Michigan State University

Collection Development Policy Statement: Main Library Reference et. al.

Content in the Collection

C) Content in the collection

The following kinds of tools are particularly well represented: many are now found in the Main Library Stacks

  • dictionaries in English and foreign languages;
  • encyclopedias published in the United States;
  • subject encyclopedias and handbooks for specific disciplines;
  • biographical tools;
  • statistical compendia and time series;
  • indexing, abstracting and full-text sources analyzing periodical content (many in online form);
  • directories;
  • works supporting the use of federal government documents;
  • guides to colleges and scholarships;
  • guides to grants and foundations;
  • guides about careers; and
  • publications that support referral to other libraries, archives, publications and sources.

The collection is strong in the following fields of study:

  • Western philosophy and religions;
  • psychology, including test and measurement instruments;
  • European and American history;
  • ethnic studies in the United States;
  • women's studies;
  • law and criminal justice;
  • education;
  • English and American literature;
  • agriculture;
  • biology;
  • human and animal medicine, and the health disciplines.

Reference materials in some fields of study are found primarily in the external branch libraries: business and mathematics.  Engineering materials, formally in an external branch library, are now processed to the Main Library collection as the branch prepared for closure Winter 2015/16. Law Reference is handled through the College of Law library, though basic tools exist in the collection also. Internal branches within the Main Library support work in Africana, music and fine arts, turfgrass, and maps.

The following sections are more or less in LC call number order.

C1. Library catalogs

We no longer have to buy facsimile catalogs, and don't pay for RLIN access. The catalog of the MSU Libraries is freely available on the Internet: MAGIC. That OPAC also includes records for the MSU College of Law and the state-run Library of Michigan in Lansing. MAGIC offers links to some other library OPACs, especially within the CIC (Big Ten) and in the state of Michigan (including the MeLCat shared state system). Library users have access to OCLC's WorldCat database. See also C28: National Bibliographies.

C2. General encyclopedias and handbooks

The reference area includes recent editions of major multi-volume American encyclopedias [Britannica, World Book, Americana, Academic American]. We try to buy one set in paper each year, but some print sets are not published annually any longer. Online versions tend to be priced by FTE: that pushes our cost so high, that it has not been justifiable relative to use of general encyclopedias (we offer some one-volume encyclopedias in online form: see also C3). The collection includes a few general encyclopedias in major Western languages [Brockhaus], but because there isn't much use we don't buy recent editions very often.

In addition to subject area encyclopedias, the collection includes handy compilations of facts for various fields of study [CRC Handbook]. We buy handbooks to provide quick access to facts [World almanac], or introduce themes in research for a library user unfamiliar with a topic [Animal behavior desk reference]. Current content, scope, design, and publication in English (in some cases in other major world languages) are factors in deciding whether to place such a book on 1-East.

C3. Subject area encyclopedias

The collection includes a wide variety of one-volume or multi-volume encyclopedias supporting specific disciplines or topics of study [Dictionary of American history, Grzimeks] as sources that can answer factual questions or introduce major themes and issues. Similar works may be collected in foreign languages to support the study of foreign languages and literatures [Dictionnaire des écrivains français]. The trend is to publish these works in an online form too: the pricing is often high, relative to expected use.

C4. Biographical dictionaries

The collection is strong on English-language biographical dictionaries, shelved together in the Biography Tools alcove (with older editions in Main). Some are current in coverage[Who's who in America], some are historical [Dictionary of scientific biography]. The online Biography and Genealogy Master Index (BGMI) serves as a personal name index to many of these books. Some sets [Contemporary Authors] have been superceded by online versions [Gale Literature Research Center], and then may be transferred. Good choices are not exclusively in English [Wer ist wer]. For literature, works that combine biographical and critical comment should be assigned to Biography Tools if the biographical content strongly dominates (entries by personal names rather than themes). Membership rosters are not collected. Works about a single figure or titles that cover only a few individuals go to Main. "Biography" of fictional or mythical beings [Dictionary of Celtic mythology] belongs with other reference titles about literature or mythology. Biography Tools are distinguished from the separate area for Directories [Directory of history departments]: these tend to have mainly contact information.

C5. Indexing and abstracting tools

The collection is strong on indexes that analyze the content of periodicals in various disciplines (covering also dissertations, book reviews, conference proceedings, etc). Online tools have replaced a large proportion of the print versions of these sets: many older printed volumes have been transferred to the Main stacks or Remote storage. However, if databases fail to cover some years, volumes for those years are retained [Index Medicus], sometimes in Reference itself.

Some printed index and abstract titles remain on 1-East. In some cases we have online equivalents [Reader's Guide for years outside those with online indexing, red New York Times Index] but like the convenience of print. Sometimes the print tool remains convenient. Sometimes MSU opted not to pay for online access and relies on print [Religion index].

Library users are expected to perform their own online searches, but public services staff are expected to teach library users how to pick the right databases and about searching techniques for specific interfaces.

