Collection Policies

Purpose General Collection Guidelines


Atlases in the library collection are intended to serve the general information needs of the university community and more specifically, support the instructional and research needs of the university's students and faculty. To do so the University Library should acquire a variety of types, ranging from standard geopolitical world atlases to specific thematic atlases. Examples of specialized atlases are those devoted to such diverse academic disciplines as oceanography, biology, geology, history, culture, politics, business, economics, etc. Specialized atlases are used primarily for instructional and research purposes, while basic geopolitical atlases are used for general informational purposes.


Language: English is the primary language of collection. Atlases in languages other than English should be acquired only on a highly selective basis.

Chronological Guidelines: Primary emphasis should be on atlases dealing with current conditions, subjects, and events. Atlases devoted to historical subject matter should be acquired selectively, based on how well the subject matter meets specific university curriculum needs.

Geographical Guidelines: The university's emphasis on internationalization dictates that the Library select atlases relating to a wide variety of geographic regions. Areas of importance include Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe. Atlases restricted to individual countries should be acquired on a more selective basis. The library should also comprehensively collect specialized atlases covering the Hampton Roads area and the state of Virginia. Thematic atlases in oceanography, coastal geography, and business/marketing are of special importance and should be selectively acquired based on both thematic and geographic coverage.

Treatment of Subject: The most important considerations in acquiring an atlas should be its content and timeliness, and the state of the existing collection of atlases with the same or similar content. For the most part, the subject matter and currency of an atlas will determine its value to users. This is especially true for atlases covering regions of the world undergoing constant or profound political, social, cultural, or economic changes.

In considering an atlas, its subject matter should be presented authoritatively and accurately. Among the factors to consider are academic level, map quality, indexing, and quality of binding. For thematic, specialized or historical atlases, the content should have a clear relevance to university curriculum and/or research requirements or needs. Works dealing with the history, theory, or methodology of atlases or atlas making should be acquired only on a very highly selective basis.

Types of Materials: Primary consideration should be given to atlases in hard-bound form. Atlases with soft-bound covers or consisting of removable or looseleaf pages should be more selectively acquired. The library may also acquire CD-ROM atlases, or obtain access to atlas products available over the Internet. The later are particularly important in order to offer atlas availability to distance education students.

The library will also acquire access to Geographic Information System (GIS) software and associated datasets on a selective basis. GIS are dynamic computer systems allowing for the flexible display and analysis of geographically referenced data in a wide variety of forms. The University has recently purchased a site license for ESRI's ArcInfo and ArcView GIS software.

Date of Publication: Strong emphasis should be on current publications. Atlases with earlier publication dates should be considered only when addressing gaps in the collection.

Other General Considerations: In considering the purchase of atlases, close attention should be paid to country, regional, or world events that might prematurely render an atlas outdated or its contents obsolete. Examples of such events would be the breakup of the former Soviet Union and the subsequent changes in Eastern Europe and the Balkans. In such exceptional cases, a purchasing option would be to wait one or two years to allow the publishers of certain atlases enough time to reflect such political, cultural, social, or economic changes in their publications.

Related Collection Development Policies: Related collection development policies are Political Science and U.S. Government Publications.