Reference Collection


The purpose of the Collins Memorial Library reference collection is to provide reference resources that support the information needs of the university community. These needs are considered in relation to the current curriculum emphasis, faculty research, and to the administrative programs of the university, as appropriate. Selective coverage is provided for subjects not taught in the curriculum but which are of general academic interest to the campus community.


Materials selected for the Reference Collection shall contribute to the delivery of information and research sources in an academic context. The reference collection is comprised of non-circulating information sources, to which reference staff need to have ready access for assistance with information requests. In general, reference materials contain relatively concise articles or information bites that are useful for background and consultation in a given subject area. The collection contains both current and retrospective materials, in the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and covers all areas of the world. Materials of local interest are also included.

Selection Criteria

Reference materials are acquired and maintained in the form judged most effective for information delivery, whether it be paper, microform, or electronic. Increasingly, electronic reference sources contain access to fulltext materials, such as newspapers, journals, magazines, and encyclopedias. Electronic sources are selected according to the criteria outlined in the Electronic Resources statement of this policy.

Reference sources are collected primarily in English, with works in other languages collected as appropriate to the foreign language curriculum taught at the university, and for general academic interest.

Multiple Copies
Duplicate reference materials are not generally purchased, with the exception of a few high use items, such as English dictionaries and style manuals.

Types of Materials

  • Almanacs
    The Reference Department collects at least two current editions of an American almanac. Older editions of the World Almanac are kept in the circulating collection.
  • Bibliographies
    Collection development tools such as Sheehy’s Guide to Reference Books are kept in reference. Selected subject and multi-author bibliographies are collected. Highly specialized topical and single author bibliographies are housed in the circulating collection.
  • Biographical Sources
    Both general and subject specific biographical sources are collected as considered appropriate to the curriculum.
  • College Catalogs
    The library does not collect U.S. College catalogs, as they are available at Academic and Career Advising and through numerous WWW sites. A current subscription to foreign college catalogs is maintained.
  • Concordances
    Only primary concordances for very major works and authors are kept in Reference, e.g., for the Bible and Shakespeare. Other concordances are kept in the circulating collection.
  • Corporate Manuals
    Current business sources covering industries and companies are maintained, such as Standard and Poor’s Corporation Records, Moody’s Manuals, etc.
  • Company Annual Reports
    Annual reports made available to the SEC for publicly held companies are collected.
  • Dictionaries & Thesauri
    All major English language dictionaries are collected. Bilingual dictionaries with English as one of the languages shall be collected for all languages taught at the university, as well as for other major languages. Specialized dictionaries covering slang, idioms and usage for major languages are also included. Subject dictionaries for all major disciplines are collected. English thesauri are collected, as are thesauri for major indexes and abstracted subscribed to by the library.
  • Directories
    Current U.S. association, business and educational directories are maintained. Foreign directories are also collected for these areas, on a less comprehensive basis.
  • Encyclopedias
    A current general encyclopedia is purchased annually, rotating among three titles. Current subject encyclopedias are purchased for all major disciplines when available.
  • Geographical Sources
    The Reference Department collects gazetteers and atlases for all areas of the world. Maps are kept in a separate map collection located in the Reference area. We collect maps of all foreign countries, states, and major cities and metropolitan areas, as well as regional and world maps. Many of these are added through the Federal Depository program. Topographic maps primarily for the western states are selected through the Federal Depository Program and housed in the Geology Library.
  • Handbooks and manuals
    Reference collects current handbooks and manuals as judged appropriate. Those that are better suited to continued study would be kept in the circulating collection.
  • Indexes, Abstracts, Full-Text
    Periodical indexes and abstracts are collected to exploit the resources they analyze, whether the source materials are available locally or not. The decision to maintain an indexing or abstracting service is based on its use, price, format, and relevance to the curriculum. As full-text databases become increasingly available for all disciplines, the library is committed to offering the best of these resources, as based on the guidelines outlined in the Electronic Resources statement of the Collection Development Policy.
  • Legal Materials
    The library maintains a core collection of titles geared toward the needs of undergraduates. Many of these titles are obtained through the Federal Depository program.
  • Plot Summaries
    Major collections of plot summaries, such as Masterplots, are collected. Single works, such as Cliffs’ Notes or Monarch Notes, are not.
  • Statistical Sources
    Current and historical statistical sources are collected for the U.S and less comprehensively for foreign countries. Some examples are Statistical Abstract, International Financial Statistics Yearbook, and Historical Statistics of the United States.
  • Style Manuals
    Major style manuals such as the APA, MLA, Chicago are collected. Selected subject specific style manuals, such as the AMA, are collected as requested by faculty to support student research.
  • Telephone Directories
    Major Washington State telephone books, and selected Northwest telephone books, are collected. The library also offers electronic access to U.S. business and home listings.

The Process of Reference Collection Development

The Reference Coordinator, with the assistance of the Reference staff, has the primary responsibility for a systematic and continuous acquisition program for reference materials, for ensuring a balanced collection, establishing order priorities, and for fiscal control. The Reference staff is responsible for examining current bibliographic sources for reference selection.

The following principles are to serve as guidelines for the selection of reference materials:

  • Use or anticipated use
  • Strengths and weaknesses of the existing collection in relation to the current needs of curriculum
  • Favorable reviews/Evaluative in-house comparison to similar sources
  • Authoritativeness of the author and publisher
  • Currency
  • Arrangement/ format/ease of use
  • Price

In addition to the above, the guidelines for Electronic Resources in the Collection Development Policy are considered for all electronic purchases.


To insure a working collection of important frequently consulted works, regular weeding is performed. The same guidelines and principles used to acquire materials should be employed to weed out materials from the collection. Since some disciplines require current works and others retrospective and historical publications, it is impossible to establish standards to apply to all the disciplines. The reference collection is weeded in two ways: automatic weeding of older editions of a publication when new ones arrive, and periodic weeding by reference librarians.

General criteria to be considered in weeding are:

Significance of the publication Age and currency of the work Physical condition Availability of later editions Duplication of the contents Potential to move to main collection