Annual reviews in the social sciences [Annual review of sociology] also cover the scholarly literature, and some of these sets are shelved in 1-East at the recommendation of the selectors.

C6. Directories

The collection includes a Directories alcove for a diverse set of name and address publications, covering associations, government units, and the local area. We provide current telephone books from all parts of Michigan because we can get them free from the phone company: these sit together and are not cataloged in the OPAC. For national and international telephone directory information, we rely on free Web sites. Most business directories in paper are available only at the Business Library. Encyclopedia of Associations is available as a database.

Volumes in the Directories alcove should consist almost completely of information such as names, addresses, and phone numbers and perhaps some table-of-organization content. Other considerations:

  • convenient access,
  • suitability for ready reference use,
  • currency, and
  • accuracy.

When a new edition arrives, the older edition should be transferred (or withdrawn if permitted). When these directories are weeded from 1-East, they should go to Main (unless they can be withdrawn), not go to Consulting. Directories with substantial biographical content should be handled as biographical tools, not withdrawn.

C7. Tests and measures

Many researchers need to identify tests, scales and instruments that measure behavior in the social sciences. The collection is strong on guides to educational and psychological tests [Mental Measurements Year Book], including sources that help users obtain the actual test instruments. The instruments themselves usually are not available.

C8. Collections of current or historical texts

The collection includes handy sets with authoritative texts in English of major political or historical documents [Annals of America] and current major speeches. Some of these materials qualify as "primary sources" for historical research: the collection also includes indexes to primary source materials, sometimes with integrated online contents [American Civil War: Letters and Diaries].

C9. Guides to microform sets

Microform material is not found in Reference (exception: statistical fiche), but the collection includes a number of guides so that staff can assist researchers find relevant material in microformats. These include guides to microform sets that are owned by the MSU Libraries [American periodicals, 1741-1900], or to evaluate microform collections found in other libraries. The annual New York Times Index in paper is useful for many reference purposes as well as working with  microfilmed newspapers.

C10. Genealogy guides

The MSU Libraries do not collect genealogical primary sources. Our catalog now shows many titles at LM, and users can borrow some titles through MeLCat. Through MeL we have the strong database AncestryPlus. Our reference collection includes introductory guides and core handbooks to the practice of genealogical research however[Cyndi's List]. There is a genealogical research guide for users.

C11. Atlases

Most atlases and maps are kept in the Map Library, but reference offers a small selection of basic atlases covering world and United States geography [Rand McNally Commercial Atlas], and some specialized atlases that function as handbooks in certain disciplines [Atlas of the Middle East].

C12. Travel guides

Guides for tourists can be valuable sources for geographic or historical information too. Reference collects current books for Michigan, the United States, and the nations of the world in a separate Travel Guide alcove [Blue guide: Scotland]. These are non-circulating materials: older editions go to the Main stacks.

For more detail see the separate collection development statement for the travel materials.

C13. Statistical series

Main Library Reference no longer has a Statistcal Tool Alcove as many titles are available online, such as [Historical statistics of the United States] or works offering aggregate data on topics such as [Uniform Crime Report] or countries [Statistical Abstract of Israel]. Except for works about Michigan, works that cover areas smaller than an entire country, such a single province or state, are not collected in Reference. We have access to Lexis-Nexis Statistical Universe and also the paper indexes (IIS, ASI and ___) that preceded it, and the microfiche to which those indexes refer. Older statistical publications may be located in Government Documents, Consulting, or Main. Census publications are shelved separately.

A separate collection development statement for numeric data provides additional detail and examples.

C14. Career guides

In a separate Career Guides alcove, Reference collects work about job-seeking, employment prospects nationally and in specific fields of study, guides to interviewing, and books of sample resumes. Reference books in this sub-location circulate for three days: these are the only books in Reference that normally circulate.

For more detail, see the separate collection development statement for the career guides.

C15. College guides

In a separate College Guides alcove, Reference collects works about colleges and universities in the United States, major world universities, comparisons between institutions and programs, the application process, and financial aid. Many publications about grants and scholarships are also found in the Funding Center.

For more detail see the separate collection development statement for the college guides.

C16. Government publications

Most reference works available on 1-East that deal with government documents are selected and maintained by the Government Documents unit. The largest share are U.S. federal publications (we are a depository), with an effort to also provide guides to international organizations, Canada, and the state of Michigan. The government documents stacks are on 3-West, but there is no service point there.

Michigan state government manuals are collected and the latest edition kept on 1-East. We no longer collect government manuals of other states (relying on the Web instead).

C17. Law

Reference collects materials that summarize American law and general reference works about legal systems. These include not only encyclopedias but law reporters and digests for the United States and the state of Michigan. Increasingly, we rely on databases [Lexis Nexis] for law reporters, and the holdings of the MSU College of Law library for coverage in depth, but retain an interest in works that will be of wide interest for political science, U.S. history and general queries [United States Reports]. We are reducing our commitment to law purchases.

