Suggested Format

Indicates the languages in which materials should be collected, and outlines language restrictions including limits on translations.
Provides a brief summary of the academic program(s) offered by the University in each subject discipline which requires library support. If an academic Department, Faculty, School, Institute, etc. has a written statement of its general objectives, such a document might be summarized or quoted in this section.
Outlines the geographical limits (if any) of:
  • The academic programs offered (e.g. North and South America only).
  • The areas of the world from which publications should be purchased (e.g. only materials published in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom).


Describes (if relevant) the chronological limits of: 1. The academic programs offered (e.g. history of the British Isles from 1485 to the present) 2. Imprints required (e.g. only publications from 1945 to the present). Some reference should be made to the need for retrospective materials to support the academic programs as opposed to currently published materials.

Lists types of library material required (e.g. monographs, periodicals, microforms, maps, musical scores, government documents, theses, transactions, symposia, proceedings of international conferences, etc.).

Types of Material Excluded

Frequently, this category of information is implied by the data supplied under "Types of Material Collected". Specific exclusions may need to be mentioned. Types of material commonly excluded are slides, maps, microforms, recordings, and video tapes.

The collection level indicates the degree to which it is necessary that new materials be collected. Strength of the existing collection may or may not coincide with the desired level for new acquisitions.

The Library previously used a system that ranked collecting intensity from A-E. In 2008, a decision was made to revise the collecting levels in an effort to make them more easily understandable and establish closer ties to the research and teaching activities of the University. All new policies and revisions to existing policies should make use of this system. As many of the policies have not yet been converted to the new scale, the old system is reproduced below.

Collecting Levels

Out of Scope — No active collecting in this subject area, though occasional reference or introductory materials may be acquired.  Subjects now considered Out of Scope may have been collected at higher levels in the past.
Basic — Collecting in this area is highly selective and limited to major reference tools and key monographic works. Basic level collections are intended to provide only a broad introduction to a topic or subject area.
Instruction — Collecting at the Instruction level is sufficient to fully support the department’s undergraduate and Master’s level courses in the subject area. Instruction level collections will not generally be sufficient for original research beyond the Master’s level.
Research — Collecting at the Research level will be sufficient to fully support the faculty and graduate student research activities in the subject. Efforts will be made to acquire all important reference works, scholarly monographs (both print and electronic), and conference proceedings. Key primary source material is acquired when possible.
Comprehensive — Exhaustive assembling of unique collections, including all printed editions, archival, and manuscript material.
Comprehensive collecting will normally cover a small, tightly focused subject area. Most subject areas at McMaster will be collected at the Research level or below as appropriate to the needs of the department.

Collecting Levels A-E
(Superseded, 2008)

(A) Intensive Level:   Materials are collected to support doctoral and post-doctoral research with a high degree of adequacy. Provides for indefinite expansion of library resources to support Ph.D. and post-doctoral programs, and faculty research.

(B) Comprehensive Level:   Provides for the collection of a wide range of materials, but with little emphasis on the collection of manuscripts and non-print resources. Should support doctoral studies with reasonable adequacy, but is not designed to support a large doctoral program with heavy concentration in several fields. Considerable reliance is placed on interlibrary loan.

(C) Beginning Research Level:   At this level, a collections policy is designed to provide full support for undergraduate programs, and most of the materials required for work at the master's level. Basic works of scholarship are purchased in the required languages.

(D) Teaching Levels:   Provides for the development of a collection which will effectively support undergraduate instruction including honours programs. Requires the purchase of a wide range of reference materials, subject indexes, and bibliographies plus files of basic journals and periodicals.

(E) Basic Reference Level:   Designed to build collection selectively in subject areas in which no formal academic program is offered, but which overlap with subject areas in which academic programs are available. This level is generally not adequate to support undergraduate programs. Materials collected include only basic reference works, periodicals, and monographs.

Subjects and collections levels may be written out in the following manner with explanatory notes if necessary:

  • Quantum Chemistry (D)
  • History of France from 1789 to the Present (A)
  • Social Implications of Computers (E)
  • Western Political Philosophy from Plato to the Present (C)
  • Economic Theory (C)
  • English Literature Including Drama 1475-1660 (A)

Arts and Social Sciences