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Collection Development Guidelines: Home

Collection Development Guidelines

Approval Authority: Joy Muller, Director of Libraries
Approval Date: May 24, 2018
Most recent edit: September 30, 2023


These Guidelines outline Seneca Libraries’ overall approach to collections acquisitions and management. Seneca Libraries collect, maintain, and make accessible materials relevant to the teaching, learning, research and recreational interests of Seneca Polytechnic. Seneca Libraries also provides access to records deemed to be of archival value.


Seneca Libraries’ faculty and staff are individually accountable for compliance with these guidelines.


1. Collection Goals of Seneca Libraries

  • Maximize holdings in electronic formats in order to enhance accessibility and align with Seneca's curriculum (currently 96% of the collection is in electronic formats)
  • Align library collections and their formats with Seneca Polytechnic's teaching, learning and scholarly activities. Seneca Libraries supports the direction and priorities of the college as expressed in the college's business and strategic pans and other relevant documents, including equitability, sustainability and moving towards a more virtual college
  • Identify, preserve and make available for use Seneca’s records of long-term value, both in person and online

2. Collection Selection and Management Responsibility

  • Director of Seneca Libraries:
    • Ensures that these guidelines are implemented and maintained
    • Allocates the information resources budget for Seneca Libraries in collaboration with the Associate Director
  • Associate Director Information Resources, Digital Services and Archives:
    • Provides vision and leadership in the development, coordination, delivery and review of the library's collections and services
    • Manages collection budget allocations and staffing and oversees processes associated with the development of archival collections, acquisition and maintenance of information resources and their access
    • Manages processes associated with the deselection of materials
    • Manages affiliated data collection for quality assurance
  • Information Resource Librarians:
    • Profile curricula and collections use in specific subject areas to determine information resource needs
    • Select materials for purchase
    • Remove materials from Seneca Libraries’ collections
    • Liaise with program faculty to raise awareness of existing resources and develop collaborative communication pathways for the assessment and acquisition of new resources
  • Print and Electronic Resources Team (PERT):
    • Meets regularly to discuss projects, challenges and successes regarding collection development and management
    • Shares best practices, makes recommendations and develops and implements new collection development and collection management initiatives, activities and procedures
  • Seneca Faculty and Students:
    • Are encouraged to recommend information resources in their subject areas of expertise or study
    • May play a role in the development of archival fonds and collections
  • Archivist:
    • Identifies, appraises, acquires and classifies materials relevant to an academic research audience
    • Liaises with internal and external community and performs outreach activities
    • Develops and revises Archival Guidelines
  • Metadata Librarian:
    • Creates and maintains metadata for local collections of digital objects
    • Acquires and manages local digital object holdings
  • Digital Resources Librarian:
    • Establishes and maintains electronic resource vendor relations
    • Discovers opportunities for consortia or group licensing of electronic information resources
    • Collects and analyzes product holdings and usage data
    • Prepares budget projections for licensed electronic resource collections
    • Provides license term guidance to information resource librarians
  • Technical Services Librarian:
    • Establishes and maintains product acquisition processes
    • Prepares budget reports for information resource librarians

3. Clientele

Seneca Libraries’ collections are intended primarily to support the information needs of students enrolled at Seneca Polytechnic, as well as to meet the preparatory, instructional and research needs of faculty members. Other members of the Seneca community in general also make use of Seneca Libraries’ collections and archives on site.

4. Intellectual Freedom

Access to ideas and full freedom of expression are fundamental to the education process. Seneca Libraries’ collection includes materials representing a wide variety of viewpoints. The library does not, at the request of any individual or group, add materials that do not meet the library’s stated selection criteria or remove materials that do meet the library’s stated selection criteria.

5. Equity, Diversity and Indigenization

Seneca Libraries is committed to the principles of equity, diversity, inclusion, and indigenization.

Seneca Libraries endeavors to develop and curate collections that represent the voices, ways of knowing, research pedagogies, histories and traditions of Black and Indigenous peoples, as well as People of Colour and other underrepresented communities.

Equal access to information goes hand in hand with a commitment to intellectual freedom and diversity of collections. To this end, Seneca Libraries engages in a number of activities, including Open Access initiatives and compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

Seneca Libraries understands that an acceptance of differences can place individual and collective values in conflict, and is committed to practicing tolerance, cultural humility, empathy and understanding.

Seneca Libraries actively seeks acquisition suggestions from the Seneca community to help meet the above goals.

Seneca Libraries has created a set of Indigenous Studies collections guidelines.

