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SAULCAT - St Andrews University Library Catalogue

University of St Andrews Library Collections Policy


The role and purpose of the University Library is to support research, scholarship and learning in the context of the University’s strategic aims. It does this by providing high quality, professional services and information to the University and wider community. This is supported by the preservation, promotion and exploitation of its exceptional collections.

The Library states in its Library Strategic Planning Overview that:

The University of St Andrews Library aims to provide a library service which matches the status of the University as one of the UK’s top universities, with an international reputation for excellence. The Library staff take great pride in their work, and place particular emphasis on:

  • Academic engagement and research support services based upon a strong understanding of learning, teaching and research processes and priorities across all Faculties and Schools
  • High quality collections development and management, from purchase to display and storage
  • Delivery of a state-of-the-art information environment adapted to all user needs and modes of access
  • The provision of excellent Special Collections, in keeping with a proud tradition of acquiring, caring for and providing access to unique and rare materials in support of the teaching and research objectives of the University and wider community

 The scope of the University Library Collections Policy includes:

  • The acquisition of, or provision of access to, content in all formats either through outright purchase, donation, rental or inter-library loan, or suitably licensed open access publications
  • The allocation of resources to support the acquisition of content, and the factors which drive the decisions we make about the material we want to collect
  • How the Library stores and manages material, both print and digital, once it has been acquired
  • The services provided to allow users to access Library content
  • Digital research outputs produced by St Andrews researchers, including born digital material (full text, research data, etc.) and material from our existing collections which has been digitised

The Library Collections policy provides a public statement to ensure the University is fully aware of the service it should expect from the Library, the principles on which the collections are acquired, and also to set a realistic level of what the Library is able to deliver.

In addition, it is a live document enabling Library staff to undertake their work efficiently and with clarity.

As the Collections Policy functions both as a public and working document, various stakeholders need to be involved with its creation and review. The following groups are expected to be involved with this process.

University Library

Collection Manager: Overall management of Collections policy
Senior Managers/Liaison Librarians: Policy review via Library Collections Advisory Group

University Community

Library Strategic Advisory Group: Regular review of policy
Library User Group: Comment on and input to proposed amendments 


Collections are central to the Library’s purpose. The collections we acquire and hold are vital to the learning experience of students, and to the research endeavours of both students and academic staff. As a university library, we acquire and hold material in support of the range of academic subjects offered by the University, of wider scholarship, and of the national heritage of Scotland and the UK.


The Main Library, and the rest of the Library estate of the University of St Andrews, is constrained by size more than is desirable for a University which is over 600 years old, has a high reputation for teaching and research, and has grown considerably in the size of its student body throughout the last century. Limitations on physical space, and historical limitations on available budget, require the Library to manage the development and configuration of its collections in all formats (analogue and digital) with great and detailed care. In recent times, the funding for collections has improved considerably, and an improvement in the size of the estate is now also eagerly awaited. But these constraints continue to exert a strong influence on the way in which we can manage our collections.


Censorship/Intellectual Freedom

The Library supports the principle of intellectual freedom and aims to provide collections that represent a wide range of diverse viewpoints, supporting research and scholarly debate. Material is not censored. Provision of material in our collections does not imply the endorsement of the content by the Library.


The Library purchases content from a proportion of its annual operational budget. Purchase funds will be allocated to separate funds to support different areas of collection activity. These funds are:

  • Subscriptions - for the purchase of material acquired via annual subscription including databases, individual journals, journal bundles and standing orders. Purchasing from the fund is primarily controlled through the analysis of usage figures although a range of other criteria will be considered including impact factor, importance to a subject discipline, cost, format, and number of St Andrews authors published. The subscriptions are generally reviewed once a year near their renewal date. School Library Representatives will be informed of subscriptions “at risk” as a result of low use before any final cancellations are made.  
  • Books - for the purchase of books, either in print or electronically, required for teaching and research. The money in the fund is allocated to academic Schools based on a funding model driven by criteria including student and staff numbers. Purchasing decisions are primarily made on the basis of recommendations received from academics. Academic Liaison and other Library staff also select books for purchase.
  • Central funds - for interdisciplinary purchases, replacement of lost and damaged items, demand-driven purchasing including demand from students. Purchasing decisions from these funds are controlled by the Academic Liaison Librarians and the Collections Manager.
  • Special Collection funds - for the purchase of printed, manuscript and photographic items. Purchasing decisions are made by the Special Collections Division in consultation with the academic community.
  • School funds - for the occasional purchase of material, using funds from the Schools' own budgets to buy material either for the Main Library or for the Schools’ own libraries.
  • Inter-library loan funds - for purchasing access to any research material not held by the Library.
  • Open access funds - for the support of new publishing models primarily for the content produced by St Andrews researchers, allowing materials to be incorporated into the collection. Materials is selected in consultation with the academic community.
  • Research enhancement funds - where funds are available, Schools are invited to submit bids to the process and secure additional resource to develop key research areas.

