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

Because of ongoing budgetary concerns, evolving modes of instruction, and ever-changing 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 expert 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 are impacted by many factors beyond the control of the Law Library and its staff. Some of these factors are:

  • University at Buffalo’s budget: The University Libraries and the Law Library have experienced more than 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. 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.
  • Shifting expectations of library users: 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): Chapter 6 of the ABA standards outlines the required materials for a law school’s Library.

III. The Collection’s Alignment With the Law Library’s Mission

The Law Library's primary mission is to support the research and educational needs of the University at Buffalo School of Law community. Within the limits of its resources, it strives to serve the legal information needs of the University community, the practicing bar, including our alumni, 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 School of Law 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 Faculty’s needs.

Secondarily, collection development focuses on purchasing materials that will support the research needs of the University community, practicing bar, and the 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 American Library Association's Bill of Rights, and its interpretive statements, Intellectual Freedom Principles for Academic Libraries, and Challenged Resources, 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

The Director of the Law Library is responsible for the prudent stewardship of acquisitions funds.

Prudent stewardship includes:

  • periodic evaluation of the collection and strategizing 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 resources;
  • collaborating with the Law Library faculty and other staff within the Law Library to aid in information-gathering for selection and deselection choices;
  • participating in consortia 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 ABA standards.

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. 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.

      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.

      The Law Library benefits from membership in various consortia that negotiate for various databases and materials, including:
      • NELLCO
      • NERL
      • WNYLRC SUNY Libraries Consortium (SLC)
    2. Format Considerations
      • The current collection includes materials in print (hard/soft cover), audio compact discs, and microfilm, microfiche, CD-ROM, and DVD.
      • For current purchasing, digital format or streaming media is preferred. 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.
      • Thanks to the consortia agreements with the other SUNY schools under the shared implementation of the Alma/Primo library system, seamless borrowing of items from other schools in the SUNY system has allowed faculty and students increased access to materials. Researchers can search across UB and SUNY resources within this single interface that provides a Google-like experience, allowing researchers to use one search box to discover reliable library content.
  2. What We Will Buy

    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.
    • Two copies of all monographs authored by full-time law faculty are purchased whenever possible; if an electronic version is available, it should be purchased in lieu of a second print copy for the stacks.
    • 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.
    • Titles available through another SUNY institution's library will not be purchased unless they qualify as high-use or are otherwise accorded special consideration due to the factors above.
    • Lay, popular or "how to" texts may be purchased if determined by the Director to fill a need.
    • Monograph purchase requests related to an area of law with recent publication dates are preferred. Older materials will be obtained 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 and procurement regulations, 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, with an emphasis on maintaining the New York Alcove as a valuable resource for the various user groups and communities we serve.
    • Missing and lost resources are evaluated as if considering a new purchase.
  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. Print casebooks are not permanently added to the collection.
    • Undergraduate texts are not purchased. Exceptions will be considered for courses that support the undergraduate Law major or minor.
    • Titles available in other campus libraries will not be purchased without demonstrated need for duplication.
    • Titles available in one format are not purchased in another format without demonstrated need.
    • Popular fiction titles related to the law are not purchased without demonstrated need.
    • Bar preparation materials are not purchased for the general collection. These materials may be purchased selectively for the short-term loan Circulation Desk collection only.
  4. Gifts to the Law Library

    Gift books and other materials are accepted on a case by case basis and only with an accompanying Deed of Gift. 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 for potential inclusion in one of UB’s special collections. The Law Library reserves the right to reject or discard any books associated with a donation. The Library is unable to provide appraisals for items. Contact Library Director Beth Adelman to initiate a potential gift to the Law Library.
  5. Special Collections and Rare Books

    The Law Library is home to a number of special collections and rare books. Consult our website for more information about these collections.

    Unique materials, such as personal papers and personal libraries, are considered as potential additions to the Law Library’s special collections. If you are interested in donating materials, please see our policies surrounding special collections and contact Library Director Beth Adelman.

  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 on any topic.
    • New York Alcove: A gift from the University at Buffalo School of Law Class of 1976, the New York Alcove Fund provides assistance in maintaining the materials available in our New York 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. Depository Collections

    Government Information via the Government Publishing Office: The Law Library is not a depository library but receives specific titles from the Government Publishing Office through the University Libraries’ depository status. Those specific titles are: United States Reports; Supreme Court Decisions - Preliminary Prints and Advance Parts; United States Code; United States Statutes at Large; (Public) Slip Laws; Private Laws; House and Senate Journals; Congressional Directory; Code of Federal Regulations; CFR Index and Finding Aids; List of CFR Sections Affected; List of CFR Sections Affected (cumulative); Federal Register; Federal Register Proposed Amendments; U.S. Treaties and Other International Agreements; and Treaties in Force.

    New York State Document Depository Program: The Law Library is not a depository but receives the New York Register through the University Libraries’ depository status.

  9. Statement on Vendor Relations

    The Law Library approaches acquisitions and contract negotiations in good faith, and looks to the American Association of Law Libraries’ Law Libraries’ Guide to Fair Business Practices for Legal Publishers and Principles & Practices for Licensing Electronic Resources for general guidelines.

B. 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. At times, important research titles are designated for removal from the collection because they are included in a currently licensed database. Careful consideration will be exercised to insure future availability to these titles if it becomes necessary to cancel the database.

  1. Evaluation

    Upon the request of the Director of the Law Library, Law Library staff will evaluate collections to identify and address:
    • subject areas of the collection that do not meet curricular and research needs of our primary patrons;
    • duplicate titles for potential cancellation;
    • items lacking long-term research or historical 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 electronic resource may be required. Similarly, the Director 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.

