Collection development policy

InformationUnder review in 2021


The purpose of the collection is to create a dynamic scholarly foundation for advancing research, teaching, and learning at the University of Ottawa. It is recognized that there are diverse spaces and environments, both virtual and physical, where these activities occur, and that we need to deliver our collection resources wherever they are needed. We develop a balanced, current, and diverse collection in appropriate formats. We strive for a bilingual collection (English and French) to the greatest extent possible. Collection development activities are overseen by the Associate University Librarian (Collections) and the Collection managers in each Library. Materials are selected by the subject librarians with input from faculty and library representatives in the academic departments. Importantly, it is recognized that openly available resources of all types that meet our intellectual criteria are equally valuable to licensed or purchased resources in support of the university's research and teaching mission, and scholarship in general. These open access materials complement existing strategies and methods.

Librarians base their decisions on a close understanding of the needs of their community, and significant collaboration and dialogue with faculty, researchers, and students. Librarians develop subject expertise and consult selection tools such as authoritative academic lists, vendor and publisher systems, catalogues, reviews, citation lists and collection analysis tools.

The Library has made a strong commitment to Open Access. Our institutional repository uO Research houses theses, articles, working papers, technical reports, conference papers, data sets in various digital formats, etc. Faculty, students, and other researchers are encouraged to submit their works for secure storage and greater visibility and impact of their works. Complementing this strategy, subject librarians assess openly available resources and documents on an ongoing basis, using their knowledge and expertise to make selection decisions. These resources are promoted and made discoverable through various channels as feasible, including the library website, the catalogue, and information literacy instruction.

The Library has made a successful transition from print to electronic journals. The Library is purchasing an increasing number of eBooks to support the needs of the university community. The Library also collects many other types of material, such as research reports, bulletins, special papers, lecture notes, evidence-based tools and resources, conference proceedings, videos and films, government publications, maps and images, and numeric and geospatial data.

The Library participates in numerous consortial agreements for the purchase of digital scholarly materials. The Library is a member of the Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN), the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL), the Conférence des Recteurs et Principaux des Universités du Quebec (CREPUQ), the Coalition of Academic Health Libraries in Ontario (COAHL), the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL).

The virtual library

The virtual library is becoming increasingly important and digital materials are expected to create timely value for students and researchers. This includes incorporation into teaching technologies, online tools, and virtual learning environments; mobile access; linking with other information resources; improved resource sharing ability; ease of use; and unique material that is not available in print. The virtual library includes openly available resources as well as licensed or paid resources. The above benefits for users apply equally to all of these resources. Below are key priorities or strategies for acquiring digital content.

  • We purchase digital resources rather than leasing arrangements, wherever feasible, in order to secure permanent access;
  • We acquire digital resources directly from the publisher rather than a vendor or aggregator whenever possible, in order to provide a maximum amount of security and stability in the content available to our users;
  • We privilege the digital format over the print format for journals, unless there are valid reasons for doing otherwise, since our user community has come to expect online access wherever available;
  • We avoid duplication of format, in order to use our acquisitions budget in a cost-effective manner;
  • We acquire digital resources that respond to the needs of faculty and students in an increasingly interdisciplinary environment, since new knowledge is often being created in the confluence of traditional disciplines;
  • We acquire digital resources that are appropriate to the strategic areas of development defined by the University, in order to advance the goals of the University and support the researchers working in these areas;
  • We pursue opportunities to digitize library print collections as appropriate, in order to broaden access to the richness of research material and advance the potential of open access for scholarship and learning. The Library has digitized the French cultural heritage of its collection (out-of-copyright materials). This is freely available at:

An overview of collection resources

Archival materials and rare books

The Archives and Special Collections contain unique books and archival materials which need to be preserved and kept apart from the general collection, because of age, format, content and historical value. The use of these materials is carefully supervised, with their protection being a prime concern. The collections consist of rare books from Canada and abroad, as well as special collections such as the Slovak Collection, the Canadian Women’s Movement Archives, the French Manuscripts Collection and the History of Translation Collection.


Collection emphasis is on current imprints. Materials are acquired from around the world but mostly from Canada, United States, the UK and France. As well as selecting from the standard commercial publishers, the Library prioritizes titles from university presses, scholarly societies, and specialized professional publishers. Apart from research monographs, research reports, bulletins, special papers, lecture notes and conference proceedings are acquired as appropriate for each discipline.

The majority of the monograph collection is in print format, but the eBook collection is growing rapidly. In some disciplines, the eBook is the preferred format. In others, a mix of print and eBooks are acquired.

The Library establishes publisher agreements for blanket purchases of ebook collections, wherever appropriate and cost-effective, based on an assessment of needs and value.

The Library purchases selected current material requested via interlibrary loan (ILL) that is within our collection development policy parameters.


The University of Ottawa Library acquires and makes available through searchable archives, numeric research data from various sources for research, learning, and teaching. We collect and prepare data and searchable metadata in French and English for surveys and administrative data from Statistics Canada and various other organizations, including commercial and international organizations. We work closely with our data preservation partners, such as OCUL Scholars Portal/Odesi, to ensure that our data collections are made visible, understandable and accessible for a wide variety of purposes, both academic and institutional, including visualisation, analysis and planning.

The Library is a member of the Data Liberation Initiative, and the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research and we collect time-series macrodata and cross-sectional microdata covering a range of economic, social-cultural, financial, life sciences and other scientific topics. The Library participates in a collaborative agreement with the COOL Research Data Centre and institutional partners to provide access to detailed longitudinal data for researchers in the National Capital Region.

