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Electronic Resources
Collection Development Policy



General Selection Criteria for All Electronic Resources

  • Content
  • Access
  • User and Functionality
  • Archiving
  • Duplication and Substitution
  • Pricing and Cost Considerations
  • Vendor Considerations
  • Technical Considerations
  • Usage Statistics

Special Selection Criteria

  • E-Journals
  • E-Books
  • Free Web-Based Resources

Requesting New Resources

Post-Selection Process

  • Licensing Guidelines
  • General Acquisitions and Cataloging Guidelines

Review of Electronic Resources for Cancellation


For the purpose of this policy, electronic resources are defined as monographic or serial resources, whether full-text or citation only, purchased or free, which require computer access. These resources may be selected as self-contained works (e.g. e-book, e-journal, online database, Web site) or as part of a larger collection or package.

The Wichita State University Libraries subscribes to electronic resources in support of the educational needs of students, faculty and staff of the University. This policy provides general guidelines for the selection, review, approval, acquisition, cataloging, and de-selection of electronic resources.

It is important to note that the selection of electronic resources presents unique challenges not encountered with traditional library materials. When purchased, electronic resources raise complicated issues involving networking, pricing, licensing, access and ownership, archiving, and rapidly changing technologies. The selector is required to work closely with other selectors, the Coordinator of Collection Development, and staff in other departments – especially Acquisitions and Cataloging.

Due to the high cost of electronic resources subscriptions, the Coordinator of Collection Development and the appropriate Subject Librarian(s) strive to make the most cost-effective and balanced purchase recommendations and decisions based on institutional needs. A major goal of acquiring electronic resources is the provision of access both on and off campus in the most affordable manner possible.

The Library’s current collection development policies for specific subject areas provide specific guidelines for the selection of library materials and information resources in all formats including electronic resources and can be found at:

The Library will pursue partnerships in cooperative acquisitions and cost-sharing both within and outside of the WSU Libraries including consortia such as the Kansas Regents Libraries Database Consortium, ESIG, BCR, Amigos, and Minitex.

This policy relates to the following types of e-resources:

  • Citation, abstracting, and full-text article databases, e.g. PsycINFO, Expanded Academic ASAP
  • Electronic journals (e-journals)
  • Electronic books (e-books)
  • Free Web-based resources

This policy is available as a General Policy on the WSU Libraries Collection Development home page at http;//

General Selection Criteria for All Electronic Resources


Subject matter covered is clearly relevant to the curriculum and research needs of the primary WSU community, e.g. students, faculty and staff, as specified in the collection development policy for the subject area.

The electronic resource provides:

  • content at the appropriate intellectual level
  • depth of coverage and quality of information for user population
  • content from a reputable, reliable, and authoritative producer
  • current, accurate, unique, and complete information and updates
  • greater accessibility to information over other formats


Access to the electronic resource should include the following:

  • delivery via the Web
  • authentication by IP address (rather than passwords or logins), e.g. the Class B subnet for campus-wide access is 156.26.*.*
  • compatibility with the Library’s existing proxy server and software, E-Z Proxy
  • The preferred number of simultaneous users is unlimited. If not unlimited, the number of simultaneous users must be adequate
  • The Westside and Southside Centers considered authorized sites
  • WSU faculty, staff, students, and walk-in users defined as authorized users

The following should be avoided:

  • individual registration requirements
  • passwords or any other methods of individual authentication or authorization, unless 1) optional, e.g. allowing users to voluntarily create profiles for notification of new content or 2) passwords may be posted online for authenticated users

Use and Functionality

Electronic resources should adhere to conventional user expectations such as:

  • Availability of browsing and/or full-text searching
  • Availability of on-screen help and/or tutorials
  • Basic and guided/advanced searching
  • Helpful error messages (i.e., error message indicates specific problem(s) and provides possible alternatives)
  • Availability of value-added features such as multimedia and hyperlinks to and from other databases
  • Ability to print, save, and email results and/or articles
  • Discrete URL preferred for access at title level


When appropriate, resources should be selected where the intellectual content of material is maintained in some form on a permanent basis. The following issues should be considered when selecting a resource:

  • Publisher’s commitment to archiving
  • Responsibility for archiving (publisher, vendor, or library)
  • Content and form of archive
  • Fees and restrictions
  • Effect of cancellation or termination on maintaining the archive
  • Technology required to maintain archive

Duplication and Substitution

When considering the replacement or duplication of a print subscription by an electronic resource, the following issues should be considered:

  • Archiving of electronic version
  • Need for different formats
  • Cost benefit to funding one or the other or both
  • Reliability of electronic format

In general, electronic bibliographic databases will not be duplicated in print except under special circumstances, e.g. exclusion of critical content in electronic version. At this time, the addition of an e-journal may or may not result in the cancellation of the equivalent print subscription. Print subscriptions are only canceled when cost effective and based on the recommendation of the Subject Librarian and the Coordinator of Collection Development with input from departmental faculty. E-books for the general and reference collection may be duplicated in print based on user needs.