    Cancellations will be made by the Director of the Law Library. Depending on the significance of the resource, the Director may consult with the Law School Faculty and/or the Law Library Faculty.
  3. Deselection

    Deselection, also known as weeding, is an important part of maintaining a library collection. Deselection 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.

    A physical 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;
    • presents little legal historical or legal research value; or
    • does not adhere to the current Collection Development Policy.
    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. Law Library faculty may be consulted as appropriate.

    Items whose obsolete information poses a reliance risk, e.g. cancelled serials and out-of-date practice materials, are reviewed for weeding by the Director.
  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 specific titles. If an agreement is established with other University at Buffalo Libraries or outside organizations, the Law Library will retain specific titles. 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 changing Law Library standards over time.

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: Together, the New York Alcove and New York Core comprise a comprehensive, research-level collection of print New York State legal resources, including:
    • Current New York primary sources, including statutes, codes, and case law
    • Current New York secondary sources, including topical looseleafs, treatises, encyclopedias, and formbooks.
    This material is complemented by superseded and further historical New York material housed in the Law Library. For information about a specific title, please consult the catalog. For information about circulation policies, please consult our page on loaning materials from the library.
  • The Federal Core Collection: The Federal Core includes print federal primary legal materials, including case reporters, codes, regulations, select secondary resources, and finding aids.
  • The Law Library collection includes United Nations materials in various formats. UN official records and other materials are available in microform format, including microfiche, microfilm and microcard. The UN Alcove on the 5th floor also includes printed indexes to UN documents. Other UN resources in print format (including the United Nations Treaty Series and United Nations Yearbook) are located in the General and Reference collections. Many UN resources are available online as well.
  • The Study Aids Collection: The Study Aids Collection provides 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 and electronic study aids titles related to subjects taught in the School of Law, including but not limited to series such as Nutshells, Hornbooks, Sum and Substance, Understanding [Area of Law], and Black Letter Law Outlines.

    The Law Library typically holds 2 print copies of Wolters Kluwer study aids, and electronic subscriptions to West Study Aids and to Lexis/Carolina Academic Press Study Aids.

    This collection does not include study aids used to prepare for the bar exam or other admissions tests such as the GRE. This collection does not include casebooks or course packets, which are purchased selectively for inclusion in our Reserve Collection.
  • The Reserve Collection: The Reserve Collection is housed on the fifth floor of the Law Library. It contains all required first-year coursebooks, along with select upper-level coursebooks as requested by Law Faculty or selected by Law Library staff. The Law Library also provides law students and faculty with electronic access to selected textbooks published by LexisNexis and Carolina Academic Press through a subscription to the LexisNexis Digital Library. For information about coursebooks held by the Law Library, please use the Course Reserve search interface in our catalog or the list of textbooks available for free to UB Law students.
  • The Reference and Reference Desk Collections: The Reference and Reference Desk collections, located in the stacks across from the Law Service Desk, and behind the Service Desk, respectively, are curated by the Law Library reference staff and are used to assist patrons. These items are in print format. Some of the items in these collections are dictionaries, subject encyclopedias, directories, indexes, and citation manuals.
  • Multimedia Collection: The Multimedia collection consists of audiovisual material (audio CD, DVD, and CD-ROMs) located on the second floor and microform materials available on the fifth floor of the library. Please see here for more information on the collection and its policies. The Multimedia collection is also a just-in-time collection. Streaming video is available and is the preferred format for classroom use of films. The central library’s streaming collection is available for classroom use. Films not available through the UB Libraries streaming collection or the Law Library’s DVD collection can be leased or purchased upon request.
  • Success Collection: The Success Collection consists of two component sub-collections, a Law School Success Collection aimed at J.D. students along with a similar, smaller subset aimed at LL.M. and other international students. The companion Law Practice Success Collection, meanwhile, is devoted to helping our students find professional and personal fulfillment in the legal field. The Success Collection is located near the second-floor café seating area across from the Service Desk.
  • Materials Purchased in Support of the Legal Analysis, Writing and Research Curriculum: To provide access to additional print materials for instructional purposes, the Law Library maintains print subscriptions to the following materials related to Illinois state law:
    • Illinois: digest, code, court reports, and encyclopedia.
    • West's Northeastern Reporter (NY, IL)
  • International Materials: The Law Library’s historical international law collection reflects the wide lens of historical 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.
  • Local/Municipal Codes: The Law Library accesses local codes through the General Code Corporation’s online library, Municode’s online library, and the websites of local jurisdictions.
  • 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.
  • Superseded Collection: A small superseded collection, comprised of primary and secondary United States and United Kingdom titles, is located on the sixth floor of the Law Library. Most prominent are the superseded volumes of McKinney’s Consolidated Laws of New York Annotated (McKinney’s) and the New York Consolidated Laws Service (CLS) which are invaluable when researching New York legislative history. Titles in the collection are included in the catalog
  • 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 more than 50% of our annual acquisitions 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.
  • Digital Commons @ University at Buffalo School of Law: The Law Library builds and maintains a digital repository of Law School materials including faculty publications, Law School publications, student-run journals, historical Law School materials, and special collections. The faculty publications collection includes all of the publications of current Law School and Law Library faculty for which the Law Library is able to obtain permission to post. It also includes publications of former faculty published while they were at the Law School, beginning with the 2017-2018 academic year faculty. The student-run journals collection includes the complete run of the Law School’s student-run journals, updated as new issues are published. Other collections include a complete collection of the Law School’s student newspaper, published from 1949 to 2015; yearbooks; and the alumni magazine. Collections are added based on availability, copyright restrictions, and suitability as determined by the Law Library.

Last updated 12/16/2020

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 11/09/2020