Collection Development Policy

Part I: Goals and Mission

The principal mission of the law libraries in collecting and maintaining library resources is to support the instructional and research needs of our primary patrons: the students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the Boston University School of Law.

The mission of the law libraries also extends to the wider Boston University community. Boston University encourages interdisciplinary approaches to scholarship and learning, with many formal and informal bridges between departments and schools. Because almost any field of study can have a legal component, the law school is an active participant in Boston University’s interdisciplinary programs and initiatives. As a result, the law libraries serve not only the law faculty and students but the entire Boston University community. Our collections provide access to a broad range of resources on law and on law’s intersections with other disciplines.

In addition to developing its own electronic and print collections, the law libraries actively participate in campus, regional, and national programs for cooperative collection sharing and development, including various consortia. Campus-wide access to legal literature, increasingly via reliance on electronic databases, is provided through cooperative arrangements with other Boston University Libraries.

The goals of this policy are:

  1. To document the current collection philosophies, policies, and practices for the law libraries.
  2. To provide guidance to all those involved in developing the collection.
  3. To inform law libraries’ staff, law school administrators, faculty, and students of the collection emphases and criteria for evaluating new materials and formats.
  4. To provide guidance for deselection decisions.


PART II: Criteria and Process

Selection criteria

The law librarians should take the following into account when considering resources to add to the collection:

  • Subject area, including the following:
    • Importance to collection
    • Importance to the law school curriculum, program emphases, and faculty scholarship
    • Likelihood of use
    • Current and permanent value
  • Initial cost
  • Maintenance of resource, including monetary cost and staff time
  • Currency of resource and frequency of updates
  • Authoritativeness of title and publisher
  • Authoritativeness and reputation of author
  • Format, including user interface if the format is electronic
  • Scarcity of material
  • Duplication of material in our collection and elsewhere on campus
  • Long-term access to material and preservation issues
  • Space within the library


Scope of coverage

The law libraries provide access to primary materials for the United States federal government and all fifty states, with a particular collection emphasis on primary materials for the United States federal government, Massachusetts, and a small group of core states. These include Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, California, and New York. In addition, the law libraries may collect materials for states where the law is either unique or influential, e.g., Delaware law of corporations.

The law libraries also collect foreign, comparative, and international legal materials. These collections are based on the needs of the law school curriculum, students, and faculty. We focus on the subject areas listed below and collect primarily comparative and international law.

The law libraries collect in a wide range of subject areas based on the needs and focuses of the law school curriculum, student needs, and faculty research. We also take into account the needs of the Boston University community and interdisciplinary topics as they intersect with law. We collect most heavily in the following areas based on the law school’s current programs and emphases:

  • Banking and financial law
  • Corporate, business, and transactional law
  • Health law
  • Intellectual property law
  • Tax law

In addition, we primarily collect in the following areas, based on the law school’s current areas of study.

  • Administrative, regulatory, and public law
  • Civil litigation and alternative dispute resolution
  • Civil rights and constitutional law
  • Criminal law
  • Employment and labor law
  • Entertainment and sports law
  • Environmental law
  • Family law, gender, and sexuality
  • Housing, real estate, and land use
  • Immigration and human rights law
  • International and comparative law
  • Legal history and jurisprudence

We also regularly refer to the web page maintained by the law school that discusses current areas of study and regularly review the other programs the law school offers, including LLM programs, dual degrees, online certificates, clinics, JD concentrations, and journals to update this policy. The law libraries also support the various centers and institutes at the law school, including the Graduate Program in Banking and Financial Law.


Selection Process

The Collection Services department facilitates the review of book slips from Yankee Book Peddler’s GOBI program, Hein’s “green slips” program, new publication alerts from publishers, and book reviews from various sources. The Collection Services Department works with legal publishers to maintain our collection of continually updated materials and, in conjunction with the Legal Information Librarians, reviews our current subscriptions for renewal or cancellation each year.

The Legal Information Librarians review materials specific to their subject areas individually and as a group in regular meetings. These reviews, faculty and student requests, and new information about faculty scholarship, research, and teaching, help guide the development of the collection. The Collection Services department maintains the “Featured Books” page on the library website and works with Access Services to produce a monthly Recent Acquisitions list to ensure patrons are informed of new resources.

The Legal Information Librarians help identify faculty to notify about specific new resources. Through the liaison program, the Legal Information Librarians also regularly reach out to the clinical programs, LLM faculty, and other special programs in the law school to notify them of resources. Faculty names are noted during the order process and/or when materials have actually been received or activated by the library. Faculty are notified of the acquisition after the titles have been cataloged.


Choice of Format

Legal information is published in a variety of electronic formats, as well as print and microform. Increasingly, the law libraries rely on electronic resources in order to provide broader access to information, and enhanced searching and retrieval capabilities. When reviewing resources, the law librarians should consider what format is most appropriate for the resource. Factors to consider include ease of use in print and electronic formats, user preference, cost, ease of access, and whether the resource can be used for distance education.



The law libraries attempt to replace materials that are missing or damaged. Replacement decisions are based on the importance of the title; other titles in the collection on the same topic; and duplication of the title in other formats and locations.



The law libraries collect materials in microform very selectively for infrequently used materials, mainly as a duplicate format and to provide permanent access for materials such as records and briefs, legal newspapers, and selected documents from the U.S. government, Congress, and international organizations. The law libraries will select a microform version of a title when it is not available electronically at a reasonable price; the size, expense, infrequency of use, or unavailability precludes its addition in print, or permanent copies would be bulky or subject to deterioration in print.


