Collection Development Policy








  • Methods and Criteria
  • Subject Matter Collected
  • Geographic Scope
  • Languages
  • Multiple Copies
  • Editions and Reprints  



  • Reference Sources
  • Monographs and General Books
  • Collection and Exhibition Catalogues
  • Sale Catalogues
  • Dissertations
  • Periodicals



  • Research Databases
  • E-books
  • E-periodicals
  • Video
  • Microforms and CD-ROMs



  • Rare Books and Periodicals
  • Bard Graduate Center Theses
  • Bard Graduate Center Publications
  • Ephemera





I.             INTRODUCTION

The Bard Graduate Center: Decorative Arts, Design History, Material Culture is a graduate research institute of Bard College that opened in New York City in 1993. Today the BGC offers two programs of study, one leading to a master of arts degree and the other to a doctor of philosophy degree. Students in these programs can select from a wide array of courses dealing with various aspects of the cultural history of the material world.




The Bard Graduate Center Library is committed to supporting the research and informational needs of the students, faculty, and staff of the BGC’s academic, exhibition, and education departments. To this end, the Library collects materials that support the curriculum and research interests of its constituencies. The Library also serves qualified independent researchers—by appointment—who demonstrate a need to use our collection.




Methods and Criteria

The Library acquires material through purchase, exchange, and donation. The majority of the acquisition decisions are made by the Library’s professional staff.  Librarians rely on published reviews in scholarly journals, specialized vendor and publisher’s catalogs, and newsletters of professional organizations to inform their purchasing decisions. The Library also relies upon the expertise of faculty members and scholars in determining what to acquire. Maintaining currency in the Library’s core subject areas is the top priority. The basic criteria for acquisitions are as follows:

  1. Relevance to the BGC teaching curriculum and the research interests of BGC students and faculty.
  2. Appropriateness to the subject areas and material types collected by the Library.
  3. Scholarly content and relevance to graduate-level study, and/or inclusion of high-quality images of difficult to find objects.


Subject Matter Collected

The Library collects printed and electronic materials to facilitate research in the five main concentrations offered by the academic programs:

  • New York and American Material Culture
  • Modern Design History
  • Early Modern Europe
  • History and Theory of Museums
  • Comparative Medieval Material Culture (China, Islam, Europe)
  • Archaeology, Anthropology, and Material Culture
  • Other areas such as those studied in the doctoral program’s field concentrations


Geographic Scope

The geographic scope of the collection similarly reflects the focus of the academic program, with the United States, Europe, and China being of primary interest.


The majority of our collection is comprised of works in English and major Western European languages; however, the Library does not exclude publications by reason of language. For publications available in English as well as another language, preference is given to the English, even if the first instance of publication is in the foreign language. Translations are not automatically acquired for books already cataloged in another language. For books published in languages known to few of the Library’s users, such as the Scandinavian and Slavic languages, an effort is made to acquire them with English summaries.

Multiple Copies

The Library generally acquires only one copy of any given publication, with the following exceptions: three copies of BGC exhibition catalogues, two copies of BGC faculty publications, duplicate copies of core material that is regularly put on course reserve, and some frequently used reference titles.

Editions and Reprints

The Library generally attempts to acquire the latest edition of a given title, unless a specific edition is called for. New editions are acquired when they include significant changes or additions. Depending on the title, we will retain the previous edition if it contains important historical content.

When both print and electronic versions of material are available, collection decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account factors such as cost, space, facilities, and IT support.




Reference Materials

The Library strives to collect comprehensively reference titles in the areas of decorative arts, design history, and material culture, and selectively to collect titles in other complementary areas of the humanities. Materials include, but are not limited to, encyclopedias, dictionaries, indices for provenance and collection history research, and bibliographies.

Monographs and General Books

The Library makes every effort to acquire relevant titles that fall within the parameters of its collecting scope. In general, books are chosen for their scholarly content and/or for their publication of high quality images of little reproduced or newly restored objects. The Library also makes a point of collecting selected books by visitors invited to lecture or speak at the BGC.

Hardcover editions are usually purchased over paperbacks for their durability.  A concerted effort is made to back-buy material in our core areas, which includes searching for out-of-print and non-current books.

In cases when there are no available printed copies of patron-requested titles, and when free, legal electronic copies of books exist (such as through Google Books or Project Gutenberg), users are directed to those resources. The Library does not support copyright infringement or piracy, and will not purchase unauthorized printed editions of any works.

Collection and Exhibition Catalogues

The Library acquires catalogues of exhibitions held in museums around the world.  English-language editions are preferable when available.  Priority is given to museums whose primary mandate is the decorative arts, design history, and material culture.           

Auction and Sale Catalogues

The Library collects catalogues from auctions, dealers, and fairs when they document offerings in the decorative arts, design, and material culture. Most sale catalogues are acquired through donation; however, we actively purchase requested sale catalogues and receive current Christie’s catalogues through exchange. The Library primarily collects catalogues from major international auction houses and smaller regional auction houses in the United States and Europe whose contents conform to the Library’s overall collecting guidelines.


The Library is the official repository for BGC qualifying papers, master’s theses, and doctoral dissertations. Other theses and dissertations are acquired, both published and unpublished, from foreign and domestic universities when the content represents a contribution useful to our core users. 


