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Collection Development Policy
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Collection development consists of the selection, evaluation, deselection (weeding), replacement, preservation, and retention of library materials to best support the mission of the Library. In the twenty-first century this increasingly entails the provision of information through a balance of acquisition and access. Access as part of collection development has become central to the ongoing process of maximizing the acquisitions budget while, at the same time, increasing the availability of resources to the library's patrons. There is now an increased emphasis on managing information, rather than just the physical collections held by the library. Print or multimedia resources may be acquired traditionally or provided through some form of document delivery. Electronic resources may also be acquired traditionally, or access to them may be leased. This represents a significant shift from the historical emphasis on acquiring strong local collections of print resources for long-term access and use. Less than ever can a library attempt to acquire all available materials across an extensive range of teaching and research areas, as the ancient Library of Alexandria once did. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina's aim is to provide essential print and multimedia resources for entertainment and for teaching and learning as well as print research materials on a selective basis, together with licensed and purchased access to remote electronic resources for all library users.

Purpose of the Collection Development Policy
The Collection Development Policy of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) is a public document that describes existing collection strengths and future collecting activity in order to inform users, potential donors, and funding authorities of the principles that govern the selection and retention of library holdings and of the library's collecting priorities. Furthermore, it demonstrates the commitment of the BA to support the wide range of teaching, learning, and research goals for which it was founded. Because the development and management of the library's collections relies on cooperation between library personnel, academics, professionals, and the public, this policy is also a means of facilitating such cooperation both within Egypt and throughout the world.

The Collection Development Policy is also an internal library document. As such, it is meant to:

  • guide the library's staff in making decisions regarding the selection, management, and preservation of library materials;
  • assure the continuity and consistency of collection development over time;
  • assist with focus on patron needs;
  • and aid in the induction and orientation of new staff.
In order to maintain currency and accuracy, the Public Services Section will periodically update this policy document. This policy statement and the collecting levels of intensity represent an ideal that must be tempered by the reality of fiscal resources, staff expertise, and the constraints of time and space. There is, however, no attempt to define these considerations within this document.

Mission Statement
The mission of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina is to promote the development of an independent, self-confident, and literate citizenry through the provision of open access to cultural, intellectual, and informational resources of all types.

Vision Statement
The new Bibliotheca Alexandrina will be a worthy successor to the great ancient library of Alexandria . That great library was an unique ecumenical effort, a testament to the human intellect and imagination, and it remains etched in the memories of all scientists and intellectuals to this day.

As the great library was the center of knowledge and learning of the ancient world, so the modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina aims to be center of knowledge and learning in the modern world. The new Bibliotheca Alexandrina is intended to be:

  • The world's window on Egypt
  • Egypt's window on the world
  • An instrument for rising to the challenges of the digital age
  • A center for dialogue between peoples and civilizations
Mission Fulfillment
The collection part of the Library's mission is fulfilled with a mixture of print, audiovisual, microform, electronic, and web resources. The library's holdings are supplemented by document delivery services. Fulfillment of the mission depends upon the resources available, such as funds, expertise, physical space, and technology. Experience dictates that the total mission is an ideal, with some aspects going unmet when resources are insufficient, so activities fulfilling the Library's mission must be carefully prioritized. New materials are acquired by the library through individual purchase, approval plans, blanket orders, deposit and donation.

Specific Library objectives include the development of a centralized, active, and useful collection in all fields to support the current and future educational and research needs of the public, in addition to the special areas of concentration outlined later in this document.

Responsibility for Collection Development
To best coordinate collection development with the mission of the library and needs of the library's patrons, the collection development section is given primary responsibility for developing and maintaining the library's collections. The collection development staff, hereafter referred to as selectors, are expected to provide attentive and proactive leadership in:

  • evaluating the library's holdings;
  • maximizing the benefit of acquisitions to the entire collection while staying within the limits of the overall budget;
  • selecting library materials that anticipate demand;
  • controlling orders in relation to the availability of Library materials funding;
  • identifying materials for de-selection;
  • planning and instituting procedures to coordinate collection building in interdisciplinary fields;
  • and overseeing the orderly and systematic growth of the library's collections.
Each selector will be assigned to work with a specific broad area of the collection by the head of collection development, based in part on any special knowledge that selector has in those subject areas. Because no one individual can have special knowledge of the many subject areas each selector will be responsible for, the selectors are expected to work closely with the reference staff and with outside or internal subject specialists. To ensure that patron needs are being met, the head of collection development, working with the heads of public services and reference and instruction services, will assign reference librarians having special knowledge of, or experience with, specific subjects to work with the selectors. The selectors are also expected to cultivate relationships with both external and internal subject specialists who may, from time to time, be recommended by the head of collection developments or by other unit heads or library administrators.

