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Law Library Collections Policies

Collection Development Policy

Charles B. Sears Law Library, State University of New York at Buffalo, December 2015

I. Introduction

The following collection management policy is to be used as a guide for those interested in the current collection and its future growth. This policy provides an outline of the University at Buffalo Charles B. Sears Law Library's ("Law Library") collection and articulates the general parameters for decision-making surrounding the addition of new materials to the collection.

Because of the ever-shifting terrain of budgetary concerns, faculty research interests, teaching foci, and institutional priorities, this policy is a living document subject to change.

If you are interested in specific holdings in the Law Library, please search via title in our catalog or consult topical research guides prepared by our reference staff.

II. Context

Although an in-depth analysis of the factors discussed below is beyond the scope of this document, it is important to root any discussion of the collection and its future in context in order to understand decisions being made.

The collection and its development is impacted by many factors beyond the control of the Law Library and its staff. Some of these factors are:

  • SUNY at Buffalo's budget: As one of the few non-autonomous law school libraries in the country, the Law Library's acquisitions budget is allocated out of the University Libraries acquisitions budget which, in turn, is allocated from the University at Buffalo's budget. The University Libraries' has experienced a decade of either successive budget cuts or flat budgets. Further budget cuts are anticipated.
  • Out-of-step inflation: Many legal titles are standing orders, meaning that we purchase a subscription to the title and the publisher provides us with updates or additional volumes each year. The subject matter of these titles run the gamut from the Harvard Law Review to the International Yearbook of Pakistan. Oftentimes, the cost of these updates from year to year increases by an amount that outpaces inflation significantly, anywhere from 3% to 10%. In some cases, the increase is greater than 25%. Although this increase may be manageable on a small scale, the Law Library purchases the bulk of its serials titles on standing order, making the increases impossible to absorb without impacting the rest of the collection.1
  • Shifting expectations of library users2: However specious, the expectation of many library users is that all information is available digitally. This expectation informs information seeking behavior and requests for purchasing and services tethered to the library. The amount of digital resources requests is growing exponentially, and the aggregate costs associated with these resources are untenable in the long term.
  • The accreditation standards of the American Bar Association (ABA): The ABA has recently revised its standards for law library collections associated with law schools. The standards3 outline the required materials for a law school law library.

III. Mission Statement of the Law Library

The Law Library's primary mission is to support the research and educational needs of the University at Buffalo Law School community. In addition, as the only research level law library in Western New York, it is an important community resource. Within the limits of its resources, it strives to serve the legal information needs of the University community, the practicing bar, and the public at large.

The collection development policy is designed to support the Law Library's mission. To that end, the primary concern of collection development is to provide materials needed in the research and pedagogical endeavors of the Law School community. University at Buffalo School of Law faculty have a broad array of interdisciplinary foci, and the Law Library collaborates and participates in cooperative collection development with other campus libraries to support the Law School faculty's needs.

Secondarily, collection development focuses on purchasing materials that will support the research needs of the University community, practicing bar and Western New York community. The Law Library attempts to maintain a useful collection of primary source materials at the state and federal level for the use of the public.

In keeping with the A.L.A. Bill of Rights, Intellectual Freedom Statement, and its statement on Challenged Materials, no censorship will be exercised due to the controversial nature or unpopularity of an author's point of view or mode of expression.

IV. Responsibility

Under the direction of the Director of the Law Library and the Head of Collection Management, the Law Library is responsible for the prudent stewardship of acquisitions funds allocated from the University Libraries' acquisitions budget.

Prudent stewardship includes:

  • periodic evaluation of the collection and of its future growth,
  • fostering collaborative relationships with law faculty to ensure responsive and flexible support of research and pedagogical goals,
  • soliciting law faculty input for the purchase or cancellation of high-cost or duplicative materials,
  • collaborating with the law library faculty and other staff within the law library to aid in information-gathering for selection choices when needed,
  • participating in consortial arrangements to maximize the law library's buying power within the legal publishing market,
  • embracing a just-in-time model for non-serial purchasing,
  • eliminating duplicative purchasing across formats,
  • deselecting outdated or outmoded materials to maintain a cohesive and relevant collection, and
  • exploring the applicability and usefulness of developing collections alternatives in keeping with the American Bar Association standards.

Ultimately, final decisions about the contents of the current and future collection rest with the Director of the Law Library.