Pricing and Cost Considerations

In considering the selection of an electronic resource, the following guidelines related to pricing and cost should be met:

  • Resource is cost-effective in both core content and updates
  • Library is able to sustain cost for the foreseeable future
  • Potential usage and/or uniqueness of information justifies cost
  • Pricing model is acceptable (e.g. one-time versus annual costs)

The following restrictions or situations should be avoided:

  • per-use or transaction charges
  • introductory pricing unless lock in reasonable increases over time
  • non-cancellation clauses unless accompanied by inflation cap and escape clause
  • bundling of electronic publications, e.g. can be purchased as package, but not individually

The availability of an electronic resource through consortium purchase should be considered first as such a purchase might be more cost-effective than an institutional purchase.

A multi-year agreement should be considered when appropriate as it may be more cost-effective than a one-year agreement.

Whenever possible, the pricing model should be based on student FTE. WSU’s official student FTE is reported on the Kansas BOR Web site at
Vendor Considerations

The following should be considered when selecting a resource:

  • Vendor provides responsive customer service and technical support that is available during library working hours
  • Availability and quality of training programs
  • Vendor’s reputation and business record suggests continued support for the product via updates or new versions
  • Documentation is thorough and clear

Technical Considerations

The resource should:

  • Meet usual and customary technical standards in the industry
  • Allow for local customizations via system administration access for the Library
  • Be compatible with the Library’s existing and/or future hardware
  • Be compatible with standard web browsers if accessible via the web

Usage Statistics

Usage statistics should be readily available in a user-friendly format, preferably COUNTER compliant (

Special Selection Criteria for Electronic Journals

A subscription to or purchase of an electronic journal will be considered if:

  • The electronic format offers value-added enhancements to make it preferable over, or a significant addition to, its print equivalent. Examples of such enhancements include wider access, flexibility in searching, and frequent updates.
  • It contains or covers the equivalent information compared to the print format.
  • Acquiring the electronic version is cost-effective (e.g., the cost differential is justified by demonstrated or expected increase in use) and provides greater access to users
  • Accessible through IP authentication to unlimited simultaneous users
  • Requirements for individual registration or passwords should be avoided unless passwords can be posted online for authenticated users. Profiles voluntarily created by users for notification of new content are not a problem.
  • Should only add journals with a significant run of issues or commitment to making a significant number of issues available electronically
  • Trial versions of electronic journals should not be added
  • Make note of time limits on access to back issues
  • Availability of content published prior to initial subscription date
  • Handling of backfiles

If a journal is acquired in the electronic format, the Subject Librarian and Coordinator of Collection Development (in conjunction with input from appropriate Library staff and departmental faculty) should determine if the print equivalent should be canceled.

Special Selection Criteria for E-Books

In general, the same selection criteria apply to electronic books as to books in print. E-books for the general and reference collections should be selected according to the appropriate subject collection development policy. Except under special circumstances, all e-books should be of a scholarly nature and supportive of the teaching and research mission of the University.

E-books may be purchased individually or part of a bundled package, e.g. BCR netLibrary collections. They may be purchased by WSU on its own or as part of a consortium purchase, e.g. BCR or RLDC. In either case, Subject Librarians (individually or through one of the subject Reference Collection Development Committees) will review the titles in their areas and make final purchase recommendations. For the purchase of a bundled collection, a majority of Subject Librarians must support the purchase.

At this time, an e-book may be selected without regard as to whether or not the title is currently held or being considered for purchase in print. An individual title may be purchased in print, electronic, or both formats as long as it meets appropriate selection criteria.

