Electronic Resources

The aim of collection development at Mugar Memorial Library and its branches is to provide materials that support the curriculum and research needs of members of the Boston University community. Historically, information has been provided through the acquisition of printed books and serials, microforms, and traditional non-print formats. Since the late 1980’s, electronic resources (e-resources) have become increasingly valuable tools for research at BU. E-resources include, but are not limited to, online journals, indexing and abstracting services, reference sources, and full-text books. Regardless of type, e-resources selected for the library collections adhere to the selection criteria outlined in our collection development policies, meet the research needs of a significant segment of the University community, and enrich our collections by improving access to information included in traditional formats or by providing information not available in those sources.


Boston University Libraries

This collection development policy for e-resources covers Mugar Memorial Library and its branches: the African Studies Library, the Astronomy Library, the Frederick S. Pardee Management Library, the Pickering Educational Resources Library, the Music Library, and the Science and Engineering Library.

This policy does not pertain to the collection development of e-resources at The Alumni Medical Library, the Boston University Law Library, the School of Theology Library, or the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.


The Library provides the broadest possible access to e-resources to the extent permitted by vendor agreements and funding limitations. Where a resource is of significant interest to other University libraries, Mugar staff make a concerted effort to share both access and funding. Where a resource is of particular interest to Mugar Library and its branches, we extend access to other University libraries wherever feasible. Where a resource provider seeks to limit access through prohibitive pricing, the Library provides for such restricted access on a case by case basis. Current DHCP IP address identification schemes in use in the library system prevent restricting access to particular terminals within a library. The Library does, occasionally, purchase CD-ROMs or passworded access to Web-based resources that imply restricted access. As a general rule, however, such forms of restricted access are discouraged.


Many e-resources are selected for their coverage of specific subjects; others are interdisciplinary. All support the curriculum and research needs of our users.

Time Periods

E-resources cover both current and retrospective information and data sources.


The majority of our e-resources are in English. E-resources in other languages are acquired when they are necessary for research in particular subjects and when there are no equivalent or alternative products available in English.

Geographic areas

All geographic areas are covered provided the e-resources reflect and support the academic disciplines taught at Boston University.

Publication areas

E-resources are published internationally. Products are not limited to commercial publishers and may include those published by non-profit organizations within and outside of the Boston University community.

Types of e-resources

E-resources covered by this policy include electronically produced and accessed indexes and abstracts, e-journals, e-books (individual titles and collections), reference works (encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories, handbooks), newspapers and subject specific news services, statistical products, subject bibliographies, and full-text documents such as literary works not published in book form.

Free e-resources

E-resources that do not require subscriptions and licensing agreements may be added to the collection provided they support the curriculum and research needs of our users. DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) and the Boston Regional Library System databases are examples.

Not Covered

This policy does not cover the Library’s Integrated Library System (ILS), i.e., the online catalog. It excludes instructional software and software programs such as PowerPoint. Also excluded are databases and data sets subscribed to or collected by researchers or other academic or administrative units on campus.

Selection Criteria

In most cases, the selection criteria for e-resources at Boston University are similar to those applied to print resources. The primary consideration is support for curriculum and research needs. The cost of acquiring and maintaining e-resources is another major factor; e-resources may have substantial one-time costs or significant subscription fees. More specifically, selectors decide to recommend e-resources based on the following:

Academic Need

User demand as demonstrated by faculty recommendations and feedback from reference librarians is a major criterion in selection. We consider target audience, giving preference to resources for the university student through professional research level. When possible and appropriate, we select e-resources that are interdisciplinary in nature and that can be used by a number of schools and departments. The language of a resource is another factor. We consider the possible interest of other Boston University libraries (Law, Theology, and Medical) and the availability of the resource in other Boston Library Consortium (BLC) libraries. The availability of the e-resource through an existing internal source (academic department) or through a local public library also may be considered.

