Collection Development

Wolbach Library staff collaborate with the astrophysics community to develop collections that facilitate their research goals, while also working to capture the community’s history for future generations.

The Library’s collection is made directly available to the CfA community. Staff work to broaden collection access to visiting scholars and individuals located around the world.

The Library’s Guiding Principles strongly influence decision-making about collection development:

  • Conversation: The Wolbach Library will work to foster conversation among members of the community and actively engage in those conversations to provide resources that meet the community’s continually changing and diverse needs.
  • Ownership: The Wolbach Library is a shared resource for all members of the astrophysics community. Community members are invited to contribute their ideas about how the Library can develop collections that help meet their scholarly and personal goals. 
  • Adaptability: The Wolbach Library will maintain a willingness to adapt to the community’s needs and to enable discovery, sharing, and publication of all research artifacts.
  • Support: The Wolbach Library will support the community by providing resources that lower technical and social barriers that impact the future of astronomy research.
  • Humanity: Astronomy is a human endeavor, and the Wolbach Library sees people as the most valuable resource at the CfA. The Library therefore prioritizes people and astronomers’ human needs when making decisions about our collections, services, and projects.

Evaluative Criteria

The ultimate responsibility for selection of resources lies with the Head Librarian of the Wolbach Library, who operates within a framework of institutional policies established by the President and Trustees of Harvard University and those of the Smithsonian Institution. The Head Librarian assumes overall selection responsibilities for relevant subject areas, but may delegate responsibility for selection of resources to library staff specializing in collection development. 

Specific criterion that influence the addition of resources to the library collection include: 

  • Relevance to the research and interests of astronomers
  • Subject matter and scope
  • Validity
  • Quality
  • Timeliness
  • Anticipated use
  • Format
  • Cost

The Wolbach Library also acknowledges the historical and on-going influence that racism, sexism, and colonialism have on astronomers and their research. The Library therefore commits to continually evaluating how the Library’s collections can be useful in combating these forms of oppression and violence.   

Subject Breakdown

The Wolbach Library collects materials that are mostly classified in the QB subject heading according to the Library of Congress classification scheme. However, due to the interdisciplinary nature of astronomers’ work and the diversity of the astronomy community, the Library collects in a broad range of relevant subjects. The following subject headings are the most commonly seen in the Library’s collection, but this list is not exhaustive:

  • Q - Science (general)
  • QA - Mathematics
  • QB - Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • QC - Physics
  • QD - Chemistry
  • QE - Geosciences
  • T - Engineering and Technology

Format Statement

Formats which the Wolbach Library collects include books, ebooks, audio, print and digital journals, manuscripts, maps, microforms, objects, and visual media. Wolbach’s serials collection is primarily electronic, but decisions about the format of all other collected resources are made at the discretion of the Head Librarian and Collection Development Librarian. The Library also builds its own digital and physical collections (e.g., CfA Bibliography, PHaEDRA, Astronomy Theses Collection) and invests in non-material resources like training opportunities that supplement the traditional collection.

Resource Sharing

The Wolbach Library collaborates with MIT for resource sharing (more specifically, lending and borrowing at the user level). The Wolbach Library is also able to capitalize on the Harvard Library’s cooperative sharing programs. In addition, the Wolbach Library participates in the Special Libraries Association (SLA), Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics (PAM), and the AstroLib communities by both providing and receiving resources via these rich networks of astrophysics libraries around the world. The Wolbach Library also fully participates in resource sharing via Interlibrary Loan. The Library lends and borrows material under its Smithsonian identity (SQD) and also responds to lending requests as a member of the Harvard Science Libraries (MCS). The SAO Library, as a result of the Smithsonian’s public service mission, maintains a strong commitment to serving the public. To the greatest extent possible, Library staff will assist public requests when they arise.

Institutions Consulted for Benchmarking

  • European Southern Observatory Library, Garching, Germany
  • National Radio Observatory Library, Charlottesville, Virginia
  • NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Library, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Library, Greenbelt, MD
  • Physics Library, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
  • Physics, Math, Astronomy Library, University of Texas in Austin, Austin, Texas  
  • United States Naval Observatory Library, USNO, Washington, D.C.
  • Space Telescope Science Institute, Baltimore, MD
  • The Physics-Astronomy-Mathematics (PAM) Division of the Special Libraries Association

Various aspects of the Wolbach Library policy are updated on an ad-hoc basis by staff and approved by the Head Librarian. The policy is reviewed in full on an annual basis

Latest revision: July, 2020