In general, the periodical titles acquired by the Library correspond to the stated scope of the collecting policy. Where possible, we maintain complete runs of the print periodical titles we collect, and strive to fill in missing back issues through purchase, donation, and exchange with other libraries whenever they are available. Single issues of periodicals not otherwise collected by the Library are generally cataloged individually and shelved in the monograph stacks. In cases where the full-text of a non-core journal is available in a stable electronic format (such as JSTOR), we will not collect the print edition.




Research Databases

The Library subscribes to specialized databases that support our users’ research in the decorative arts, design history, and material culture, and offers access to the many additional databases subscribed to by the Bard College Libraries. In general, the research databases acquired by the Library correspond to the stated scope of the collecting policy.


The Library collects electronic versions of texts on a limited basis. Through Early English Books Online (EEBO), patrons have access to digital facsimilies of more than 125,000 English-language titles published between 1475 and 1700. Certain electronic titles are also available through the indexing provided by the TrueSerials resource management system. In addition, the Library’s users may access many, though not all, of the electronic books available to Bard College library patrons.

Because of technical and logistical issues related to purchasing and managing access to electronic titles, the Library does not currently purchase electronic versions of single texts, and few of the packaged sets of titles offered by publishers are relevant to the Library’s acquisitions criteria. Should circumstances change, the Library will revisit the issue. 

In cases when there are no available printed copies of patron-requested titles, and when free, legal electronic copies of books exist (such as through Google Books or Project Gutenberg), users are directed to those resources. The Library does not support copyright infringement or piracy, and will not purchase unauthorized printed editions of any works.


The Library provides access to electronic versions of periodical titles through TrueSerials, a database that aggregates both our print and electronic periodical holdings. Through TrueSerials, users can access the online editions of journals the Library subscribes to as well as those made available by our subscription resources (such as JSTOR and Project Muse) and others that are freely available online (such as in Internet Archive and Open Access). The Library actively pursues electronic periodical titles, particularly in areas that complement the BGC’s main research areas.


The Library maintains a small collection of VHS and DVD titles that support the teaching curriculum. The majority of these titles have been acquired by gift and the Library does not actively collect these media, although we will purchase relevant titles that come to our attention.

Microforms and CD-ROMs

The Library acquires microforms of relevant titles and collections when the documents are not readily or affordably available in other formats. We maintain a small collection of material published in CD-ROM, but we no longer actively collect in this format.




Rare Books and Periodicals

The Library does not actively seek out rare books or periodicals as part of our collecting plan. However, in the course of supporting the research and instructional needs of the BGC, the Library sometimes acquires rare material, which is preserved and cared for in Special Collections. The Library continues to add to this collection when items in our collecting areas become available for purchase or through donation.

Strengths among the rare books and periodicals include nineteenth and early twentieth century books on design and decoration, early European and American art and design journals, domestic manuals, and materials pertaining to various World’s Fairs and Expositions.

Bard Graduate Center Theses

The Library serves as the depository for all doctoral dissertations, master’s theses, and qualifying papers submitted in partial fulfillment of BGC degree requirements. The theses are bound and housed in Special Collections for consultation on-site only; reproductions are not permitted, and the theses are not made available digitally or via interlibrary loan.

Bard Graduate Center Publications

In addition to copies in the regular stacks, the Library maintains a discreet copy in Special Collections of each of the BGC’s exhibition catalogues and each issue of the BGC’s journals, Studies in the History of the Decorative Arts and West 86th.

The BGC does not yet maintain an institutional archive, so, when able, the Library also collects and retains copies of more ephemeral BGC publications, such as booklets on the Gallery’s Education programs, fundraising auction catalogues, and materials related to BGC symposia and other Research Institute initiatives. The Library hopes to make these publications available to researchers in appropriate housing in Special Collections in the future.


Over the course of its collecting, the Library has accrued various groups of ephemera encompassing materials such as pamphlets, gallery flyers and exhibition cards, contemporary trade catalogues, and other small items. The Library would like to begin offering vertical file storage in Special Collections to make these materials and others like them, such as Pat Kirkham’s large collection of Women Designers files, available to researchers in the future.




The Library may de-accession material if it is a duplicate of an item already owned by the Library, with the exception of heavily used material. Some duplicate material will be selected for inclusion in the Bard Hall Study Center’s collection.

The Library may also de-accession material if it is in a category no longer deemed relevant to existing or prospective components of the collections; if it is superseded by a newer, expanded edition; or if it contains out-of-date information.




The Library accepts unrestricted gifts and donations of books, catalogues, and periodicals. In all cases, the Library reserves the right to accept or reject gifts and donations according to the collection development guidelines. Accepted items are generally integrated into the collections. The Library also reserves the right to dispose of unwanted materials by sale or donation to other collections. In cases of unique materials, the Library will make acquisitions decisions in consultation with appropriate faculty members.

All gifts and donations will be acknowledged, and the donor will be asked to sign a deed of gift form that will include a statement of these policies and procedures. A list of the gifts and donations will be made in as much detail as necessary, and this list, along with the acknowledgment letter, the release form, and any other paperwork will be filed with the BGC’s development department. No appraisals will be made for any purpose.

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