6. Selection Criteria

Access, currency, reliability (reputed authors, publishers and producers), usability, sustainability and relevance to the information needs of our clientele are the library's main considerations in selecting materials for purchase. An item’s likelihood of use based on past usage trends also drives selection decisions. Priority is given to potential acquisitions that update or supplement existing items in the collection, address gaps or weaknesses and build comprehensiveness. Information resources must be suitable to the academic level of the courses taught at Seneca.

Faculty recommendations are highly valued and assist library staff in creating relevant collections and in filling collection gaps.

Licensed electronic resources must be accessible remotely via Seneca Polytechnic authentication and ideally be accessible via Seneca

Libraries’ discovery services or search platforms.

Some materials not directly related to programs offered at Seneca will be considered for purchase if they are of informational or recreational interest to an educated and informed College community.

Archival materials will be identified and appraised according to the Seneca Archives’ Guidelines.

All collection decisions are at the discretion of library selection staff.

7. Foreign Language Materials

The library collects primarily English language materials, but also collects resources in other languages as required by the curriculum (e.g., dictionaries, films for French programs).

8. Book Collection

The majority of Seneca Libraries’ book resources are in electronic formats.

The print collection complements the library's electronic collections, rather than serving as a standalone collection.

This complementary collection includes only resources that either cannot be acquired electronically or do not serve our users as well in electronic formats.

The print collection at each campus reflects both the subjects / disciplines taught at that campus, and the publishing marketplace. As a result, the print collection subject strengths of each campus vary.

9. Reference Materials

Reference materials provide topical background information or point to further resources. Examples include case law series, handbooks, directories, data sources, encyclopedias and dictionaries. Online reference materials are acquired whenever available. Titles not available online are held in print and may be circulating or non-circulating.

10. Reserve Collection

As of March 2020, Seneca Libraries no longer maintains / builds a short-term loan reserve collection held at the Borrower Services desk at each library. The collection was discontinued by the library to align with Seneca's current teaching and learning practices.

11. Textbooks

Textbooks are required readings for Seneca courses, as listed in Seneca's subject outlines.

As of March 2021, Seneca Libraries does not acquire print textbooks, in accordance with the print collection's role of providing complementary / supplementary resources. 

The library does, however, try to purchase e-book textbooks when these are available and affordable. Unfortunately, publishers rarely provide electronic textbook access to libraries. 

Please note that Seneca Libraries does not purchase:

  • databases or texts for which we are charged according to, and end-use is restricted to, specific students in specific courses in a specific semester only
  • direct-to-user resources that typically have individual usernames, registration keys, and/or PIN numbers for each faculty member or student that cannot be shared (e.g., teacher resources, e-textbooks direct from publishers, most business cases, RedShelfVitalSource, Campus eBookstore, etc.)

Seneca Libraries' collection includes a vast and constantly growing array of electronic books, some of which may be appropriate for use as textbooks. Whether or not an electronic book in the library's collection can be adopted as a textbook depends not only upon its content but also upon how many students can access the book at once. Selectors try to purchase unlimited access to e-books whenever possible, but sometimes only 3-user or 1-user access to e-books can be acquired. Open Educational Resources (OERs) are another excellent textbook alternative (see Section 20).

For students with disabilities, the library will provide or create alternative format copies of print textbooks as long as the student has purchased a copy of the print resource. Students may request this service via the college's Counselling department. 

12. Consumables

Consumables, such as workbooks, lab manuals or study guides that are entirely composed of worksheets and are intended for personal use are not purchased or collected via donation by Seneca Libraries. Acquisition of such resources would violate the College’s fair dealing guidelines. One exception to this practice will be in the case of ‘consumable’ electronic books which may be acquired for the collection as long as institutional access is granted.

13. Fiction

Seneca Libraries is committed to collecting course-related literature resources as well as award- winning fiction, with an emphasis on Canadian literature. A paperback leisure reading collection is also developed and maintained.

14. ESL Materials

Seneca Libraries collect graded readers, English language grammar materials, and English proficiency test preparation resources (e.g., IELTS, TOEFL study guides) to support Seneca Polytechnic students who are ESL learners.

15. Seneca Polytechnic Authors

Purchase of Seneca faculty- and staff-authored books and films is based on Seneca Libraries' collection development title selection criteria. Seneca Libraries will gladly review for acquisitions consideration any books authored or edited by Seneca employees. Acquired titles are added to the Seneca Polytechnic Authors' Collection.

16. Magazines, Journals and Newspapers

To maximize accessibility, electronic subscriptions are preferred over print subscriptions.

Seneca Libraries prioritizes licensed journal collections over standalone individual subscriptions to magazines, journals and newspapers.

