General Collections Information

Photo of books on a study table in Howard-Tilton Memorial LibraryHoward-Tilton Memorial Library is Tulane's main library and its general circulating collections are among the largest in the Gulf region of the United States.  Collection development at the library is tightly focused in support of Tulane's academic programs, while its collections have still grown to include nearly 3.9 million volumes housed in the main Howard-Tilton building and an off site storage facility—exclusive of the materials held in the library's archival Special Collections in Jones Hall.  Howard-Tilton spends about $5.6 million annually on digital resources. As a result, Tulane's students and faculty have access through its main library to a large array of library databases, including digital facsimile collections of important scholarly material, and to articles in about 64,000 journal titles, most of them online.  The library has acquired more than 1.2 million eBooks.  Over the past ten years or so it has rebuilt large collections in music, media, and government documents.  Today its Media Center houses more than 40,000 audio recordings and more than 25,000 audio/visual recordings. 

The general collections of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library also include an the Math Library  in Gibson Hall. 

 Information About Using the Collections

Collection Development

Collection development for Howard-Tilton Memorial Library's general collections is carried out through a program described in a regularly updated Collection Development Manual. The library's general collections are managed by liaison librarians who are assigned to the academic disciplines that the collections support. Through liaison program contacts with Tulane's academic departments, these librarians select books, journals, and other materials. Their work is coordinated by the library's associate dean who is assisted by three coordinators for scholarly resources: for the humanities, for science & engineering, and for social sciences & government publications. The coordinators for scholarly resources are subject liaisons themselves and collectively function as a working group for collection projects and provide individual librarians with guidance in collection development.

Comprehensive Collection Policies

The library has formulated a comprehensive set of collection development policies that include detailed statements for each discipline supported. The framework for these policies is designed to reflect the academic department and cross-departmental academic program structure of the university.

Book and Journal Selection

Faculty participation in the selection process is welcomed.  Direct communication with liaison librarians is encouraged, as are requests for new materials.  The selection and receipt of many current books is expedited through the use of approval plans for domestic and foreign publications. These plans provide books based on detailed, pre-determined subject profiles to ensure regular timely receipt of scholarly materials at a discount.

Because subscriptions involve both current and future funds, all journal requests are scrutinized with extra care and preferred online access to new and existing subscriptions is sought routinely.

Collection Development requires sound collection management practices, which may occasionally involve the de-selection of physical items such as ones that are no longer used and in poor condition.  In these instances, the librarians follow a set of guidelines for withdrawing materials from the collections.

Standards and Ethical Principles

  • Standards: The Howard-Tilton Memorial Library maintains its collections in accordance with the standards and membership criteria of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) and the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL). The library's collections must also meet criteria defined by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and numerous other accrediting agencies to which the university's degree granting programs are subject.
  • Intellectual Freedom and Censorship: The library recognizes that free access to ideas and freedom of expression are fundamental to the educational process. Consequently, the library purchases materials that represent a wide variety of viewpoints and the library subscribes to and complies with the American Library Association (ALA) Library Bill of Rights. The library does not add or withdraw, at the request of any individual or group, material which has been selected by the library.
  • Confidentiality: The ALA Code of Ethics states that "Librarians must protect each user's right to privacy with respect to information sought, received, and materials consulted, borrowed, or acquired." In addition, the library adheres to the ALA Policy on Confidentiality of Library Records and Confidentiality of Library Users.
  • Copyright: The library complies with the provisions of the U.S. Copyright Law (17 U.S.C.) and its amendments. The library strongly supports the "Fair Use" section of the Copyright Law (17 U.S.C. 107) which permits and protects the rights to reproduce and make other uses of copyrighted works for the purposes of teaching, scholarship, and research.


This fall and likely through the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the library is unable to accept general gifts of physical items such as books from a personal collection.  Contact an appropriate subject area liaison librarian directly if you believe you have individual items of special research value that might be exceptions.  Otherwise, for alternatives, the American Library Association maintains a useful guide to book donation programs.

October 2020