Quality and Authority of the Resource

The dependability and reputation of the producer and provider are other important considerations when choosing an e-resource. Selectors evaluate the authoritativeness, comprehensiveness, timeliness, and uniqueness of the resource’s content. Indexing of a journal is an important asset, with attention given to journals that are included in scholarly indexes to which the library has access.The archival policy for material contained in the resource is another factor; selectors prefer e-resources with a sound preservation plan that will enable the library to have archival rights to the material. N.B.: The Library supports PORTICO, a not-for-profit electronic archiving service that provides supporting libraries “with campus-wide access to archived content when specific trigger events occur and when titles are no longer available from the publisher or other sources.”

Usability of the Resource

Ease of use and access are considered when choosing an e-resource; we prefer e-resources that have the most open access policies and user friendliness. Full-text content and, in the case of indexes, the ability to search across multiple databases through one interface, are other considerations.

Reviews and Trials

Feedback from patrons and library staff during trial periods is an important source for input into the selection process. Trials enable the library to assess the scholarly content of a resource, test the usability and functionality of a resource, compare the resource to similar products, and gauge interest in the product on campus. Professional reviews from authoritative review sources and listservs may be consulted.

Relation to Print

If there is a print counterpart, the selector will consider the advantages and disadvantages of each format. We want to ensure the electronic version is the most appropriate in terms of price, authority, and usability.


The acquisition of e-resources is supported primarily by a separate line in the library materials budget. A selector who wishes to acquire an e-resource submits a request to the Electronic Resources Librarian (ERL) and the Collections Administrator (CA). If the item costs less than $1000 and has no license, the selector submits an E-Resource Request. If there is a license and/or the cost is $1000 or more, the selector submits both an E-Resource Request and an E-Resource Evaluation.

If the e-resource cannot be purchased immediately, it is added to an e-resources wantlist maintained by the CA. E-resources may be added to the wantlist at any time if a selector supplies the name of the product, the publisher or vendor, and the cost. The selector may be asked to supply additional information at a later date. Periodically and as funding becomes available, the CA and the ERL review the list and select items for acquisition; the Library Director may provide input.

If a selector wishes to add the online version of a print journal to which we subscribe, the cost is usually added to the subject budget if funding is available.

If a selector wishes to use subject funds to acquire a new e-resource, the funds are transferred to the e-resources budget. If the subscription is later canceled by the library or the e-resource is terminated by the publisher, the funds remain in the e-resources budget.

The cost for interdisciplinary e-resources is sometimes shared with other BU libraries (Law, Theology, and Medical)and/or academic departments. Mugar Library also benefits from its membership in the Boston Library Consortium (BLC), the NorthEast Research Libraries Consortium (NERL), and the Westchester Academic Library Directors Organization (WALDO), which negotiate with publishers to offer their members joint access to e-resources at reduced prices. Occasionally, gift funds and grant funds are used for the acquisition of e-resources. This practice is not encouraged for serial products, due to the continuing costs of these e-resources and the unpredictable nature of the funding sources.

Requests for e-resources that are available at no cost and without license restrictions are sent directly to Cataloging.


Licensing of electronic resources is an essential component of the acquisitions process. As virtual objects, electronic resources imply no right of ownership for the library save those rights specified by license. Where practicable, licenses shall be reviewed to adhere in general to guidelines set forth in the NERL Generic License Agreement for Electronic Resources (copy on file in the office of the Electronic Resources Librarian).

Specific Provisions of concern to Boston University

  • Mutual indemnification between both parties to the agreement.
  • Venue to be Massachusetts (as recommended by the University Counsel).
  • Archival provisions to guarantee access to material following expiration of agreement (where possible).
  • Access to all campuses of the University (unless cost is an issue).
  • Access to off-campus faculty, students and staff.
  • Access to students, faculty, staff and walk-in users, e.g., alumni.
  • Off-campus access to alumni provided (if vendor policy, technical limitations, and cost permit).
  • Permission for use in course packs and reserves.
  • Permission for use for Interlibrary Loan with a preference for electronic transmission.
  • Avoidance of auto-renewals unless a multi-year agreement with specified payment schedules or price caps. Auto renewals must require sufficient advance notification of renewal by licensor.

Link to Alphabetical List of Electronic Resources Licensed to Boston University