New subscriptions require a use case (details on how the title will be used in a course or curriculum) prior to consideration for acquisition. Email-distributed online newsletters are not collected by Seneca Libraries. Seneca Libraries does not purchase individual professional memberships for faculty.

Seneca Libraries does not hold magazine, journal or newspaper titles in perpetuity.

17. Films & Media

The preferred format for films is video streaming, subject to availability, cost and technical access considerations.  Hosting films via third-party vendors' platforms is preferred but if not possible, films may also be hosted by the library via SharePoint. Some DVDs remain in the collection but are no longer being acquired.

Closed captioning is acquired whenever possible. Seneca Polytechnic embraces the requirements of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and is committed to expanding access and support to all users with disabilities by having as its goal a barrier-free learning and working environment to enable academic and employment success.

18. Electronic Resources

Electronic resources are acquired under licence to meet the information, instruction, and research needs of Seneca library users. Seneca Libraries collects these electronic information resources:

  • e-books: textual and audio
  • streaming videos
  • e-journals / periodicals
  • digital learning objects generated by Seneca Libraries' collaborative projects
  • datasets
  • maps
  • musical scores

Seneca Libraries can only collect titles that can be licensed for institutional use in an educational setting. Access to electronic resources is set in accordance with contractual obligations to vendors. Products with overly restrictive permitted uses or access management contractual requirements cannot be considered for licensing. Examples include:

  • databases or texts for which we are charged according to, and end-use is restricted to, specific students in specific courses in a specific semester only
  • direct-to-user resources that typically have individual usernames, registration keys, and/or PIN numbers for each faculty member or student that cannot be shared (e.g., teacher resources, e-textbooks direct from publishers, most business cases, RedShelfVitalSource, Campus eBookstore, etc.)
  • video and audio direct-to-home streaming services (e.g., Audible, Netflix, Crave, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, etc.)
  • commercial canned courses (e.g.,Canadian Securities Institute course materials, etc.)
  • commercial tests (e.g., Myers-Briggs Personality Test, licensed research instruments, etc.)
  • online textbook supplemental materials (e.g., test banks, presentation slides supporting the textbook, etc.)
  • email-delivered files that cannot be hosted by Seneca Libraries (e.g., organization newsletter PDFs, magazine PDFs etc.)
  • educational technologies, software and online apps (e.g., ArcGIS, legal document templates, SPSS, VR Modules, Blackboard-specific utilities, etc.)

Joint electronic resource purchases between the library, researchers and/or departments are encouraged.

19. Data

Seneca Libraries will license access to data that has broad curricular and research interest. Single user datasets (those that allow only a single user or project team to use the dataset based on restrictive license terms or technical requirements) are not purchased or licensed.

20. Open Educational Resources (OERs)

Seneca Libraries provides OER support in a number of ways:

  • Identifying relevant OER collections / search tools created by reputed authors, publishers or producers
  • Finding OERs, including open textbooks, covering specific subjects and topics
  • Informing faculty about the Teaching & Learning Centre’s Open Educational Resources Guide
  • Encouraging initiatives that increase the awareness and use of open access books and journals

Seneca Libraries does not acquire, hold or collect print copies of OERs.

In addition to Seneca Libraries’ support for OERs, the Learning Portal (created by College Libraries Ontario in collaboration with the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME) and the Ontario Colleges Library Service (OCLS)) has created an OER Toolkit. This toolkit provides an general explanation of OERs, Open Pedagogy and How to Find OER content, as well as specific strategies for adopting and creating OER content

21. Archives

Seneca Libraries recognizes the importance of preserving archival material for institutional accountability, research and teaching purposes.

The Archives is responsible for the appraisal, acquisition, preservation and use of the college’s records of permanent value and the private records of individuals and organizations associated with the college.

The Archives collects administrative records documenting the day-to-day work of the faculty, students, and staff from various academic divisions and offices within the College. The Archives also collects the private donations of faculty and alumni.

The Archives collects a variety of formats, including paper records, photographs and negatives, architectural plans and drawings, audio-visual records, yearbooks, oral histories, objects, Presidents’ reports and other college publications. The Archives is not currently accepting born-digital records.

Seneca Libraries does not purchase archival records.

22. Special Collections

Seneca Libraries endeavors to identify, acquire, preserve, arrange, describe and provide access to rare/unique materials that support curricula and research at Seneca.


  • American Illustration Collection (York)
  • Ursula Franklin Collection (Markham)

23. Participation in Library Consortia

Partnerships with local, provincial and national purchase-related consortia organizations are encouraged and supported in order to gain access to the greatest number of online articles, e-books, and streaming media while minimizing costs.

