Mission & Vision

Purpose of Policy

This policy is intended to define the collection aims of the MSU Library. It connects the mission/vision of the MSU Library and how its collections support that mission. The policy outlines the scope of what resources are appropriate to acquire and retain in fulfillment of the mission/vision and what items are outside that realm.

Intellectual Freedom & Copyright

In keeping with the ALA Code of Ethics and ALA Bill of Rights, the MSU Library is committed to preserving and          protecting intellectual freedom and copyright, even if those materials are controversial. This commitment                  extends to all areas of information access and provision. See also:


Except where otherwise noted in this policy, primary responsibility for the maintenance and oversight of the collections resides with the Collection Access & Technical Services department (CATS).  Any member of the University Community may suggest items for purchase to the CATS department.  The Collection Development Librarian makes the final decision with regard to these materials.  Additional details regarding discrete collections are covered in the section Specific Policies for Discrete Collections


The development and management of The Library's collections are guided by this policy within the scope of available resources. The University allocates funds to the Library for the acquisition and processing of materials. The Collection Development Librarian has primary oversight over the collections budget, with additional oversight by the Dean of the Library. The decisions regarding appropriate materials are made in consultation with Library and Departmental Faculty. Rather than being constrained by inflexible formulas, collections are regularly evaluated and collection adjustments are made, as needed. Inflationary costs from information vendors require an equal increase in library budgetary funds to maintain stable and on-going access to the information resources needed for the University's education and research missions.

Scope of Collection

General Description of MSU Programs

The Library's resources reflect the education and research of the University. The Library has a representative on the Curriculum & Programs Committee and the MSU Graduate Council to keep abreast of changes in the curriculum. Links to current Undergraduate and Graduate degrees, majors, and options are provided below.

Selection Priorities, Goals, Organization, and Access

For primary subjects, we collect at a level adequate to support the course work of advanced undergraduate and master's degree programs, and sustained independent study. This collection includes a wide range of primary resources, basic and retrospective collections of the works of important writers, selections from secondary writers, representative journals, and reference tools pertaining to the subject. For subject areas with advanced degrees or intense research, the Library will acquire additional information resources. The Library's collections are primarily organized by Library of Congress Classification Scheme. Materials are findable through our library catalog, CatSearch, library indexes and databases, LibGuides, finding aids, and in-house created searching and indexing tools.

We are committed to providing web accessible resources to individuals with disabilities. We make every effort to gather information and prioritize the acquisitions of web accessible electronic resources, except in cases where a product or service would be fundamentally altered.

Preferred Languages

Most resources selected are in the English language except for basic and representative works in any other language taught at MSU. Exceptions to this are foreign language dictionaries, encyclopedias, other reference tools, and audio, video, and other materials determined to be necessary to support the curriculum.

General Criteria for Selection

Purchased Items: General criteria employed in the objective evaluation process include:

  • Quality of content
  • Anticipated lasting value
  • Appropriateness of level of treatment
  • Cost
  • Suitability of format to content
  • Authoritativeness of the author
  • Reputation of the publisher
  • Physical condition of the item
  • Currentness and timeliness
  • Scholarliness, including notes and bibliography
  • Scope
  • Availability of equipment or technology required for use
  • Tone, balanced presentation
  • Does not needlessly duplicate coverage already in the collections or available elsewhere

An item, in whatever format, that sufficiently meets the general objective criteria listed above, is then evaluated based on the subjective criteria related to the level of existing collections, programs, and goals. Specific criteria may also be considered for format or discrete collections.

Cooperative Purchasing with Other Units & Institutions

The MSU Library purchases items jointly with other institutions, as appropriate. Because vendors offer a wide-variety of pricing options, joint purchases do not always result in a lower price than if they were purchased by each institution individually. Primary partner libraries include the TRAILS consortium; the other MSUs; the Montana State Library/State of Montana; the University of Montana and other Montana Academic Libraries individually. In addition, MSU participates in a variety of consortial arrangements including but not limited to organizational memberships such as Lyrasis where additional discounts may be obtained. 

Gift Policy

Due to space and resources constraints, we are not able to accept donations of books or other physical items. For a full description of our approach to donations please read our Gift Policy.

Textbook Policy

As a general policy, MSU Library does not purchase textbooks for the collection. The Library may acquire textbooks selectively for the collection if they have long-term research, study, or archival value. For a full description of our approach to textbooks please read our Textbook Policy.

