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Resource Development and Management Policy

1.      Overview

The Library at Queen’s University Belfast aims to provide access to high quality Library resources in support of the teaching and research activities of the University. This will include our user groups of staff, UG, PGT and PGR students and HSC and AFBI staff under contract.

This Policy outlines the principles of resource development and management as well as the general criteria used by the Library to assess the collection. It also explains the budget allocation and acknowledges that the Library needs to manage the pressure on space whilst continuing to support teaching and research.  

2.      Principles

  • The Library will purchase materials to meet the teaching and research priorities of the University.
  • The Library will balance the size of its physical collections with the need to provide sufficient study space.
  • Digital format is the preferred option for books, journals and resources, where appropriate, affordable and practicable, allowing equitable access for those studying whether on or off campus. NB it is not always feasible to purchase e-books for all texts, so it is expected that students (except those on distance learning courses) are able to access the physical collection.
  • The Library will take advantage of Jisc nationally negotiated deals, including Transformative Agreements, wherever possible and the provision of all resources is constrained by budgets.
  • The Library will take a data informed approach, monitoring the use of resources and employ usage data when available to evaluate continuing provision.
  • Resources are provided for the whole user community. Very specialised resources, which are likely to be relevant to only a small number of users will not generally be purchased without financial support from the relevant School or Faculty.
  • The Library will explore innovative ways of acquiring materials, for example through Demand Driven and Evidence Based Acquisition of books.
  • The Library is committed to providing equitable access to users with disabilities, by offering a range of accessible equipment, assistive technology and electronic copies of reading list items where possible.
  • Resource development and management involves Library staff working with the academic community.
  • The Library does not act as a legal deposit library (apart from in the area of Northern Ireland Official Publications) therefore it does not aim to cover all areas of knowledge.

3.      Budget Allocation

Journals subscriptions are paid from an institutional budget. The annual journals budget is approximately £4 million and costs increase by between 4% and 6% each year. In order to retain the existing resource base and avoid an annual cancellations exercise, the University must invest significantly each year. It therefore follows, that any changes to the subscription base must be funded by cancellations to an equivalent value.

If a new resource is considered a priority across a School or Faculty, then a reprioritisation of resources across the whole area can be considered in order to free up the requisite funds. Subject Librarians can assist with this process by providing lists of resources, prices and usage statistics.  

Library budgets should be sufficient for established teaching and research demands. However, when a new course/ module is being considered the School or Faculty should engage with the relevant Subject Librarian as early as possible to discuss resource needs. 

The budget for the purchase of books is allocated for School support on the basis of a range of factors and, where possible, adjustments are made to take account of changing requirements or new areas of research. For individual PhD students focusing on new research areas, the interlibrary loan service will be used to supplement local resources.

In addition, the University has external contractual arrangements with the Department of Health and AFBI for the provision of certain subject-specific Library services.

4.      Resource Development

This section summarises approaches to development of Library resources.

4.1 Books and E-books

Books are purchased to support the teaching and research needs of the University and will be acquired in electronic format where possible. The Library will endeavour to acquire e-books via a suitable licence that will allow multi-user access across the institution. Where print is the only option (i.e. when the e-book is not available or when the title is of narrow interest and only relevant for a few), Subject Librarians will consider projected levels of use and durability required, as well as relative cost, before deciding between paperback and hardback editions. Print copies may be distributed and moved across loan categories and locations according to identified demand.

E-books are sometimes purchased through evidence-based or ‘patron driven’ initiatives in which titles are added to the catalogue and purchased according to subsequent use.

Queen’s University Belfast is now operating under the terms of the Joint Framework Agreement for Books, E-Books, E-Textbooks, and Associated Services (4th January 2022 - 3rd January 2024, with possible extension to 3rd January 2026 NB. We are currently in the first year of the extension). As a result, the majority of our English language book orders must be placed with a single supplier identified by the consortium.

4.2 Journals and Databases

Journals and databases represent an expensive and ongoing commitment. The majority of journals are now available in electronic format as part of publisher deals, Transformative Agreements, or as individual titles.

The journals budget is reviewed on an annual basis and Schools are consulted, as appropriate, in relation to any decisions taken. New subscriptions are rarely placed unless savings to an equivalent level are identified. This is challenging because many journal titles are part of publisher “big deals” and cannot be individually cancelled.

In the event of a budget reduction, Schools will be informed and consulted regarding cancellation decisions.

4.3 Reading list material

The Library aims to provide access to material on current reading lists to support undergraduates and postgraduates on taught courses. Subject Librarians rely on close liaison with academic staff in their Schools to acquire reading lists.