Acquisition Policy-Formats

The Library acquires content in a wide variety of formats. When deciding the most appropriate format for content, the Library will consider the needs of each subject discipline supported by the University.

The preferred format for journal acquisition is e-only unless:

  • The archiving arrangements for the journal are not secure
  • The subject discipline has an identifiable need for the continued provision of print
  • The material is only available in print

Books may be acquired in either print or electronic formats. Decisions will be made based on format availability, the preference of the recommender and cost. Unless there is a clear rationale to the contrary, multiple copy provision should be met with e-access whenever possible.

Inter-Library Loan (ILL)/Document Supply

The Library will aim to provide access to material which is not held within the collection from other sources via a document supply service. Academic staff and students may make these requests. Although the cost is at present subsidised by the Library, a charge is made for renewals and overdue items. Further details are available on the ILL web page.

Audio-Visual Material

This material is purchased to support the teaching and research needs of the Department of Film Studies but also of other Schools and Departments who use documentaries and film in their work. The collection is particularly strong in the area of world cinema.

The Library will purchase films and documentaries in DVD format unless Blu-Ray is specified in the order record. All regions, zones and languages will be considered for inclusion in the collection. Streamed media is also purchased where appropriate. The British Universities Film & Video Council TRILT service can be used to request copies of off-air TV and radio recordings on DVD or CD and these too can be added to our collections.

Where there is a demand and it is possible, existing material on VHS tape or audio cassette is migrated to new media or replaced by purchasing the same content on DVD or CD.

A number of items are available as reference-only and can be consulted in the Main Library or borrowed by academic staff for screenings in class. Items marked as reference are:

  • High-value, rare or sensitive (located in store but recallable)
  • Do not have a BFI certificate (located on the open shelves)


All doctoral theses awarded by the University of St Andrews for research degrees are held as print and can be used in the Library on a reference basis. As part of University policy, since 2007 new doctoral theses are also available online unless embargoed and can be accessed via the Library’s Digital Repository and EThOS (The British Library’s electronic theses service). Some pre-2007 theses are available online because of digitisation requests, and the Library continues to undertake this retrospective digitisation.

Digital Research Outputs

The Library seeks to capture, preserve and make accessible the University's intellectual output, including research publications and research data sets. The Library will also consider collecting digital material by authors not affiliated to the University, but with a strong connection and/or relevant interest to our academic community. This may include material with no other available publishing outlet, material in need of additional preservation, or material that benefits from open access. In so doing, the Library facilitates greater impact for research outputs, supports research integrity and complies with University, government and funder policies.

Although not necessarily acquired in the traditional way, research publications and underpinning research data produced by St Andrews researchers still needs to be catalogued, preserved and made accessible.

The Library also provides a Journal Hosting Service to enable staff and students to create and run their own scholarly journals.

Online Databases

The Library will purchase both full-text and bibliographic databases to help users both exploit the Library collections and to enable discovery of research material.

Preference is given to electronic databases over print where affordable and available. Web-based or networked resources that can be installed on the University’s common desktop are also preferable to standalone or small network installations.

The Library will review usage and content of these databases and consider cancellation or provision of alternative resources as appropriate in consultation with academic staff.


The Library has a preference for selecting newspaper archives in electronic format, but will continue to hold current subscriptions to print titles (including foreign newspapers) which are directly related to teaching and research needs. Based on each individual title, the Library will retain only a limited run of the recent back issues.

Music Scores

Printed sheet music is purchased on the recommendation of the Music Department to support both teaching and research in the University.


The Library will continue to purchase material on microfiche or microfilm, where this is viable, to preserve holdings such as newspaper titles e.g. Le Monde, or where we are retaining only a limited run of recent print back issues. As information migrates to digital formats this procedure will become increasingly rare.

Acquisitions Policy - Teaching Materials

Where possible, the Library will favour the electronic format of any material needed to support the teaching of modules.

Where a book is only available in print, multiple copies may be purchased based on student numbers. Academic Liaison will make relevant decisions in discussion with academics.

Books expected to be in heavy demand will be placed in the Short Loan collection, but may be removed if insufficiently used. Ideally we will support Short Loan with the purchase of e-books where available.

Any individual articles or book chapters recommended on module reading lists will be delivered where possible online through our Reading List facility, either through existing licensed online content or by digitised material acquired via our Copyright Licensing Agency digitisation licence.