V. Additions to and Subtractions from the Collection

V. A. Additions to the Collection

  1. Purchasing Philosophy and Format Considerations
    1. Purchasing Philosophy

      The Law Library uses a purchase-on-demand model for monographs and databases. This model is known as "just in time" purchasing. This shift does not impact current standing orders. Requests from patrons that fall within purchasing parameters may be purchased and added to the collection. Standing order requests are scrutinized more closely due to their long-term impact on our budget, but are purchased when possible if needed for faculty teaching or scholarship.

      Retrospective collection development depends on funds and identifying titles that would serve the research and curricular needs of the Law School. If one-time, non-recurring funds are made available to the Law Library, they will be used to purchase materials of lasting use to the core function of the Law School. This ensures that the materials will continue to be available, despite any future fluctuations in cost or ability to pay for a subscription.

      For example, if the Law Library receives non-recurring funds, we may purchase a database of congressional research materials in lieu of subscribing to that same database. Although the initial outlay for the purchase may be bigger than that of a subscription fee, the maintenance cost associated with a purchase is significantly less in each following year than a subscription fee, and we garner the benefits of outright ownership.

      The Law Library benefits from various consortiums that negotiate for various databases and materials, including:
      • NELLCO
      • NERL
      • WNYLRC
      • SUNY Connect
    2. Format Considerations
      • The current collection includes materials in paper (hard/soft cover), audiotape, videotape, microfilm, microfiche, microcard, CD-ROM, audio compact discs, DVD, and local and online sources.
      • For current purchasing, digital format is preferred for large data sets. For monographs, the requester's stated preference will dictate the format in which the book is purchased. If no format preference is stated, an ebook will be purchased if available.
      • In many cases, prudent stewardship means access to a resource instead of ownership of it. Therefore, service needs may be met from electronic resources or resources obtained through interlibrary loan in addition to purchased or tangible resources.
  2. What We Will Buy

    In the past, titles were purchased "just in case" someone might request them. However, due to budget cuts, lack of use of these titles, and a fast turnaround associated with interlibrary loan, the Law Library has moved to an on-demand model for purchasing titles for which we do not already have standing orders. Outside of our standing orders for most of the library's materials, the Law Library receives requests or recommendations to purchase items.

    The following represent some of the considerations when an item is purchased:
    • Materials relevant to the law school curriculum and law faculty research areas have the highest priority when balancing purchasing demands. More information is available about the law school curriculum and faculty interests here.
    • Law faculty requests are given special consideration and are purchased whenever possible.
    • Dependent on cost and availability, faculty office copies are purchased. Filing and updating are the responsibility of the faculty member.
    • Lay, popular or "how to" texts may be purchased if determined by the Head of Collection Management or Director to fill a need.
    • Non-faculty requests related to an area of law with recent publication dates are preferred. Older materials will be retrieved via interlibrary loan in lieu of purchasing.
    • Digital materials such as databases or online archives are usually not fungible, and we understand that a particular database might be critical for a faculty research or teaching initiative. Within the confines of our budget, we will investigate and negotiate for access to such a resource. It is preferred that these databases are as open as possible for our patrons' use, meaning that the database will have unlimited simultaneous users and be available via IP access to those in the law school IP range. However, we will investigate a single user access point for a law faculty member if multiple users would be cost-prohibitive.
    • Practitioners' materials are purchased selectively for federal and New York jurisdictions.
    • Replacements are purchased for missing and lost high-use items.
  3. What We Won't Buy

    The examples and considerations listed below outline some of the materials we will not add to our collection. Many of these considerations are related to the high cost of replacing materials that are quickly outdated or are high risk for theft.
    • Casebooks are not purchased for the general collection. Casebooks are selectively purchased for course reserve only. They are not permanently added to the collection.
    • Undergraduate texts are not purchased.
    • Titles available in other campus libraries will not be purchased without demonstrated need.
    • Titles available in one format are not purchased in another format without demonstrated need.
    • Popular fiction titles related to the law without demonstrated need.
    • Bar prep materials are not purchased for the general collection. These materials may be purchased selectively for reserve only.
  4. Gifts to the Law Library

    If you are interested in donating books or other materials to the Law Library, thank you!

    Gift books and other materials are accepted on a case by case basis. If you have a large collection of titles, we encourage you to provide the Head of Collection Management with a list to better assess whether the donation will be accepted. Criteria for acceptance include consideration of the factors listed in "What We Will Not Buy" above, as well as whether the content is appropriate for the collection in general. Where appropriate, donation lists will also be reviewed by our archivist for rare books and unique materials that might be added to our special collections.