Reading list books will be acquired in e-format with multi-user access where possible to ensure both equitable and timely access for all of our students. Where print is the only option, the number of copies purchased will be decided according to anticipated use (core reading or further reading), the cost of the title in relation to the budget allocation and whether students are expected to purchase the book or not.

Where multiple copies are purchased, consideration will also be given to appropriate loan categories and location.

Subject Librarians aim to make journal articles available that fall outside of the Library’s subscribed journals by requesting ‘copyright cleared' copies from the British Library through the interlibrary-loans service.

4.4 Special Collections

The Henry (or Hibernica) Collection is the core element of the Library’s Special Collections. Its scope embraces academic texts on Irish-related subjects, as well as non-academic material relating to Northern Ireland and Ulster in particular, with otherwise a bias to the northern part of the island. 

An attempt is also made to acquire published material relating to major manuscript and printed book collections in our holdings or to Queen’s University Belfast.

In terms of journal subscriptions, nominations from members of the University are welcomed and suitable items are purchased in perpetuity within the constraints of the budget. 

Special Collections & Archives collects records in all paper, analogue and digital media.

Special Collections & Archives does not collect costume or fabric collections. Special Collections & Archives does not have facilities to preserve or conserve textiles in general.

4.5 Official Publications

The McClay Library has a print archive of official publications. This collection consists chiefly of British Parliamentary Papers, and acts as a repository for Northern Ireland official publications. In addition, it holds selected published output from the governments of the Republic of Ireland and Canada and South Africa along with a number of international bodies including the United Nations, a range of specialised agencies, the European Union, Council of Europe and the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development.

An online guide explains the collections in more detail and how to find the materials held in both print and e-formats. A range of databases provide access to digital archives and current official documentation.

For Northern Ireland official publications, the Library at Queen’s has historically played an important role in collecting and making them available to the research community and the wider public. Print publications have been collected for many years under National Archives and earlier HMSO guidance that the Library should be treated as an official deposit library for Northern Ireland official publications. Since September 2015, the Library has focused on the creation of a digital archive of Northern Ireland official publications referred to as NIOPA. Documents are gathered from departmental, agency, Assembly and other official websites and added to the archive for long term preservation.

Detailed collection development guidelines are available upon request from

4.6 Theses

From 1 September 2021, the submission of theses at Queen’s University Belfast is exclusively electronic. According to Study Regulations for Research Degree Programmes (section 7.9.1. & 7.9.2) all PGR students commencing a research degree programme must make the final, post-correction version of their thesis (as approved by the internal examiner) available in electronic format. The student must agree that the thesis be stored and made available publicly in electronic format via Queen’s Research Portal unless an embargo period has been approved.  

Note the submission for (i) the degree of PhD by Published works and (ii) Higher Doctorates are the sole programmes in which a hard-copy deposit of the thesis is required.  This is owing to copyright reasons. In such cases, the thesis must be deposited (i) in the University Library and (ii) submitted in electronic format also via Pure/Research Portal. 

The collection of hard-bound Queen’s theses is held in the McClay Library closed access store. Theses are recorded in the Library catalogue, and may be consulted in the Library or photocopied in whole or in part if the author has given permission. 

Electronic theses are made available via Queen’s Research Portal

The Library does not collect or store undergraduate or taught postgraduate dissertations unless they are exceptional in nature or incorporate content of significant local interest. 

4.7 Donations

A Donations Policy is available on the Library website.

5.      Open Access

The Open Access Policy is available on the Library website.

6.      Resource Management

This section summarises the approach to management of the Library collections.

6.1 Stock checks

An ongoing programme of stock checks is carried out whereby material on the shelves is checked against what is recorded in the Library catalogue. Missing books may be replaced if relevant to current teaching and research priorities of the University but otherwise records for missing items are withdrawn from the catalogue.

6.2 Criteria for Withdrawal and Retention   

The ongoing pressure on space and the need to support current teaching and research means that material is periodically withdrawn from the Library collection.

The Library, as custodian of the Collection, uses the following criteria to withdraw items:

  • Relevance to current and potential teaching and research priorities within the University
  • Level of usage
  • Duplication within the Library
  • Currency of the edition
  • Availability of electronic equivalents, for example, print journals where access to electronic archives is secure
  • Physical condition
  • Relevance to Special Collections
  • Rarity in the UK and Ireland
  • Relevance to Special Collections & Archives

Withdrawal of material outside of these stated criteria will involve consultation between the Subject Librarian and academic staff in the relevant School(s) or Faculty.

Stock for disposal will be identified by Subject Librarians according to these criteria during regular stock assessment and be disposed of via BetterWorldBooks UK in accordance with the University’s 2030 Social Responsibility goal. 

7.      Policy Review

Changes to this policy will be made in the light of new developments, emerging disciplines and evolving trends. It will be reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that it continues to reflect the priorities of the University.

February 2024