24. Donations

Seneca Libraries does not accept donated materials, with the exception of Zine and archival materials. Anyone considering donating old college or university textbooks may want to consider Textbooks for Change, Better World Books, or other alternatives.

25. Student Work

Student work is collected via faculty submission to the Knowledge Mobilization Hub. This repository includes undergraduate theses, capstone projects, videos, infographics, podcasts, and more.

26. Government Documents

Government documents are not actively collected, given their widespread availability online. 

27. Deselection

Seneca Libraries recognizes the deselection of print materials as an important part of the collection development process. Deselection criteria include: topical availability online, age, relevance, uniqueness of coverage, frequency of use, last use date, physical condition, reliability, duplication and format.

Print library resources are regularly reviewed and weeded. Seneca Libraries’ online information resources (e-books, e-journals and streaming media) that are licensed for perpetual access are also subject to deselection activities. Leased collections of online information resources, however, are not reviewed during deselection activities due to the fact that vendors perform their own deselection activities on their own schedule. Suitable prior warning from vendors is neither available nor provided. Seneca Libraries does regularly assess whether or not to continue licensing leased collections as a whole, as opposed to reviewing specific titles within them for deselection.

Seneca-authored or published materials, classic works, key Canadian resources and Zines generally are not subject to deselection review.

28. Replacement

Seneca Libraries does not automatically replace all materials that are removed from the collection due to loss, damage or wear. Decisions to replace items are based on the following considerations: demand for the title, existing coverage of the subject within the collection, and the availability of newer and revised materials on the subject.

Many of Seneca Libraries’ online resources such as e-books, e-journals, streaming videos, etc., are leased via licensing and are thus not owned in perpetuity. Titles can disappear, with or without prior notice, for a variety of reasons, at the discretion of the vendor. Requests to replace specific titles no longer available will be considered; however, it is entirely possible that access will not be able to be restored during a term in session due to marketplace constraints, long licensing workflows and/or a lack of available funding

29. Fund Allocation

Seneca Libraries reserves the right to determine fund allocation.

30. Collection Development Guidelines Review and Changes

Seneca Libraries’ Collection Development Guidelines are reviewed annually to ensure alignment with college teaching, learning and research practices, as well as fiscal resources.

Questions regarding the above guidelines should be directed to the Associate Director of Libraries.

Changes to the Guidelines are approved by the Associate Director of Libraries & Director of Libraries.

Key Definitions

Archival Value The ongoing usefulness or significance of records, based on the administrative, legal, fiscal, evidential, or historical information they contain, justifying their continued preservation. (SAA – Society of American Archivists)
Born Digital Information created in electronic format. Born-digital information is distinguished from digitized, the latter describing a document created on paper or film that has been scanned. (SAA)
Captioned Media A film resource whereby the audio content of the media is displayed as text on-screen and is synchronized with the dialogue of the speaker or additional auditory information such as sound effects.
Digital Learning Objects Resources in digital format that can be used to support teaching and learning. Digital learning objects can come in a variety of media formats such as text, video, audio, image or computer file.
Deaccessioning The process by which an archives, museum, or library permanently removes accessioned materials from its holdings. (SAA)
Deselection The removal of materials from the library collection. Often referred to as “weeding.”
ESL English as a Second Language.
Electronic Resources Information resources in online form such as e-books, e-journals and e-periodicals, streaming video titles, Seneca-created digital learning objects, maps and GIS data, statistics, musical scores, audiobooks, etc., as well as electronic collections.
Fonds The entire body of records of an organization, family, or individual that have been created and accumulated as the result of an organic process reflecting the functions of the creator. (SAA)
Liaison Librarian A librarian who provides liaison support for collections and resources (procurement) or teaching and learning.
Metadata A set of data that describes or provides information about a resource’s content.
Open Educational Resources (OERs) Any teaching / learning materials that reside in the public domain or are available under an open license (such as a Creative Commons License) that permits access, distribution, editing, adaptation and redistribution within copyright legislation and fair dealing guidelines.  OERs include open textbooks and other course materials such as syllabi, videos, images, lesson plans, learning modules, games, data and software.
Seneca Archives Seneca Archives is a division of Seneca Libraries. The Archives collects records of long-term archival value produced by the various academic divisions and offices of the College, as well as the private records of individuals and organizations closely associated with the College.
Special Collection A special collection is a group of items, such as rare books, art or documents that are either irreplaceable or unusually rare and valuable. For this reason, special collections are stored separately from the regular library and archival collections in secure locations with environmental controls to preserve the items for posterity.
Textbook A required reading for a course at Seneca Polytechnic, as listed within that course's subject outline.