    The Library reserves the right to reject or discard any books associated with a donation. The Library is unable to provide appraisals for items. Please contact Theodora Belniak to discuss your donation.

    If you are interested in making a monetary donation to the Library, please contact our Director, Elizabeth Adelman.
  5. Special Collections and Rare Books

    Unique materials, such as personal papers and personal libraries, are considered as potential special collections and, if accepted, would be added to our special collections.
  6. Purchases Made Possible by Other Funding

    The Law Library is a beneficiary of the following:
    • WNYLRC Coordinated Collection Development Aid: This grant money historically has been used to purchase monographs in a particular area of law and/or legal research, such as environmental law, legal practice skills, gender and LGBT law, and veterans law.
    • The Orel Hershiser Fund: a special endowment from the estate of Marion H. Robinson for purchase of library materials, administered by the University at Buffalo School of Law.
    • NY Alcove: A gift from the University at Buffalo School of Law Class of 1976, the NY Alcove Fund provides assistance in maintaining the materials available in our NY Alcove. For further detail on the Alcove, please see below under "Collection Profile."
  7. Collaborative Collections

    The Law Library benefits from collaborative shared collections with the University Libraries and SUNY's Libraries.

    The Law Library actively seeks opportunities for shared collections within our region and state-wide with other institutions and organizations, with an emphasis on local and regional materials of unique historical value.
  8. Statement on Vendor Relations

    The Law Library approaches acquisitions and contract negotiations in good faith, and looks to the American Association of Law Libraries' Procurement Toolkit and Code of Best Practices for Licensing Electronic Resources for general guidelines.

    As dictated by New York's Public Officers Law and to prevent any appearance of impropriety, individuals authorized to negotiate on behalf of the Law Library will not accept personal gifts, favors, or other incentives to negotiate or to execute a contract.

V. B. Subtractions from the Collection, Collection Maintenance

Additions to the collection trigger an equally important review of the current collection and assessment for its continuing utility and function for our needs. Practically, this review is necessary due to constraints on space; functionally, this review is necessary to ensure ease of use for our patrons.

  1. Evaluation

    At the behest of the Director of the Law Library, the Head of Collection Management and/or a cohort of Law Library staff will evaluate collections in the library to identify and address:
    • subject areas of the collection that do not meet curricular and research needs of our primary patrons;
    • duplicate information for potential cancellation;
    • items lacking long-term research value;
    • items whose obsolete information poses a risk; and
    • any other collection management issue of an urgent nature.
  2. Cancellation

    Cancellations as a result of inflation are an inherent part of collection management. The aim is to maintain comprehensive, research level materials and eliminate esoteric materials unless tailored to a course, concentration, clinic, or faculty research need. In some cases, cancellation of print and reliance on an online treatise may be required. Similarly, the Head of Collection Management may cancel print periodicals that are accessible to patrons in digital format and are not routed to law faculty. In some circumstances, a periodical or serial may be canceled due to untenable increases in cost, after consultation with relevant faculty members.

    Cancellations will be made by the Director of the Law Library or the Head of Collection Management. Depending on the significance of the resource, the Director or Head of Collection Management may consult with the law faculty and/or the library faculty.
  3. Deselection

    Deselection, also known as weeding, is an important part of maintaining a library collection. Weeding is the strategic removal of materials to prevent clutter and to prevent the proliferation of out-of-date materials that may mislead our patrons. It also serves a reflective purpose, providing insight into areas of a collection that may need an infusion of new materials.

    An item in the Law Library may be deselected because it:
    • is duplicative within our collection or is available freely online,
    • is in poor physical condition,
    • is in an unreadable format,
    • is rarely or never used, or
    • presents little legal historical or legal research value.
    An item may be evaluated and deselected with any or all of the above factors in mind. If necessary, deselection will occur in consultation with law faculty members that are actively teaching or researching in the area of law being scrutinized.

    Items whose obsolete information poses a reliance risk, e.g. cancelled serials and out-of-date practice materials, are reviewed by the Head of Collection Management for weeding.

    Weeded titles are offered to other units or outside organizations as appropriate before discarding.
  4. Library of Record and Last Copy Agreements, Impact on Collection

    As an exception to our general policy governing collection review, the Law Library may agree to be the library of record for titles. If an agreement is established, the Law Library will retain specific titles with other University at Buffalo Libraries or outside organizations. Currently, the Law Library is the library of record for the CQ Weekly, per Beth Adelman and Don Hartman 4/30/2007.