Guidelines for Resource Trials

A trial offers temporary access to online resources, allowing the MSU community to evaluate the content, features, value, and usefulness before the library commits to a subscription or purchase.

If the library determines that the requested resource meets selection criteria and requirements (such as relevance to diverse users, cost, and authentication),the library will coordinate trial access directly with the vendor or publisher. Typically, trials take one to two weeks to configure, with a standard 30-day trial period, though the duration may vary based on negotiations and vendor policies.

While resource trials are welcome, due to budget constraints, most trials won't immediately lead to a purchase or subscription unless they're deemed highly valuable to MSU users. If the library decides to subscribe, it's usually for one year, with no obligation to renew. The MSU Library does not support repeated trials of resources for instructional or personal use.

Current MSU students, faculty, and staff can request a resource trial by emailing Rachelle McLain or Hannah McKelvey.

Collection Evaluation & Maintenance


Regular evaluation includes a consideration of the condition of materials, subject covered, the percentage of holding within that area of the collections, usage, the date of the last weeding, format, costs, redundancy in other materials or in other formats, etc.

Preservation & Replacement

Every effort is given to proper housing and maintenance of the collections through appropriate housing, server storage and backup, climate control, Kapco covering, binding, and mending. Items posing environmental or health hazards because of mold, mildew, etc. are removed. Items will be considered for replacement or rebinding due to marking, wear, loss, theft, newer and revised editions, updated formats, inoperability, etc.

Multiple Copies

In general, the Library avoids retaining multiple copies of resources. Exceptions to this policy include copies needed in more than one location (e.g. Special Collections and general stacks for circulation), different versions of a work, and high-use items.


Because of the ever-growing body of information, space constraints, and the constantly changing focus of the research and teaching at MSU, the collections are regularly evaluated for appropriateness and condition. Consideration is given to the age of the collection, circulation and usage statistics, physical condition of materials (as appropriate), coverage in other, better sources, inaccurate, outdated, and misleading information (except where historically significant), and suitability for the collection mission. Following MSU Policy and Procedures (see, the Library disposes of surplus physical resources through a variety of mechanisms including donating to other libraries, online reselling, auction, charitable donation, recycling, etc.

Specific Policies for Discrete Collections -- in selecting and maintaining each of these collections, the following criteria will be considered (in addition to the Library's general selection and evaluation criteria)

Archives and Special Collections

Click the heading above for the full Archives and Special Collections collection development policy.


The Library maintains a reference collection to answer quick questions and provide subject overviews to library users. Reference sources summarize, condense, or give a comprehensive overview of a topic. Print reference resources remain in the library to be readily available to all users. Selection criteria of particular importance for reference sources are: accuracy, arrangement, and ease-of-use. Criteria for choosing online reference sources over print include comparing

  • The ease-of-use of each format
  • Ability to cross-search with other online reference works
  • Expected use versus number of simultaneous seats
  • Price

Reference sources are designed to make information look-up easy rather than to be read comprehensively. These resources include items such as: bibliographies, indexes, directories, dictionaries, catalogs, yearbooks, annuals, statistical compendia, atlases, gazetteers, biographical dictionaries, almanacs, encyclopedias, handbooks, abstracts, and databases.

For popular, frequently published reference books, and for some works available online, older print editions may be kept in the circulating collection.

Bobcat Browse

The Bobcat Browse collection consists of various rotating collections organized by theme. There are also popular-reading periodicals housed in the Browse collection. Older issues of these periodicals can be found in our general circulating collection. Each collection is described in greater detail below. There is a Bobcat Browse Committee in the Library that decides what is housed in the various parts of Browse and the guidelines for management of these collections, as outlined here in the Collection Development Policy.

Browse: Featured Collection

The featured collection area rotates through different themes and highlighted events. There is not a set amount of time that a featured collection will be highlighted, but, generally no collection will be located in this area longer than one year.

Browse: MSU Faculty, Staff, Student Recommended Reading

Throughout the academic year, we ask MSU faculty, staff, students, and community members what books they'd recommend to others for pleasure reading. This collection is continually updated with new recommendations. Materials that are rotated out of this collection are either added to our general circulating collection or are withdrawn due to low use.

Browse:Montana Publications and MSU Authors/University Publications

Select Montana-authors or books about Montana are located in the Montana publications area of Browse. These items are usually permanently housed in our circulating collections or Archives and Special Collections.

For MSU-authored publications, one copy will be placed in Special Collections, University Publications and an additional copy may be selected for the MSU Authors Browse collection and/or in the general circulating collection.