Once the selectors have made their decision based on the all of the criteria in this document and their professional judgment, they will submit them to the Acquisitions Section. The Acquisitions Section carries out the actual placement and processing of orders. Ultimate responsibility for the collection rests with the Chief Librarian.

Materials Budget
Funding for acquisitions is provided on a fiscal year basis, with the total amount being determined by the Chief Librarian. While a small amount is retained to meet general needs and contingencies, the bulk of the acquisitions budget is used for the purchase or licensing of library resources. The Head of Collection Development is responsible for allocating available funds to support all subject areas in a fair and equitable manner. Factors to be considered include, but are not limited to:

  • the average cost of new titles in each subject area
  • the average number of new titles published annually in each subject area
  • usage and/or circulation statistics
  • the size, age, and condition of the existing collection
  • the rate of change in the discipline.
Since a large proportion of the library's resources are acquired from overseas, the value of the Egyptian pound against foreign currencies at any particular time, especially the US dollar, is a significant factor in acquisitions decisions.

The Head of Collection Development should always give funding priority to improving outdated, weak, or non-existent subject areas in support of the Library's overall mission. Mathematical allocation formulae may be used as a guide to inform the Head of Collection Development of significant trends within the Library and in the publishing industry, but the allocation of funds must also be guided by the Head of Collection Development's professional experience, judgment, relationships with the selectors and subject specialists, collaboration with other library personnel, and knowledge of local, national, and international trends that affect the library and its collections.

Funding allocations derived in this way are to be used as a guide by the selectors: the realities of maintaining a properly balanced collection dictate that actual expenditures may deviate from these ideals. The selectors will work together with the Head of Collection Development to maximize the benefit of the funds spent to the entire collection while staying within the limits of the overall budget.

Collecting levels
The Collection Development Committee, Resources and Technical Services Division of the American Library Association has created widely accepted standards that define levels of collection development ( ALA , 1979). Bibliotheca Alexandrina uses these standards to guide their collecting decisions. It is important to note that these assignments represent a desired or ideal collection level, and not the existing level of a specific collection at any specific time.

  • Comprehensive level (level 5): A collection in which a library endeavors, so far as is reasonably possible, to include all significant works of recorded knowledge (publications, manuscripts, other forms) for a defined field. This level of collecting intensity is that which maintains a "special collection", the aim of, if not the achievement, is exhaustiveness.
  • Research level (level 4): A collection that includes the major published source materials required for dissertations and independent research, including materials containing research reporting, new findings, scientific experimental results, and other information useful to researchers. It also includes all important reference works and a wide selection of specialized monographs, as well as an extensive collection of journals and major indexing and abstracting databases in the field.
  • Study level (level 3): A collection which supports undergraduate or graduate course work, or sustained independent study; that is, which is adequate to maintain knowledge of a subject required for limited or generalized purposes, of less than research intensity. It includes a wide range of basic monographs, complete collections of the works of important writers, selections from the works of secondary writers, a selection of representative journals, and the reference tools and fundamental bibliographical apparatus pertaining to the subject.
  • Basic level (level 2): A highly selective collection which serves to introduce and define the subject and to indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere. It includes major dictionaries and encyclopedias, selected editions of important works, historical surveys, important bibliographies, and a few major periodicals in the field.
  • Minimal level (level 1): A subject area in which few selections are made beyond very basic works.
  • Out of scope (level 0): A subject area that is not collected and in which no materials are selected.
Intellectual Freedom
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, as part of the larger global community, considers Intellectual Freedom to be fundamental to its mission. The administration and staff of BA adhere to the Statement on Libraries and Intellectual Freedom of The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions as outlined below:

IFLA (The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions) supports, defends and promotes intellectual freedom as defined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

IFLA declares that human beings have a fundamental right to access to expressions of knowledge, creative thought and intellectual activity, and to express their views publicly.

IFLA believes that the right to know and freedom of expression are two aspects of the same principle. The right to know is a requirement for freedom of thought and conscience; freedom of thought and freedom of expression are necessary conditions for freedom of access to information.

IFLA asserts that a commitment to intellectual freedom is a core responsibility for the library and information profession.

IFLA therefore calls upon libraries and library staff to adhere to the principles of intellectual freedom, uninhibited access to information and freedom of expression and to recognize the privacy of library user.

