Collection Development Policy

Mission Statement

The mission of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) John G. Wolbach Library, or simply, the Wolbach Library, is to facilitate the creation of new knowledge in the CfA community. By supporting the CfA, we are supporting the greater astrophysics community.

The collection primarily supports the research and instructional needs of the scientists, engineers, faculty, undergraduates, graduate students, pre-docs, and post-docs working at the CfA. The Wolbach Library’s research services extend to the greater astrophysics community, including visiting scholars and individuals located around the world. Research services are not limited to specialists in astrophysics, as the Library is also open to the public.

Collection Guiding Principles

  • 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 astronomy community. Community members are invited to contribute their ideas about how the Library can develop collections that meet their scholarly and professional 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 working to lower technical and social barriers that impact the future of astronomy research.

Evaluative Criteria

Responsibility for Selection: The ultimate responsibility for selection of resources lies with the Head Librarian of the John G. 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 assigned subject areas, but delegates responsibility for selection of resources to library staff specializing in collection development. In addition, staff, faculty, students, the Wolbach Library Committee, and Director of the CfA all offer suggestions for acquisition of materials in their subject areas, with the latter two providing the greatest weight to decision making.  Supplementing this input, the Library makes use of the CfA Bibliography and SAO/NASA ADS to better inform staff on the direction of research at the organization.

Criterion for the addition of resources to the library collection: The relevance of the material to the research interests and education program of the CfA; subject matter and scope; anticipated use; validity, accuracy, and reliability of material; elements of quality; timeliness; format; cost.

Subject Breakdown

The Wolbach Library collects Astronomy classes mostly in the QB subheading according to the Library of Congress classification scheme. Some QB material is housed in other libraries, based on imprint date (Special Collections) or popular treatment (Cabot). However, due to the interdisciplinary nature surrounding the work of users at the CfA, the Library collects in other areas spanning Q (General Science), QC (Physics), and T (Technology). Ultimately, the Library collection is finely tuned to cater to the needs of the CfA community. The LC call letters seen most frequently at the Wolbach Library are:

  • 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. All formats are collected as needed by the community.

The primary focus is to collect resources in electronic formats, but print procurements are still made at the discretion of the Head Librarian and Collection Development Librarian; print materials are also procured at the request of community members.

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.


Please email the Head Libarian, Daina Bouquin, if you would like to make a donation to the Wolbach Library.

The Wolbach Library accepts gifts-in-kind, or non-monetary donations, which are compatible with the Library's collecting philosophy and enhance and complete its selection effort. The Library reserves the right to limit such gifts to those which substantially benefit the Library and are cost effective to receive, catalog, process, maintain, and preserve. The Library, through its governing institutions, assumes ownership of all donations and reserves the right to add donated materials to its collections or to exchange, sell, or discard them as appropriate. The Library accepts donated collections which must be kept intact or items offered conditionally, temporarily, or with restrictions only in unusual cases of exceptionally rare and valuable items.

Appraisal and documentation of materials for tax purposes is the sole responsibility of the donor. The library can help connect you with qualified appraisers. 

All donors will be asked to complete a short Donation Agreement when they make donations to Wolbach Library.

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: January, 2020