Digital images

At the request of faculty, or by the decision of the Media Librarian, the Library purchases subscriptions to online image databases, as well as selected images collections. Obsolete formats such as slides are gradually being transferred to digital formats. Digital images are managed using a content management system.

GIS (Geographic Information Systems)

The Library collects geospatial data both in vector and raster format for all parts of the world. However, emphasis is placed on Canada, particularly Ontario and Quebec. Other regional interests are other Canadian provinces, China, the United States, French speaking Africa and South America.

Government documents

Government documents are collected in print, microform and online formats. Collection emphasis is on Canadian federal, Canadian provincial, intergovernmental international organizations and European Union publications. The Library is a full depository for United Nations publications and World Bank publications. These are supplemented by selected foreign documents.


The Library prefers online journals over print. The Library cancels print subscriptions when the online format becomes available. However, we take into consideration faculty’s special requests for the retention of print. The print version is retained if it contains images, graphics or other forms of non-text content which is not reproducible clearly or accurately online or if there is an embargo (i.e. ‘moving wall’ for online content). The Library purchases journal archives as appropriate, to ensure the completeness of the scholarly record.


The Library has a comprehensive collection of historical and current Canadian topographic maps, general and historical atlases, geological, thematic maps, wall maps, globes, air photos in paper and digital format, microforms, digital mapping and cartographic reference works.


At the request of faculty, or by the decision of the Music Librarian, the Library purchases printed music, CDs and DVDs, orchestral and choral materials as well as subscriptions to online music databases which include indexes to printed music, printed music databases and streaming audio and video music databases.


The Library acquires in print major regional newspapers and a number of other key newspapers. Microfilm has been purchased in the past, but we no longer add to the collection except for a few exceptions. We prefer online newspapers over print and purchase subscriptions to many newspapers databases.

Reference works

We prefer online reference resources over print, wherever available. We prefer the full text edition of an abstract and indexing database if it is available. Print materials are acquired when online is not available, on a very selective basis. We acquire basic print reference works such as dictionaries, bibliographies, indexes, directories, encyclopaedias and handbooks.


The Library does not collect textbooks on a regular basis. However, we do purchase textbooks on an occasional basis, for the Reserve collection, as appropriate.


University of Ottawa theses are made available online through our institutional repository: uO Research. Print copies (available up to 2011) are kept in an offsite storage facility. Theses from around the world are available through a commercial database, some of which are full-text. Requests for other theses are processed by Interlibrary Loans.


The Library collects videos that support research, teaching, and learning at the University. We purchase subscriptions to online video databases and online presentation rights, as well as DVDs at the request of faculty, or by the decision of the Media Librarian, with input from the appropriate subject librarian. We purchase titles in their original language with English and/or French captions and subtitles. The collection is not evenly divided among the subject areas because some subjects are more frequently represented in video. The collection includes videos that satisfy extracurricular and outreach interests, such as critically acclaimed titles, and award winners. Obsolete formats such as VHS are being phased out.

Key policies regarding collections

Approval plans

The Library maintains approval plans for Canadian, US, UK and French European books in most subject areas. The vendor is instructed to send automatically new titles which match the Library’s subject and other intellectual criteria, as well as format decisions. Any books sent in error are returned to the dealer for credit. The vendor also provides notification slips to inform the Library about new titles which could be of importance or which fall outside of the other approval criteria. The subject librarians select from these slips for ordering, based on their knowledge and experience.


The Library policy is to acquire books and journals in soft copy (i.e. unbound) whenever possible. Repairs and binds/rebinds to damaged material are made at the recommendation of the subject librarians. Material that is in too poor a condition to be bound is considered for replacement.


The Library does not collect juvenile literature, popular fiction, ‘how to’ guides and popular material unless they are subjects of study and research. It should be noted that the Faculty of Education Resource Centre specializes in curriculum materials, pedagogical tools and juvenile literature.


The Library welcomes gifts in kind which support teaching and research in the University. However, we are very selective in items that we accept. All gifts must meet the guidelines for donations and must be in good physical condition. The Library retains the right to accept or reject gifts in kind, and to dispose of unwanted gifts in the most appropriate manner. You are encouraged to contact the appropriate librarian before bringing any gifts-in-kind to the Library.


The primary languages of the collection are French and English. Materials in other languages are acquired when there is a demand for the support of teaching and research in the University, particularly in areas such as Spanish language and literature, German, Italian, Russian, and Arabic. We do not collect materials in languages which are not taught by the University.

Number of copies

The Library normally purchases one copy of each title. We purchase multiple copies only for heavily used titles and course reserves.

Out of print books

Out of print books are purchased as replacement copies if they are readily available, in good condition and at a price which can be accommodated by the Library budget.

Replacement copies

Replacement copies are purchased at the recommendation of the subject specialists based on relevance to current teaching and research and past usage. Depending on availability and disciplinary preferences, the digital copy may be purchased rather than the print book. The most recent editions are normally purchased as replacements.

Self-published material

The Library does not collect self-published material.


The Library collects translations from English to French and from French to English, as required by specific programs in humanities or social sciences (such as English Literature and French Literature). Translations from classical languages (e.g. Latin, Greek, Old English, Old French) are acquired as appropriate, e.g. for Philosophy or Classical Studies.

Weeding and storage

Weeding and transfer to storage are based on the material’s relevance to teaching and research, and criteria such as: usage, duplication, format, electronic access, currency (i.e. superseded editions), and the physical condition of the material. These items are kept in the off-site storage but can be retrieved within 24 hours’ notice, upon completing a request online. Second copies of items will be weeded from the collection, unless there is a compelling reason to maintain two (or more) copies.

For further information on this policy, contact the Head, Collections Strategy.

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