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Serials Policy

Serials are publications that appear on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly, annually, etc.), and have an annual subscription price. They may appear in print or electronic form.  

Serials Overview and Context

As the nature of serials is fundamentally different from that of books, serials selection must be carefully considered and treated differently from book selection. A subscription to a serial title represents significantly greater long-term fiscal, space (in the case of print), and staff commitments than the acquisition and processing of a book. Annual price increases for serials (see price projections and price history) are historically higher (approximately 5 to 7 percent a year) than for books, and thus have a dramatic impact on the entire materials budget.

Serials Policy

The Smith College Libraries purchase serials to support the teaching, learning and research of the Smith community. Within the context of maximizing budget resources, the Libraries seek to provide a balanced portfolio of titles that reflect the wide variety of campus needs and provide the greatest access to scholarship. In order to maximize both budget and space resources:

  • The Smith College Libraries do not purchase serials in multiple formats
  • Electronic format is preferred as it provides the greatest on- and off-campus access and is favored by most users
  • Print format will be selected only when the online content does not adequately meet the needs of our users (see note #1 below)
  • The Libraries will not normally purchase single issues of serials (see note #2 below)

To ensure our online serials holdings will remain accessible in the future, Smith belongs to Portico, a permanent electronic archive of scholarly journals.

The Libraries’ Collection Development Working Group (CDWG) (see note #3 below) is responsible for making decisions for adding or cancelling titles in the serials portfolio. Any member of the faculty may recommend to CDWG that a journal be added to the serials collection. CDWG considers subscription requests twice a year (October and April) and adds new titles that fit its selection criteria (below) and as the budget allows.

Selection Criteria

Some of the factors to consider in adding new subscriptions are:

  • Relevance to the curriculum, both existing courses and new directions
  • Relevance to faculty scholarship, with preference given to titles needed by more than one person
  • Needs of newly hired faculty, to support both new courses and their own scholarship
  • Cost of the subscription
  • Number and cost of other titles in the field available at Smith
  • Accreditation requirements
  • Coverage in indexing and abstracting services, Google Scholar, Discover, and other access tools
  • Demand as demonstrated by interlibrary loan requests

The Smith College Libraries will not always be able to meet all the needs of faculty members for their personal research through local collections, but aim to support their curricular needs whenever possible.


New subscriptions are generally begun with the next complete volume/year after selection is made. If backfiles are needed, they may be requested.

Procedure for Requesting a New Subscription

  1. Consider your request in light of the selection criteria above.
  2. Although cancellation of existing titles is not always a requirement, the Libraries ask that academic departments make a good faith effort to review their current subscriptions, as curricular and scholarly needs change over time.  Consult with the department’s library liaison to obtain a list of the current direct subscriptions in your discipline.  Please note that many current titles are delivered through large, multi-disciplinary subscription packages (e.g., Project Muse, Wiley Journals Online, Oxford Journals Online, etc.), and individual titles in these packages cannot be canceled.
  3. Use the online Serials Order Form to request the new subscription.
  4. The Libraries’ Collection Development Working Group (CDWG) will check for institutional pricing and the cost of backfiles (if requested).  CDWG will then review the justification provided and make a decision in light of other new subscription requests as well as  other current funding needs.


  1. For example when important editorial material is omitted or visual materials are poorly reproduced or not included at all.
  2. Exceptions may be made in the case of a special issue on a specific topic.
  3. The Collection Development Working Group is chaired by the Head of Collection Development, and members include the Director of Teaching, Learning and Research, the Director for Discovery, Access & Digital Engagement, and other librarians representing different areas of expertise.