MSU authors are encouraged to deposit digital copies in our Montana State University Library's Institutional Repository, ScholarWorks.

Digital Collections

The digital collections provides for the storage and dissemination of digital objects, including text, images, audio, and video in their various digital manifestations and combinations. MSU Library develops a Web presence for digital collections, and provides storage, backup and digital preservation support for digital content accepted into, or developed by the Library.

Areas of the collection include but are not limited to Yellowstone National Park, the Yellowstone Ecosystem, Montana Agriculture, Montana Fish and Wildlife, Trout and Salmonid, Regional Native Americans, Bozeman - Montana, and the Gallatin Valley - Montana.

Selection Criteria

The scope of digital collections is broad and focuses first on materials that reflect the education and research of the University. After this consideration, materials are acquired or developed according to the full Archives and Special Collections collection development policy. Whenever possible, materials will be in the public domain or have written approval to distribute from the copyright owner.


The goal is to have digital collections available on the internet and accessible via all major search engines. Digital collections use one of two metadata standards:

    • Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DCMI)
    • Metadata Object Description Schema: MODS (Library of Congress).

Many digital objects are placed within a publicly-accessible archive along with a preservation web server infrastructure to ensure durable and permanent access.


Digital collection objects are acquired or created in multiple formats including text, images, audio, and video in their various digital manifestations and combinations. The preferred format is electronic when available.

Government Documents

The government documents collection expands the information sources available to the University and surrounding community by including materials produced by various governments or agencies.

The Library participates in three depository programs for systematic acquisition of documents. These deposit programs are:

  • Montana state documents
  • Canadian federal documents
  • U.S. federal documents

The Library does not participate in the United Nations depository program, but will select materials according to the general selection criteria when appropriate.

Selection Criteria

In addition to collecting content that reflects the education and research of the University, government documents also support MSU's function as a land grant institution. Areas of collection include but are not limited to Montana's Native Americans, water rights, agriculture, Yellowstone National Park, and grazing and timber rights.

Materials are acquired according to the terms of the specific depository programs. The Federal Documents selection profile is reviewed annually to add or remove titles. The selection profile is reviewed by the Government Documents liaison in consultation with the Collection Development Librarian.

In general, the Library does not typically select the following document types from the selection profiles:

    • Bibliographies and list of publications
    • Directories
    • Forms
    • Handbooks, manuals and guides
    • Laws
    • Posters
    • Regulations, Rules and Instructions
    • Telephone Directories

Items are withdrawn and discarded in accordance with Federal depository regulations.

Bibliographic Access

The goal is to have all government document titles reflected in the catalog. Call numbers schemes vary.

    • Montana and Canadian documents are integrated into the regular circulating Library of Congress stacks.
    • Circulating federal Documents are housed as a discrete collection and use the Superintendent of Documents classification scheme (SuDoc).


Federal documents are acquired in a variety of formats including print, microfiche, CD-ROMs, DVDs, map and electronic. The preferred format is electronic when available. Due to the volume of material produced by the US government, many core essential titles are received in microform.

Juvenile Collection

The purpose of the Juvenile Collection is to provide materials in support of courses taught in the College of Education and Health and Human Development and in other parts of the University with Teacher Education foci. This core collection of classic and current titles provides an opportunity for students studying early childhood, elementary and secondary education, and school library media management to become familiar with some of the best in children's and young adult literature. It also provides a selection of appropriate nonfiction materials. The collection contains representative materials across a wide range of subjects and interests. Within the limited resources available to build and maintain this collection, emphasis is placed upon award winning books for preschool through young adult levels. Award and honor books will be added annually, including but not limited to the Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré, Michael Printz, Batchelder, and Orbis Pictus winners. Materials by Montana authors and those that feature Montana will be included as will titles that support Indian Education for All.

The circulating juvenile Collection is housed as a discrete collection. The arrangement of the nonfiction collection is by Dewey Decimal Classification while the fiction and picture books are arranged alphabetically by author. The collection organization mirrors most school and public libraries.

While this collection is used by parents and young people in the University community as a substitute for public or school libraries, it is not intended for such use and is not maintained to fulfill that function.


The map collection is a subset of the documents collection. It consists primarily of federal document maps, Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology (MBMG) maps and individual maps and atlases. Maps from the western half of the United States (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming) are collected with emphasis on Montana and its surrounding states.