Audio and Visual

Audio and video are occasionally acquired, often at the special request of faculty members. The law libraries will attempt to obtain the material via the Krasker Film/Media Services collection. If the item is not available via Krasker, the law libraries may purchase the item if available in CD or DVD format and reasonably priced.


Periodicals and Treatises

The law libraries provide access to continuing resources, including treatises and periodicals, in print and electronically. We will collect the resource in print based on facility of use, user preference, unavailability of an electronic version, and ease of access. We provide access to a large percentage of our periodicals and treatises online through services such as HeinOnline, Bloomberg BNA, IntelliConnect and Cheetah, Westlaw, and LexisAdvance, and other databases.



Duplication may occur with print materials and electronic materials, especially as the library moves towards book packages and large research databases. Duplication may also occur with our collection and the collections of other Boston University libraries. The library avoids duplication of material when possible unless duplication is warranted due to the popularity or importance of a title, use of a title by a class, or multiple faculty requests.



The law libraries are committed to building a current and retrospective scholarly legal research collection in print and electronic formats. The collection development process involves decisions not only about what to acquire, but also what to retain, withdraw or move from active areas of the collection to storage. The print collection is continually reviewed to decide what can be withdrawn or relocated to reflect changes in institutional goals or programs, availability in electronic formats, usage, space limitations, increasing cost, duplication, obsolescence, and the condition of materials.



The law libraries do accept gifts that fit within the collection guidelines. Duplicate copies or replacement copies are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Factors considered in determining whether to accept gifts include the value to the collection, the condition of the materials, the affiliation of the donor, and whether the gift will require updating or other expenditure of funds, etc.

Usually the law libraries accepts donations with the understanding that no conditions be attached to the donated materials. The law libraries will determine the classification, housing and circulation of all gift items and retains the flexibility to dispose of gifts at any time and in a manner deemed appropriate. Gift items can be bookplated as requested by the donor.

Monetary donations are also welcomed and can be used to develop the collection in specific areas. All inquiries about gift donations, policies and procedures should be referred to the Associate Director for Systems and Collection Services.


PART III: Collections

Reserve and Reference Desk Collections

The law libraries will add certain types of print materials to the permanent reserves collection, e.g. current editions of West hornbooks, substantive study aids, dictionaries, classic and standard treatises, current Restatements, and selected MCLE publications. The Reserve collection includes current legal research and writing materials acquired by the libraries.

Additionally, the law libraries do maintain a course reserves collection. These materials are temporarily housed in the reserve collection to support the direct needs of course instruction.

Materials are requested by faculty through direct communication with library staff or through bookstore lists for required and recommended materials. Quantities are determined by class size and anticipated faculty use. Current supplementation is purchased for casebooks on reserve, if available. Statutory supplements are purchased as required. Unless expressly requested by faculty, teacher’s manuals are not purchased. The law libraries will augment the print reserves collection with online resources, and where appropriate, the law libraries will utilize online-only resources for reserves. The library primarily collects study aids in electronic format whenever possible for ease of student access.

Personal copies (non-library owned materials) are placed on reserve at the request of faculty. All personal copies are returned to the faculty member at the end of the course.

The law libraries do maintain a small collection of ready reference materials adjacent to the reference desk consisting of directories, citation manuals, dictionaries and other popular sources that legal information librarians use frequently.


Law School Archives

The law libraries do maintain a collection of Boston University School of Law materials produced by and about the law school. The collection includes alumni magazines and directories, course listings, school catalogs, faculty bibliographies, photo books, periodicals, ephemera, etc. Limited memorabilia, such as programs for memorial services and law school events, are also collected.

Faculty and alumni writings are in the main library collection and not in the archives, unless the physical condition lends itself to archival treatment.


Massachusetts Collection

Primary and secondary materials for the state of Massachusetts are housed apart from the rest of the collection for ease of use. This Massachusetts collection is located in a room off of the other state materials in the Mezzanine section of the library.


Clinics and Greater Boston Legal Services

Books and materials to support the clinical programs are collected as part of our regular collection development process. In addition, the law library, in coordination with the clinical programs, purchases materials for a small library of practice materials in the clinical offices in the law school and their offices in downtown Boston at Greater Boston Legal Services. Selection of titles is done by clinical faculty and the program directors in conjunction with the staff of the law libraries.


Office and Personal Copies

The law libraries generally do not purchase copies of titles for faculty offices due to expense and the limitations on access. If the cost is reasonable, materials requested for long-term office use are purchased and cataloged for the library collection and checked out to the faculty member interested in the title.

The law libraries’ acquisitions staff will order personal copies for faculty members when they are difficult to obtain or are needed on a rush basis. Faculty members reimburse the law libraries for these orders. Personal copies of continuations are not ordered by the libraries.

Upon request, and with the approval of the Director, the law libraries will purchase a title for a law school departmental office. The law libraries will purchase a small number of current legal directories and other resources for the Career Development Office.


PART IV: Updating this Policy

This policy will be regularly updated by the Associate Director for Systems and Collection Services, working in conjunction with other law librarians and staff of the law libraries. Through regular reviews of law school programs, the law school curriculum, student needs, and faculty scholarship, the staff of the law libraries shall ensure that its collections are meeting the needs of the law school.

The law librarians anticipate that this policy will shift over time to reflect changing needs and attitudes towards material format and subject matter. It is vital that the law libraries and this policy remain flexible and change with the needs of our patrons.