The following additional criteria for selecting e-books should be considered:

  • Consistency with print version, e.g. complete text with all tables, graphics, etc.
  • IP-authenticated access – either one user at a time or multiple simultaneous users (registration requirements, passwords, etc. should be avoided unless the passwords can be posted online for authenticated users)
  • Ability to download and print at least some limited content
  • Clearly understood rights to permanent access to the book, e.g. access in perpetuity versus annual subscription; outright purchase of books versus lease of content
  • Clearly understood pricing structure, e.g. one-time payment, annual subscription fee, or both
  • Individual purchase or part of bundle or package

Special Selection Criteria for Free Web-Based Resources

Selection of free web-based resources should follow the general guidelines for selecting all electronic resources, e.g. according to the appropriate subject collection development policy, of a scholarly nature, and supportive of the teaching and research mission of the University. However, due to the number of free resources available and often without print counterparts or longevity, additional criteria are listed below.

  • Amount of content should be significant.
  • Quality of the Web site should be indicated by peer review, review by other librarians, an authoritative sponsor or producers, and evidence of ongoing support (e.g. creation of archives, mirror sites, etc.
  • Availability of effective support for browsing or searching. Relatively easy to use; intuitive.
  • Reliable access to multiple simultaneous users
  • If registration and/or licensing are required, licenses must be submitted for approval through formal review process.
  • Resources selected as reference resources should meet the same selection criteria as resources that are purchased.
  • The resource is appropriate for addition to the WSU Libraries Online Catalog.

The following free Web-based resources are not appropriate for selection:

  • Fee-based resources available on a free-trial basis for limited period of time
  • Resources that require individual user registration or click through license
  • Password-protected Web sites available to single users, e.g. links publicized in print textbooks
  • Frequently unavailable resources

Requesting New Electronic Resources

Generally, new electronic acquisitions are requested by Subject Librarians through the Electronic Resources Review process in Collection Development. Final approval is given by the Coordinator of Collection Development and the Library Administration, when appropriate.

  1. In consultation with faculty, liaisons, appropriate library staff and others (as needed), the Subject Librarian will consider whether or not the product meets the selection criteria outlined in the Electronic Resources Collection Development Policy.
  2. Collection Development will request pricing for the product and investigate consortial purchase options.
  3. Collection Development will request a trial of the product, and all trials should be coordinated through the Coordinator of Collection Development. This will ensure that the trial is appropriately timed and publicized when necessary.
  4. In consultation with faculty, liaisons, appropriate library staff and others (as needed), the Coordinator of Collection Development will solicit feedback and evaluate the product based on the trial.
  5. Based on cost, perceived need, usage, the degree to which the electronic resource meets the selection criteria, and the priorities set by the Subject Librarians during the review process, the Coordinator of Collection Development, in consultation with the Library Administration, will: 1) decide whether or not to acquire and 2) if a decision to acquire is made, prioritize its purchase in relation to other electronic resources requested within budgetary constraints.

Post-Selection Process


Once the decision has been made to purchase an electronic resource, the Coordinator of Collection Development reviews the license agreement, submits it to the University Counsel for review, and negotiates changes with the vendor/publisher. When negotiating license agreements, the Library keeps the interests of the user in mind and refrains from purchasing products where use restrictions would seriously impede research or be impossible to enforce.

The following elements should be part of license agreements except under special circumstances:

  • Clear indication that content is either licensed or purchased outright
  • Listing of resources covered by license
  • Definition of authorized users includes WSU faculty, staff, students, and walk-in users
  • IP authentication as method of access
  • Minimal or no limitations on ILL and course pack use when appropriate
  • Listing of authorized sites

General Acquisitions and Cataloging Guidelines

The acquisition, cataloging, and withdrawal guidelines are under review by Collection Development and Technical Services with the hiring a new Electronic Resources Librarian in Technical Services in 2007. When the guidelines are finalized, they will be added to this document.

Review of Electronic Resources for Cancellation

A subscription to a product may be cancelled if:

  • Usage statistics are consistently low over a significant period of time.
  • The product is no longer cost-effective.
  • The content provided is no longer meeting the needs of WSU users.
  • A competitive or better product becomes available either as an individual purchase or as a consortium purchase.
  • The vendor fails to hold up their end of the agreement and/or provides poor service.
  • A product’s price inflates such that it no longer is considered affordable.
  • The product’s content is found to duplicate content in another database.
  • A new vendor can deliver a superior product, including a more user-friendly search interface, providing greater and more reliable access at a reasonable cost, or meet other key criteria not met by a current vendor.

Prepared by Cathy Moore-Jansen, Coordinator of Collection Development, December 2006


Updated: July 27, 2010     Contact Dept of  Collection Development    Collection Development Home Page