Tulane University Libraries offer a broad range of general collections for study and research. These resources are located primarily at the main Howard-Tilton Memorial Library on Tulane's uptown campus, the Rudolph Matas Library of the Health Sciences downtown, and an off-site storage facility. Digital resources purchased for access through Tulane's campus network are also part of the general collections. Consequently, in addition to the books, media, and other physical materials that can be borrowed by the library's users, Tulane's students and faculty have ready access to a large array of library databases, more than 1.3 million eBooks, and articles in more than 197,700 serial titles online.
Collection development for the general collections is carried out through a program described in a regularly updated Collection Development Manual. The general collections are managed by liaison librarians assigned to the academic disciplines the collections support. Through their 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 coordinators for scholarly resources representing the humanities, science & engineering, and the social sciences & government publications. The library maintains a comprehensive set of collection development policies that outline considerations for each discipline. The framework for these policies is designed to reflect the academic department and interdisciplinary program structure of the university.
Faculty participation in the selection process is welcomed. Direct communication with liaison librarians is encouraged, as are requests for new materials. Book selection is augmented by the use of approval plans for domestic and foreign publications that automatically supply important titles based on detailed parameters. Because subscriptions involve both current and future funds, journal and database requests are scrutinized with extra care and online access to new and existing subscriptions is preferred. Sound collection management practices 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: 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.
- Values: The library seeks to incorporate the following values into its collection development practices: ethics as represented by ALA’s Code of Ethics; diverse collections as represented by ALA’s Diverse Collections: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights, taking care to acquire materials created by or representative of marginalized and underrepresented groups as well as content relevant to the study of New Orleans and its surrounding region; accessible collections as represented by ALA’s Services to People with Disabilities: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights; open access, open education, and open data as represented through positions framed by SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition).
The library limits its acceptance of physical gifts to books and other materials that will enhance the strength of its collections in support of Tulane's current academic profile. Of primary interest are unique or rare items with obvious research value. More information can be found on the gifts web page.
Flooding after Hurricane Katrina left Howard-Tilton Memorial Library with about 1.5 million books and folders of manuscripts underwater and an equal number of units of microform submerged as well. The salvage, restoration, and rebuilding of the library's affected collections and eventual remediation of its destroyed spaces is a library recovery story for the ages--one that very much distinguishes Tulane Libraries. See links below for more information.