For convenience, all legal reference publications with K call numbers are shelved together in a non-circulating collection on 1-East, at a short distance from the reference desk and reference collection.  No K call numbers are shelved in Consulting or Open Reference (ss), and all stacks books in the Ks are at Business.

The MSU College of Law Library has primary responsibility to assist its own faculty and students, but is committed to reference assistance as needed for the rest of the community.

C18. MSU-related titles

The Reference collection includes a variety of official university publications, including annual budgets and salary information. We attempt to own several copies of all the standard histories of the university. We rely on the university archives for unpublished materials, and work with the archives staff.

C19. Funding, grants and scholarships

In a separate Funding Center alcove, Reference collects works about scholarships and internships, grants and the grant-seeking process, foundations, and grant-making bodies. We are an affiliate of the Foundation Center, and offer a variety of interactive and online tools for finding scholarships and other kinds of grants. A special effort is made to track grant-making sources in Michigan and the Lansing area.

For more detail see the separate collection development statement for the Funding Center.

C20. Dictionaries and thesauri: English language

The collection is strong on English language dictionaries. These include unabridged editions, collegiate and other one-volume sets (often in multiple copies to support simultaneous demand from many students), and special slang, illustrated, regional, historical and etymological dictionaries. A digital version of the OED is available as a stand-alone CD-based tool, but is not available in networked form due to the high FTE-based cost. We point to a variety of free online dictionaries through the Ready Reference pages, as well as to licensed sets (ORO and xreferplus).

C21. Style and citation manuals

There is strong demand for these manuals, and as a result they are secured in Closed Reference and signed out to avoid loss. Our offerings include the Chicago Manual of Style, Turabian, and the APA and MLA guides. Our ready reference pages point to online sources.

C22. Dictionaries for other languages

Reference collects a wide range of dictionaries emphasizing English, but including other major world languages (especially those taught on campus), and bilingual dictionaries in an even larger number of languages for translation. Our collection includes descriptive, historical and etymological dictionaries [the OED], illustrated dictionaries, and dictionaries of slang and non-standard speech. As dictated by demand, some one-volume collegiate and bilingual dictionaries should be available in  multiple copies or versions for use by students around the building.

Related works such as style manuals [English usage] and thesauri [Random House thesaurus] are also collected.

C23. Books of quotations (including concordances)

Reference collects general and specialized collections of quotations, primarily in English [Oxford dictionary of quotations] but also for major world languages [Grand dictionnaire des citations francaises], and reflecting a range of themes [Political quotations].

Concordances in paper are generally no longer collected for reference, due to the growing availability of self-indexing electronic full text files. Exceptions are recent concordances to the Bible in English [NRSV concordance] and to the works of Shakespeare [Shakespeare concordance] but not other authors, because these books also fulfill a role as quotation sources.

C24. Criticism and summaries of literature

Reference collects indexes that point to critical writing about works of literature, and in some cases offers the full text of the criticism in print [Contemporary literary criticism] or electronic [Gale literature resource center] format.

Works that summarize works of literature [Masterplots] are collected and shelved in 1-East. So are anthologies of literary criticism [Contemporary literary criticism].

Titles dealing with authors in which the biographical content dominates [American writers] belong in the Biography Tools alcove.

C25. Medical textbooks

In general, the MSU Libraries do not collect textbooks assigned on campus. In medicine, however, books assigned as textbooks are often reference sources in their own right, and we acquire these (in some cases, they have to be kept in Closed Reference to avoid loss).

C26. Reviews of books, films and dramatic performances

Reference collects indexes that point to review of books, movies and theater.

C27. Bibliographies by subject

Because end-users can now create custom bibliographies for themselves in online tools, and because printed bibliographies become out of date so quickly (and because of lack of space), most bibliographies are specific topics are no longer collected for Reference, but instead go to Main. Exceptions should have wide appeal and utility [World bibliographical series] and offer added value through selectivity, evaluation and/or annotation. Also exceptions, because they are working tools for librarians: bibliographies about collection development in a subject or discipline and bibliographies about reference titles [Guide to reference books]. See also C28: National bibliographies, as another exception.

C28. National bibliographies

Our holdings in National Bibliographies are strongest for the United States and Great Britain. Some historical bibliographies [American Imprints] are shelved in the Main stacks, not reference. The NUC and related works are shelved at the CyberCafe due to space issues. Holdings for other nations are less complete.

C29. Works about reference service, librarianship, publishing and copyright

Reference collects a core set of works supporting the practice of librarianship, even though MSU does not have a graduate library school. Some of these works support the practice of reference, including techniques such as interviewing or collection development ideas, others deal with publishing and copyright.

C30. Handouts in paper or web form including bookmarks

In addition to books and databases, Reference provides a "collection" of sometimes ephemeral handouts and online Web guides for library users.

Michigan State University