    The SUNY Shared Collections Task Force, a statewide task force that reviews issues relating to the SUNY system's libraries, has suggested a last copy initiative for books. When possible, the Law Library will retain a print monograph if it is the last copy within the SUNY library system.

VI. Collection Profile

The Law Library's collection reflects the evolution of the practice and study of law and of the ABA's law library standards over the last four decades.

In addition to the variety of materials available in the general collection, the Law Library focuses its collections funds on the following offerings:

  • The New York Alcove and New York Core Collection: The New York Alcove is partially funded by a gift from the SUNY at Buffalo Law School Class of 1976 and is primarily funded by central acquisitions funds. Together, the New York Alcove and New York Core are a comprehensive collection of print New York state legal resources, including:
    • Current New York primary sources, including its statutes, codes, and case law
    • Current New York secondary sources, including topical looseleafs, encyclopedias, and formbooks.
    This material is complemented by superseded and further historical New York material housed in the stacks of the Law Library. For information about a specific title, please consult the Libraries' Catalog. For information about circulation policies
  • The Federal Core Collection: The Federal Core includes print federal primary legal materials, including case reporters, codes, regulations, and select secondary resources. For information about a specific title, please consult the catalog. For information about circulation policies.
  • Materials Purchased in Support of Law Student Success:
    • The Study Aid Collection: The Study Aid Collection was created in 2009 to provide relevant, timely, and useful information for our law students while they prepare for class and for exams while in law school. This collection includes new or recent print study aid titles related to subjects taught in the law school, including but not limited to series such as Nutshells, Sum and Substance, Understanding [Area of Law], and Black Letter Law Outlines.
      This collection does not include study aids used to prepare for the bar or other admissions tests such as the GRE. This collection does not include extended hornbooks or other 'broad brush stroke' tomes on the law. This collection does not include casebooks or course packets. This collection is not available in e-format. For information about a specific title, please consult the catalog.
    • The Law Student Success Collection: This collection, created in 2015 and curated by our Student Services Librarian, is designed for use by our law students. First year law students will find books on how to prepare for exams, how to manage stress, and studying techniques. Second and third year law students will find materials to help them define their next steps after graduation, including information about the practical aspects of life as attorney, such as how to build a happy and successful career and how to manage professional relationships. LLM students will find titles exploring practicing law in the United States. This collection does not include bar preparation materials and is not available in e-format. For information about a specific title, please consult the catalog.
  • The Reference and Reference Desk Collections: The reference and reference desk collections, located behind and to the left of the reference desks, are curated by the reference staff and are materials used to assist patrons. These items are in print format. Some of the items in these collections are dictionaries, subject encyclopedias, indexes, and citation manuals. For information about a specific title, please consult the catalog.
  • Koren Audiovisual Collection: The Koren Audiovisual Center manages and curates the audiovisual and microform materials available on the fifth floor of the library. Please see the Koren AV page for more information on the collection and its policies. For information about a specific title, please consult the catalog.
  • Materials Purchased in Support of the Legal Analysis, Writing and Research Curriculum: To provide access to print materials for instructional purposes, the Law Library maintains print subscriptions to the digest, code, court reports, and Illinois Law and Practice.4
  • International Materials: The Law Library's historic international law collection reflects the wide lens of the 1970s and 1980s interests, and holds titles in English, German, French, and other languages. Current development of our international law collection is more narrow and interdisciplinary in focus, and includes mostly English-language resources. This collection includes various formats, including microform, print, and electronic databases. Please consult our catalog and the listing of foreign and international legal databases for information on specific titles and countries.
  • Materials Purchased in Support of Faculty Research Needs: The Law School faculty research and teach in a variety of areas. When possible, the Law Library will purchase materials upon request, regardless of format, in support of a faculty member's research and teaching efforts. Please see the Law School's page on faculty research interests to see the scope of purchasing possibilities.
  • Digital materials: Covering disparate areas, the Law Library's focus on digital materials continues to grow in step with patron demand and resource availability. These materials represent about 30% of our annual expenditure, a percentage which continues to grow each year. Whenever possible, we purchase databases or digital materials in perpetuity to add to the permanent collection. Despite the relatively high costs, we maintain subscriptions to resources if used in support of faculty research and teaching needs. Please see the list of the Law Library's databases.
  • The Morris Cohen Rare Book Collection: The Morris Cohen Rare Book Collection is described in more detail on our Special Collections page. The criteria for inclusion in the collection is as follows:
    • Date Limit
      • American monographs printed in the US prior to 1870
      • Monographs printed outside of the US prior to 1800
      • Serials printed prior to 1820
      • All manuscripts
    • Special Items
      • Historical
      • Limited editions
      • Autographed copies
      • Special bindings
    Inclusion of materials outside of the criteria is at the discretion of the Law Library Director and the Law Library archivist.