USGS topographic maps (7.5, 15, 30 and 60 minute) for Montana and surrounding states (WY, ID, SD, & ND), current and older maps are kept. For all other states, only the most current map is kept

The Library collects geologic and miscellaneous maps for Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. To a lesser extent, the Library collects geologic, hydrologic, national parks and other miscellaneous US maps.

In addition to meeting geographic criteria, the selection of cartographic materials is based on accuracy, clarity, size, and ease of use. At least one current globe is made available for consultation.

Bibliographic Access

The goal is to have all of the map series and individual titles reflected in the catalog. Call numbers schemes vary.

    • For MBMG maps and open-file reports, a Library of Congress classification scheme is used.
    • For USGS topographic maps (7.5, 15, 30, and 60 minute), and miscellaneous and geological regional maps, an accession call number using the following format is used: Case Letter:DrawerNumber Map Name (i.e. Case O:01 AK peninsula ).
    • For other Federal Depository Maps (non USGS), the SuDoc classification scheme is used.

Multiple Copies

The Library may collect multiple copies of Montana maps.


All new maps, whether received through the government depository, purchased, or donated should go through the regular cataloging and processing procedures.


The circulation status of maps varies by type of map series and region represented

Film/Visual Materials (DVDs, Blu-ray)

Film and video material can be an effective alternative to print media for the dissemination of information. In addition to the general selection criteria outlined above, the following are also criteria used when selecting film and video materials:

  • Technical quality of color and sound
  • Complete compliance with copyright law and fair use
  • Cost and ease of replacement

The Library also selectively purchases films and television programs and series. These can include award nominated films, film or television programs or series that meet the curriculum and research needs of an academic program, and other historically significant works. Pricing for these items is quite varied and consideration will be given to what is reasonable within the library funds available.

Bibliographic Access

The goal is to have all film and video material titles reflected in the catalog. Library of Congress classification scheme will be used. The circulating film and video materials are housed as a discrete collection.


The preferred format for video materials is DVD. 

Music Recordings

The Library collects audio recordings in support of the music curriculum and for general curricular needs. Both recordings on compact disc (CD) and online recordings are purchased.

Language Recordings

The Library collects language CDs to support the needs of students in modern language courses and to support student traveler learning needs. These language CDs range from beginner to intermediate level for languages studied in the Modern Languages department, as well as for other students and faculty who need refresher materials in the basic modern languages. Additionally, the collections include non-mainstream language CDs suitable for students and faculty involved in exchange programs through international programs and other offices.

Specific Policies for Formats -- in selecting and maintaining each of these formats, the following additional criteria will be considered along with the Library's general selection and evaluation criteria


  • Print: Hardback is the preferred format, but, paperback is preferred if less costly or expected to be updated frequently.
  • Electronic: Preference of e-books in comparison to print books is considered on a case-by-case basis using criteria such as ownership, target audience, pricing, bulk-purchase, previous usage statistics, areas of subject need not met by other electronic resources, titles available for consortial purchase from publishers, one-time purchase versus leasing options, etc.


Since the journals budget remains approximately the same each year relative to inflation, the Library makes every effort to maintain heavily used existing subscriptions. In order to add a new title, current subscriptions may be reviewed for cancellation. In selecting journals the following additional criteria will be considered along with the Library's general selection criteria:

  • Full text search availability and inclusion within subscribed databases
  • Cost
  • Scope, audience level
  • Past demand through interlibrary loan
  • Provides a unique contribution to the collection
  • Availability from other libraries through interlibrary loan
  • Print: Print is chosen when online costs are prohibitive, when online is not available, when print has an added value (such as art journals), or when permanent access is desired. Some vendors offer print + online (electronic) for less than online only. In this case, retention of the print is considered relative to demand and ownership of online. If permanent access (aka ownership) is provided online, print is not retained. As the e-journal ownership/permanent model increases, it is anticipated the print journal collection will continue to be reduced.
  • Electronic: When close in cost, quality, and availability, e-journals are preferred over print journals.


When subscribing to databases and indexes, the following criteria will be considered:

  • Importance of the resource to the academic discipline(s) and the level of expected use
  • Currentness of the information
  • Comprehensiveness, durability and accuracy
  • Value, cost, quality
  • Distinctiveness, overlap, coverage
  • Ease of use, training requirements
  • Access restrictions
  • Licensing requirements
  • Ease of installation and maintenance, if required. Web-based databases are preferred over locally-housed databases
  • Broad accessibility of the resource under present copyright laws and licensing agreements
  • Availability of usage statistics, preferably COUNTER compliant


Publications maintained in microform formats for preservation and to save space will not generally be duplicated in other formats. Limited exceptions may be made because of extremely high use or because of the quality of reproduction of photography or other graphics. Online format is preferred to microform.