Acquisitions Policy – Research materials

The Library will acquire material for research purposes as requested by School Library Representatives and by our Academic Liaison Team within the limits of appropriate budgets. Material will be supplied in formats as requested, but factors such as space and accessibility will be taken into account and may result in a preference for electronic content.

Acquisitions Policy – Selection

Selection of stock for the Library is primarily the responsibility of the Schools who use their allocated budgets to purchase material appropriate to their teaching and research, and includes material required for reading lists.

Academic Liaison also hold budgets with which to buy material, particularly in response to requests via, and to ensure that all items on Reading Lists submitted to the Library are available, either in print or electronically.

Cataloguing and Discovery        


All material acquired by the Library is catalogued to the following internationally agreed standards:

RDA (Resource Description and Access) and AACR2 (Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, Second Edition), and are held in the MARC21 (MAchine Readable Cataloging for the 21st century) format for bibliographic data. The Library uses the Library of Congress classification system and subject headings. Where appropriate, material is catalogued using both transliteration and non-Roman script, making records more discoverable.

In certain cases, an enhanced standard is implemented e.g. genre headings for AV material.

Search the Library collections for catalogue records for print and subscribed electronic content. They are also fed into national and international aggregations of bibliographic data, e.g. COPAC, SUNCAT and WorldCat, making our collections visible on an international basis.

The Library seeks to make all metadata for the University’s digital research outputs discoverable via the Library search or equivalent research information systems such as Pure.

Collection Management


The Library welcomes donations, as space allows, from individual volumes to established collections, providing they meet existing criteria, i.e.

  • Relevance to developing collections
  • Value for teaching or research
  • Physical condition e.g. replacing damaged/heavily used copies in the collection
  • Format

The Library assesses all significant donations and if accepted, these will be added to the appropriate collection and are subject to the same assessment criteria as all Library stock, e.g. transfer, relegation or disposal.

Deposits will only be accepted in exceptional circumstances and under agreed conditions.

Further information on this can be found on the Donations web page.

Collection Strengths

The Library regularly analyses its collections to evaluate their relevance for current teaching and research.  This data forms the basis of supplementary purchases and donation criteria to strengthen the collections where necessary.

Stock management

The Library continually assesses stock both on the open shelves and in the General Collections Store. As a research library we understand the importance of keeping material even when it is not currently of use, but we must balance this against the issues of limited space and the financial implications of storage.

Stock is chosen for Store using a variety of criteria, including usage statistics and recommendations from academic and Library staff. Material currently in Store can be moved back into the open collection if requested for teaching or research, either permanently or for the duration of a particular course.



Print journal holdings are reviewed on a regular basis, and titles which no longer need to be on the open shelves are moved to Store. If titles are available electronically they may be withdrawn from stock and disposed of, subject to the following criteria:

  • We have an agreement from relevant Schools
  • There is no identifiable need for the continued provision of print
  • The electronic archiving arrangements for the journal are secure
  • All embargoes on the electronic copy of the title have expired (these are usually 6, 12 or 18 months)
  • The platform which hosts the electronic journal is secure

Where electronic backfiles of journals are available, the Library will consider such purchases as a means to further reduce print journal holdings, freeing up more space.


The Library regularly analyses usage statistics of its monographic collection, and where relevant will seek to weed any low-use duplicates. Titles will only be disposed of subject to the following criteria:

  • We have an agreement from relevant Schools
  • There is no identifiable need for multiple copies of each text

Involvement in collaborative collection management initiatives

As part of our commitment to make resources available, the Library does and will continue to participate in current and prospective national programs supporting cooperative Collection Management. Examples of this include:

  • The Library adheres to The Scottish Collections Policy and contributes to the preservation of the nation’s cultural heritage
  • The Library is also a participant in United Kingdom Research Reserve (UKRR), a collaborative national research collection of periodicals which ensures access to material while allowing space to be freed up for other Library purposes. More details can be found on the UKRR website

Collection care

The collection is subject to continuous assessment and where appropriate the Library will seek to repair damaged books and replace those which have been lost.


The Library will make decisions as required and when resources permit, on whether to bind stock (both books and journals) according to particular criteria, such as usage, subject needs and preservation priorities.

Special Collections

Special Collections preserves and offers access to the oldest and most valuable materials in the University Library, in manuscript, printed and photographic form, as well as maps, music and born digital material.  Special Collections are known and respected locally, nationally and internationally, and therefore continually enhance the University’s reputation and academic standing. 

See further information on the Special Collections web pages.

Policy details will be added regularly, and on occasion changed, to reflect the developments in our information provision. Please feel free to send comments to