  1. For more about inflation in the legal publishing world, see Runyon's "The Effect of Economics and Electronic Resources on the Traditional Law Library Print Collection," LAW LIBRARY JOURNAL Vol. 101:2 [2009-11]. More generally, see Kendall Svengalis' annually-published Legal Information Buyer's Guide & Reference Manual.
  2. In general, see the Ithaka groups publications studying library users, particularly faculty
  3. Chapter 6 of the American Bar Association's Standard for Accreditation
  4. Per Spring 2017 conversations between the Law Library Director and the LAWR faculty.

Last updated December 23, 2015

Rules for Using Special Collections

  • The collections are available by appointment only. To make an appointment to access the collection, please email or phone 716-645-2047.
  • Researchers seeking access to the collections must sign in with his/her name, institution, and research interest and provide a current photo identification (e.g. driver's license, campus ID, passport).
  • Records of which boxes, folders, or volumes the researcher requests will be kept on file.
  • No collections may be accessed without the researcher reading, understanding, and signing the "Archives and Special Collections Policies and Rules" agreement form.
  • Only one folder or title will be retrieved at a time. Items must be returned to the collection before another request is filled.
  • All materials will be viewed in a supervised location.
  • No food, beverage, or candy is permitted to be near the collections at any time.
  • All notes must be taken in pencil. No other writing implements are allowed to be anywhere near the collections. Personal computers are permitted, but no personal scanning devices may be used.
  • Only notebooks, notepads, pencils, and personal computers may be on the table when viewing the collections. Everything else must be stowed beneath the chair or table.
  • The materials must be kept flat on the table at all times unless there are specific instructions to use a cradle or other viewing aid. Patrons may be required to wear gloves when handling certain materials.
  • Do not make any marks on any of the materials. Do not fold, tear, or otherwise adjust any of the materials. No marking, erasing, tracing or rubbing is permitted.
  • The exact order and arrangement of manuscript materials must be kept intact. If any mistakes in arrangement are discovered, please call it to the attention of the librarian.
  • Permission to photocopy must be obtained by the librarian. Only the librarian may make the photocopies. Fragile items will not be available for photocopying.
  • Patrons wishing to make digital photographs (with cell phone, camera, tablet, or other devices) must complete all necessary permission forms. Further permission from copyright holder may be necessary. Flash is prohibited.
  • Researchers agree to indemnify and hold harmless the University at Buffalo and its officers, employees, and agents from and against all suits, claims, actions, and expenses arising out of use of archival collections held by the University at Buffalo.
  • Before leaving, the researcher may be asked to submit his/her briefcase, bag, notebook, computer, jacket, or other personal objects to inspection.
  • Failure to comply with these policies will result in revocation of access.

Note: additional restrictions may be in place for some closed collections, designated for in-house use only. Please see a librarian for more information.

On publication of Special Collections material

Special Collections material cannot be re-copied for private use or publication without regard for the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) and the laws of libel.

Responsibility for obtaining permission to publish rests with the researcher and his/her publishers. The reproduction of Special Collections material for private study, scholarship, or research does not constitute permission to publish. The University at Buffalo makes no representations of the exclusive rights of copyright ownership unless such rights have been given to the University.

The proper citation for Special Collections material is:

"[Item], Box/Folder, Law Spec. Coll. #, Name of Collection or Record Group, Charles B. Sears Law Library, University at Buffalo."

Privacy and Personally Identifiable Information

Manuscript collections that include twentieth and twenty-first century archival materials may contain sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state "right to privacy" laws, including but not limited to certain educational, medical, financial, criminal, attorney-client, and personnel records. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals without the consent of those individuals may have legal cause for action if facts concerning an individual's private life are published that would be deemed highly offensive to a reasonable person.

Staff has taken care to identify and, in some cases, remove Personally Identifiable Information found within its archival collections when undertaking archival processing work. However, privacy protected information may be revealed during use of the archival collections, particularly in those collections that are unprocessed or have been minimally processed.

Researchers agree to make no notes or other recordation of privacy protected information if found within the archival collections, and further agree not to publish, publicize, or disclose such information to any other party for any purpose if found within the archival collections.

Revised 7/25/2017