  • Physical Film: In choosing microfilm for the collection, the following will be considered:
    • Technical quality
    • Availability of appropriate equipment and technical support
    • Cost effectiveness
    • Copyright, licensing
    • Longevity
  • Digital: Digitalized microfilm is preferred over physical film giving consideration to price, quality, full-text indexing. Physical film may be retained if permanant access to digital is not definite.


Geographical balance, full-text indexing, journalistic quality, importance to the mission of MSU, local or regional coverage, and comparative costs will be the primary criteria considered for the selection and retention of general newspaper publications.

  • Print: Print newspapers are retained for a limited time until they are replaced by microform or electronic coverage, or they are disposed of outright.
  • Electronic: Electronic format is preferred. Archival, permanent electronic purchases replace any print or microform holdings.

MSU Dissertations & Theses

  • Print: The Library collections contain at least one print copy of all theses and dissertations from Montana State University through 2005, when the Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs) database was implemented. For preservation purposes, one copy is housed in Special Collections. When available, a second copy is available for circulation in the Library's general collections.

  • Electronic: The Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs) project at Montana State University is a collaborative effort between the Graduate School, MSU Library, graduate degree granting departments and students.

    All theses/dissertations are submitted to the Graduate School office electronically. The Graduate School does not require a bound paper copy of your thesis or dissertation. Please check with your department for their requirements or suggestions for a bound copy.

    ETDs are published in ScholarWorks, our Institutional Repository. Students may chose to have their ETD freely available worldwide or hold access to their work for a period of up to one year. After one year, all ETDs will be available online to the general public.


Materials are considered oversize if their dimensions are greater than fits on shelving for other items in the same format. These items are housed on shelving with other oversized items to make maximum use of space.

Musical Scores

The Library collects music scores in support of the music curriculum, including miniature scores, scores with parts, scholarly editions of the complete works of major composers, operas, cantatas (full score and piano-vocal score), oratorios, Broadway shows, solo instrument/voice with or without accompaniment, duets with or without accompaniment, and chamber ensemble scores and parts. The Library does not collect or store performance scores and parts for large ensembles.

The purchase of online scores should only be considered for

  1. full scores that can either be printed in full and/or that can scroll quickly enough to be read along with an audio recording
  2. or databases with online parts (as long as the parts can be printed)

Otherwise, print scores are preferred.

Reconsideration of Information Resources

This portion of the collection development policy addresses the reconsideration of information resources (physical and electronic) acquired by the Montana State University (MSU) Library through its collection development practices and policies. 

When considering information resources to be added to its collection, the MSU Library aims to “make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority” (American Library Association’s Freedom to Read Statement).  

Additionally, some historical information resources in the library’s collections may contain language or images that users find inappropriate or offensive. Those information resources are products of the times in which they were created and represent the historical record. 

All information resources in the library’s collection are intended to move forward theMission, Vision, and Valuesof the MSU Library by supporting and advancing teaching, learning, and research for Montana State University and the people of Montana by providing uncensored access to information and knowledge.  

The library values diverse perspectives, as they challenge us, help us learn, and broaden our worldview. We strongly encourage users of the MSU Library to engage with items in the collection that they deem objectionable by reading, listening, or viewing them with an open and curious mind.  

It is more impactful to all, if library users suggest information resources to be added to the collection that balance the viewpoint of offending items rather than advocating for their removal. 

Request for Review

If a student or employee at Montana State University wishes to suggest that an item be considered for removal from the library collection, a Request for Reconsideration of Information Resources form must be submitted to the Collection Development Librarian. 

Forms are only available at the library’s Service Desk and will be distributed in-person, upon request.  

The form must include the name and address of the user submitting the form, a description of the material in question, and the nature of the grievance. Incomplete forms, or forms completed by a non-affiliated user (anyone other than a current MSU faculty, staff, or student) of the MSU Library, will not be reviewed. 

The Collection Development Librarian will arrange a meeting or phone call with the affiliated user to discuss their request. If a solution cannot be reached through an amicable conversation, in consultation with the MSU Library Management Team, the Collection Development Librarian will determine whether to remove the item. The Dean of the MSU Library retains final decision authority regarding the retention or removal of challenged materials. 

Reconsideration requests not received in accordance with this policy will be dismissed.

 Policy last updated February 23, 2024 by Rachelle McLain, Collection Development Librarian