IFLA urges its members actively to promote the acceptance and realization of these principles. In doing so, IFLA affirms that:

  • Libraries provide access to information, ideas and works of imagination. They serve as gateways to knowledge, thought and culture.
  • Libraries provide essential support for lifelong learning, independent decision-making and cultural development for both individuals and groups.
  • Libraries contribute to the development and maintenance of intellectual freedom and help to safeguard basic democratic values and universal civil rights.
  • Libraries have a responsibility both to guarantee and to facilitate access to expressions of knowledge and intellectual activity. To this end, libraries shall acquire, preserve and make available the widest variety of materials, reflecting the plurality and diversity of society.
  • Libraries shall ensure that the selection and availability of library materials and services is governed by professional considerations and not by political, moral and religious views.
  • Libraries shall acquire, organize and disseminate information freely and oppose any form of censorship.
  • Libraries shall make materials, facilities and services equally accessible to all users. There shall be no discrimination due to race, creed, gender, age or for any other reason.
  • Library users shall have the right to personal privacy and anonymity. Librarians and other library staff shall not disclose the identity of users or the materials they use to a third party.
  • Libraries funded from public sources and to which the public have access shall uphold the principles of intellectual freedom.
  • Librarians and other employees in such libraries have a duty to uphold those principles.
  • Librarians and other professional libraries staff shall fulfill their responsibilities both to their employer and to their users. In cases of conflict between those responsibilities, the duty towards the user shall take precedence.
BA Profile
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) is an Egyptian national project implemented through cooperation between the Egyptian government and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), for the benefit of Egypt and of the whole world. The project was inspired by the ancient great library of Alexandria which was a beacon of knowledge and a center of culture and civilization for the ancient world.

The location which the Egyptian Government made available for the Project is believed to be close to the historic site of the ancient library, which was built within the Royal district of ancient Alexandria , where the Ptolemaic royal palaces once existed. A large conference center, Planetarium , museums, and scientific centers are also located on the site: together with the new library, they constitute a coherent, multi functional cultural/research complex.

The BA is a research library open to the public with holdings designed to enrich scholarly research and public knowledge in all fields, especially on the cultural heritage of Alexandria , Egypt , the Arab World, the Mediterranean region and Africa . It is a national Egyptian project serving both national and international communities of scholars and researchers, as well as general library users from Egypt and from around the world. The BA provides a link to the world's major research libraries utilizing all modern forms of technology for the access, transfer, and dissemination of information. Visitors and users of the library will find not only collections of books and manuscripts but also large collections of audiovisual and electronic materials.

Library Collections - General Collection
The library supports the general educational and informational needs of the public. To meet these needs the library collects material in all subject areas. Because of the newness of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the general collection is still in a formative stage of development. Given the restraints of limited budgeting and staff, and the mandate to grow a well rounded scholarly collection, the library has made the decision to temporarily limit its acquisitions in most subject areas to the Basic and Minimal collecting levels (Levels 1 & 2). Once these levels have been achieved, The collection can be built out to the desired ultimate collecting levels by stages. This will ensure the orderly growth of the collection. Exceptions to this are listed in succeeding sections of this document.

Library Collections - Special Areas of Concentration

Ancient Library of Alexandria

Because the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) is the modern successor to the Ancient Library of Alexandria, one of its main missions is to develop comprehensive collections on the ancient library, the ancient Alexandrian research academy the "Museion" and ancient Alexandrian scholarship.

History of Science and Technology

The ancient library of Alexandria substantially contributed to the transmission of the knowledge of preceding civilizations (esp. that of the Greeks) to the Arabs, who in turn transmitted this knowledge to Renaissance Europe. Hence history of science is the second subject of special interest to BA. This has been demonstrated by the BA History of Science Museum located under the Planetarium.


As the ancient library was the center of scientific & scholarly innovation in the ancient world, the BA being its successor, seeks to follow and make available the most up-to-date information sources on the advancement of science & technology. The rapid development in these two specific domains of research has raised many ethical questions today, particularly in the field of biotechnology and cloning. Ethics of science and technology, genetics and biotechnology are therefore essential in the BA collection development plan in relation to the field of science.

Development Issues

The BA plays a significant role as a main source of information in the Middle East., Thus, the library gives major priority to development issues such as gender, water resources, and the environment. This priority also finds expression in the library's United Nations depository status.

History of Writing and Scripts

In retracing the history of writing and scripts, the BA tries to illustrate the different scripts and the relations between them. This collection also focuses on the technical aspects of script (history of printing) as well as its artistic aspects as demonstrated in calligraphy.

Understanding Artistic Expression

In the field of Art, the BA especially focuses on criticism, in order to deepen the critical view in understanding artistic expression and thus encourage openness to the other.


Since Egypt is the cradle of civilization, it is imperative that the BA focus on Egyptology in the development of its collection. This will be a multilingual collection for all kinds of users: general readers, from children through adults; tourists; and professional Egyptologists, archaeologists, and other scholars.

City of Alexandria

Finally, BA grants special emphasizes to works about the City of Alexandria. It aims at building up a special collection covering its entire history from its foundation by Alexander the Great up to the contemporary period, including all its different aspects, as well as any prior settlements predating Alexander's city.