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Reference Collection Policy

Scope of the Reference Collection

The Reference Department develops and maintains a reference collection that primarily supports the teaching, research, and service needs of those working in the humanities and social sciences at the University, including the needs of undergraduates, graduate students, teaching faculty, researchers, and staff. The collection provides secondary support to the information needs of the general public.

The Reference collection provides access to materials that meet the needs of its users (as defined above), including both print and electronic formats.  Access is provided to the materials as broadly as possible.  Print materials are designated as library use only, to ensure they are here when needed.  Electronic materials have remote access through the Web whenever possible.

 Responsibilities for Reference Collection Development

Reference librarians within the Reference Department are responsible for Reference collection development.  Each permanent Reference librarian is assigned one or more subject areas to develop, making recommendations to the Head of Reference.  In addition to their assigned areas, all Reference librarians are responsible for recommending general Reference resources.  Suggestions from others are also welcomed.  The Head of Reference coordinates Reference collection development and makes the final decision on the selection of materials.

Most databases are obtained with funds outside of the Reference Department, and final decisions may rest with the Head of Collection Services, or inter-campus or inter-library groups.  In these instances, Reference librarians are responsible for making recommendations to both the Head of Reference and the Head of Collection Services.

Selection and Weeding

Reference materials should provide quick answers to factual questions or provide a starting point for further research. In recommending a resource for the Reference collection, Reference librarians should take the following into consideration: the scope of the resource; how the resource addresses gaps in, or complements, existing Reference resources; perceived use of the resource; the reliability of the resource; how the resource is accessed; the cost of the resource; the language of the resource; the ease of use of the resource.

Systematic, regular weeding of the Reference collection is expected of each permanent Reference librarian, in her/his assigned areas.  Final decisions on weeding are made by the Head of Reference. General criteria used in making weeding recommendations include: frequency of use, importance of a source to an academic field, currency, future accessibility issues, information superseded by another source, and limitations of equipment or space.

 The Reference Collection includes access to:

 Almanacs and Yearbooks –Current editions of most standard, general U.S., and Canadian almanacs and the latest editions of some specialized almanacs deemed appropriate for the curriculum.

Bibliographies –Some bibliographies on broad curricular topics, as well as topics of considerable current interest.  Bibliographies with a narrow subject scope are not selected for Reference. 

Biographies – Major regional, national, and international collective biographies, including both retrospective and current biography, as well as some specialized biographical dictionaries.

 Concordances –Concordances for very important works, i.e. concordances for Shakespeare’s works and for major religious texts.

Directory Information – Current directory information, covering associations and organizations, professions, businesses, and government bodies.

Encyclopedias –Recent editions of selected English language, general encyclopedias and recent editions of specialized encyclopedias.

Geographical Sources –Authoritative atlases, maps, and gazetteers covering all areas of the world.

Handbooks – Selected current handbooks in the humanities and social sciences, emphasizing those aimed at data verification rather than in-depth research.

Language Dictionaries – Extensive sources on the English language, including general, etymological, unabridged, regional, historical, slang, synonym, and antonym dictionaries; selected current and authoritative dictionaries of other major languages, with an attempt made to have access to at least one current bilingual dictionary for each language.

Legal Materials Basic legal materials, including national and state laws, cases, and regulations.

Sacred Books – Sacred books of the world’s major religions.

Scholarship and Grant Information – Current information on scholarships and grants.

Statistics – Major national and international statistical compendia, both current and historical. 

Style Manuals – Current editions of all standard, general style manuals, as well as all major humanities and social sciences style manuals.

Travel Guides – Current travel guides will be included in the Reference collection, with guides providing geographical, cultural, economics, and statistical data favored.


Created by: Deborah Rollins and Nancy M. Lewis | Revised: 04/03/2015
5729 Fogler Library
University of Maine
Orono, ME 04469-5729
Phone: 207-581-1661 | Fax: 207-581-1653
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The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469