion of the purchase price for a pre-defined number of uses (usually between one and three); the next use of that title automatically triggers a purchase, at which point the library owns the material.

EBA models provide access to entire collections at no charge for a period of time (usually one year), and the library commits to spending a certain amount when the end of that period is reached. The library can purchase any titles it chooses, but typically limits purchases to titles that receive the most usage. More about DDA models.

Document Delivery – Because of the way certain publishers package and price their journals, purchasing a journal’s articles on demand may be more financially advantageous than subscribing to the journal. One service we use to do that is called Get It Now, which operates very much like a DDA service.

Textbook Alternatives/Alternate Textbook Projects

Cowles Library recognizes the financial impact on students of rising textbook costs. Therefore, the library is committed to working with faculty to provide more affordable options for students. These include, but are not limited to: purchasing an online version of required textbook (when available, financially feasible, and allowing for multiple users); working with faculty to identify access to licensed library content that can be utilized in the classroom; and working with faculty to identify Open Educational Resources (OER) that might be utilized as the course textbook. 

Donated Materials

The library rarely accepts donated materials due to space constraints, availability of electronic formats, and lack of staff. In those cases where the library considers accepting donated materials, the donor must provide an itemized list for consideration to the library via email at

Donated materials are evaluated by the same standards as purchased items so that the total collection maintains high quality, consistency, and relevance to the needs of Drake University. Because of costs incurred in evaluating, cataloging, and providing access to donated material, the library cannot accept all material donations. The following materials are not accepted:

  • Textbooks
  • Materials in poor physical condition
  • Journals and magazines
  • Copies of items already owned by Cowles Library

Once accepted, donated materials become the property of Cowles Library and may be added to the collection, discarded, exchanged, or given away at the library’s discretion. No specific conditions, such as shelving location or usage restrictions, may be attached to the donation.

If the donor wishes, Cowles Library will acknowledge each donation with a letter. However, federal tax regulations prohibit the library from appraising donated materials. Please email to have someone from the library contact you for more information about your donation.