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Department of Geography


Collection Development Policy

(updated January 2020)


The Collection Development Policy is a statement to provide a framework of priorities and selection criteria for the maintenance and development of the Geography Department’s Library collections. The library is staffed by a full-time professional librarian and a part-time library assistant. All library policy is discussed at the Information and Communications Committee (ICC), which meets each term. Proposed policy changes are then taken by the Chair of the Committee to the Department Management Group..


The annual budget for the purchase of library resources for the Geography Department is augmented by an annual grant from the Smuts Memorial Trust (for the purchase of Commonwealth-related material) and a further grant from Cambridge University Press (CUP). The library also receives an annual grant from colleges for the purchase of ebooks. The size of this grant is proportional to the number of geography students in each college. The cost of most journals is now met by the Journals Coordination Scheme (JCS) although a small number of journals are still purchased from the library budget.

The purpose of the collection

The library’s role is to provide resources to support the work carried out in the Department of Geography. Current lists of acquisitions in paper form (books and journals) are posted on the department intranet daily. As well as the Geographical Tripos, the library supports the taught MPhil courses in the department: Conservation Leadership, Polar Studies, Geography, Anthropocene Studies and Holocene Climates. Students from other departments (Archaeology & Anthropology, Development Studies, Land Economy, Economics, History and others) are regular users of the library and this is a reciprocal arrangement.



The library will hold single copies of all key books on the supervision and lecture reading lists of the taught courses in the department. Second copies of books for Part IA and some heavily-used key texts for Parts IB and II will also be acquired at the librarian’s discretion.

The department is committed to the growing provision of ebooks where this is economically viable and the librarian works closely with the ebooks@cambridge team. There is currently no formal, university-wide policy in place regarding the decision of whether to buy hard copy or electronic version of books and these decisions are currently made on an ad hoc basis by the ebooks@cambridge team in liaison with faculty and department librarians.

Recommendations for purchase can be made by members of the academic staff at any time and the purchase of these is at the discretion of the librarian. Students may also request titles but these will only be considered for purchase when countersigned by their Director of Studies (DoS).

The Department Librarian informs the CCLF (Cambridge Colleges Libraries Forum) liaison librarians (currently Rhona Watson at Jesus College and Sarah Fletcher at St Catharine’s College) of all additions to the Tripos reading lists along with any other recommendations. This information is then forwarded to all college librarians. Lists of most-borrowed titles are also circulated annually.


The library is a member of the JCS for the School of Physical Sciences and most of our current subscriptions are currently paid for by the JCS as part of larger packages. The department is represented by the librarian, who sits on the Consultative Committee which meets once a term to discuss renewals, recommendations and cancellations. Recommendations may be made electronically to the UL and these are then considered by the committee. In the past this has been done once a year but there is talk of possibly increasing this to once a term. A small number of current subscriptions are still paid directly from the library budget. Increasingly, access to journals is electronic but the library still holds back runs of paper copies. Once electronic versions these backsets are acquired and long-term secure storage is assured, a decision will be made on whether to retain or withdraw the paper copies.


All first class Tripos theses are held in the Department Library (available on request only) for a period of four years. Dissertations awarded 3 first class marks are then sent to the UL where they are kept permanently in the Manuscripts and Theses Department. The remainder are disposed. Bibliographic records for all theses held in the library are entered on the online iDiscover catalogue. No theses may be borrowed or photocopied without written permission of the author.


The library holds a growing number of DVDs which are only bought on the recommendation of teaching staff. Records are entered on the online iDiscover catalogue and may be borrowed overnight (available on request).

Rare Books

The Geography Department acts as custodian for the Clark Collection, over 400 rare books on travel and exploration, bequeathed to the University in 1910 by John Willis Clark, former Registrary. These books are kept in secure, appropriate storage for old books and catalogue records can be found via the iDiscover catalogue. Many of these books are valuable and are insured to reflect this.

Reference works

A small reference section is maintained consisting of encyclopaedias, atlases, dictionaries (subject and language), annual statistics, symposia, study guides (undergraduate and postgraduate), almanacs and guides. The collection is kept up-to-date with standing orders in place for some publications and latest editions of subject dictionaries are purchased. However, increasingly these resources are available electronically.

Gifts and donations

From time-to-time the library is offered items from current and past members of the department as well as occasionally from members of the public. Such items will only normally be accepted if they are relevant to the needs of the library users and this is at the discretion of the Department Librarian.

Retention and disposal

The library maintains an up-to-date collection in response to the changing demands of the the department. Constraints of space within the library and lack of long-term storage facilities mean that items need to be withdrawn from the collection. The following categories are considered candidates for withdrawal:

  1. Books which have not been issued for a significant period of time (normally 10 years), which are not relevant to current teaching or research in the department, which are considered to have outlived their intellectual life (not classic titles) and are neither rare nor valuable.
  2. Little-used second copies.
  3. Damaged books – these may be repaired or replaced if still relevant.
  4. Hard copies of journals for which we have secure, permanent e-access (especially if the library doesn’t hold a complete run).

The procedure for disposal is stipulated by the University Library and is as follows:

  1. Items are first offered to the UL.
  2. Remaining items are then offered to other faculty and department libraries.
  3. Items may then be offered to the wider academic community.
  4. Items may then be disposed at the discretion of the librarian. The Department Librarian’s policy in this case is to offer them to a local academic second-hand bookseller for an agreed sum of money.