This policy supplements the Collection Development Policy of the National Agricultural Library. It is shaped by the National Agricultural Library's dual responsibility as a national library and as USDA's departmental library. As a national library, NAL collects material in agricultural subjects comprehensively and serves as library of last resort for other U.S. agricultural libraries. To fulfill its responsibility to USDA, NAL serves the information needs of USDA staff, collects USDA publications, and makes those publications available to library users. NAL will provide access to electronic resources in subjects it collects, with special emphasis on electronic resources published by USDA.
In general, NAL provides access to material in electronic formats when the material contains reports of original research, new scientific findings, information of potential historical value, and information that would support USDA's research, education and regulatory functions. The introductory pages of the Collection Development Policy of the National Agricultural Library provide basic information on NAL's collecting policies. These pages also include definitions of the collecting levels used in the policy and describe the extent to which NAL will collect electronic material at each collecting level. The introductory pages also note that certain kinds of ephemera are excluded from the NAL collection. This exclusion is particularly pertinent to the selection of Internet resources at NAL.
Electronic resources include remotely accessible files that are openly available on the Internet and those for which the library must pay a licensing fee and negotiate access with the provider. They also include files residing in a variety of storage media. Electronic resources include file types such as:
- Bibliographic files. These contain information that leads the user to material. They can be analagous to library catalogs or to printed abstracting and indexing services, or can be sites on the Internet. These files are selected and cataloged in accordance with the NAL Collection Development Policy.
- Full text/numeric/graphic files. Home pages may also be included in this category when appropriate. These files are selected and cataloged when in scope for NAL.
- Instructional or modelling software. These programs instruct or guide the user through a series of concepts, processes, or models and may be interactive, requiring the user to input data. Such programs include, for example, texts for programmed learning, and modelling and simulation programs. These files may be selected and cataloged at NAL when they address the needs of agricultural researchers.
- Applications software. Programs which are intended to manipulate and/or organize the textual or numeric input of the user. Examples of such programs are word processing and spreadsheet programs, database managers, and statistical analysis programs. They are of general applicability and are often widely available. While used by USDA staff, these applications are not cataloged for the NAL collection.
3. Considerations for the selection process
NAL selectors seek the following qualities in an electronic resource that will be included in the NAL collection:
- Resources should reflect the accuracy, depth of coverage, objectivity and authoritativeness expected of materials in other formats or contain links to this type of information.
- Responsibility for the resource should be easily determined; resources should be the work of acknowledged authorities, publishers, associations, and government agencies.
- Resources should be updated often enough to be useful, whenever currency of information is important to the subject of the resource itself.
- Resources which reflect high quality production and design are preferable.
- Resources should have demonstrated accessibility, usefulness and adequate functionality for the intended use.
- Resources should carry access and usage permissions to as broad an audience as is articulated in NAL's service goals.
- Resources provided by a vendor should:
- be accompanied by thorough, clear documentation
- include customer support during working hours
- be acquired only after thorough examination and discussion
of the license, and after any necessary rewriting of the license
- be provided by a vendor whose reliability and business
record suggests continued support for the product via updates
or new versions
- provide reliable usage statistics
- NAL will make electronic resources accessible to its users by:
- Providing bibliographic control through cataloging and
indexing electronic resources, as appropriate
- Storing electronic resources, when appropriate
- Circulating electronic resources, whenever possible
- Acquiring and maintaining the software and hardware needed
to use electronic resources as long as is practicable
- Providing training and support to staff and users
- NAL selectors may choose to acquire more than one format of a work. The decision to do so may be based on technical, economic and service requirements.
- NAL may obtain multiple copies of electronic resources when it is in the best interests of service to NAL users.
- Electronic resources are subject to the same review by the Weeding and Retention Subcommittee and Collection Development Committee as other library materials.