This policy supports the Library Services Strategic Plan. Our collections contribute to us achieving our mission ‘To inspire Imperial’s communities of learners and researchers by connecting them to information and expertise’. They are one of the user-focused services that we provide and directly support Strategic Priorities 1, 2, and 4.

As the needs of our users change, we continually review and evolve our collections to meet their changing demands. Likewise, as the scholarly communications landscape changes, the way we build and manage our collections is also changing. Therefore, we will review this policy annually to ensure that it reflects the most appropriate methods for managing our collections.

Throughout the policy, we refer to our evaluation criteria, which informs our purchasing and subscription decisions for paid for content, and our inclusion of open access resources in our collections. 

Collections policy

Key principles

  1. Our collections and information resources support the research, teaching and learning needs of College communities and provide the evidence base for clinical practice, research, education and management decisions of staff in our partner NHS Trusts.

  2. We regularly review these in line with our evaluation criteria to ensure they reflect College and our partner NHS Trusts’ changing needs.

  3. Selection, retention and withdrawal decisions are made by library staff in consultation with academic departments and NHS representatives where necessary.

  4. We adhere to the principles of universal access to information and intellectual freedom and do not restrict access to materials unless the content is illegal. The presence of an item in the Library’s collections is in no way an endorsement of the views expressed within the work, or a mark of approval of the work. Furthermore, we endorse the IFLA Statement on Libraries and Intellectual Freedom.

  5. We welcome suggestions for new information resources from current students, staff members (including NHS staff) and alumni. All suggestions will be considered in line with our evaluation criteria.

  6. Where an item is not available in print, or electronically, in our collections we will, where possible, supply it via the Document Delivery Service.

  7. We are committed to supporting open access publishing initiatives wherever possible. This includes pledging funds towards making resources open access and incorporating open access material into our collections where appropriate.

  8. We make format choices with the aim of providing maximum availability and accessibility to the full range of our users.

Evaluation criteria

Our evaluation criteria inform our purchasing and subscription decisions for paid for content and our inclusion of open access resources in our collections. If resources no longer meet these criteria, we may choose to withdraw them from our collections.

  • Relevance and value to our communities
  • Value for money (for paid resources)
  • Accessibility
  • Access to multiple concurrent users rather than single users wherever possible
  • Integration with College authentication systems
  • Favourable licence terms, including:
    • walk-in access
    • alumni access
    • post-cancellation access

Books, e-books and e-textbooks


Our book, e-book and e-textbook collections primarily support the teaching, learning and research needs of our communities.

We will also buy books of general interest for the Arts, Humanities and General Interest – Haldane Collection providing support for Imperial Horizons and recreational reading.

We will normally purchase the most recent edition, unless there is a clear reason why a previous edition is required for teaching or research.


E-textbooks are titles which are central to learning and teaching and are often designated as ‘core resources’ on reading lists. They are only available via annual subscription licences with pricing models based on one copy per student.

Increasingly expensive e-textbook licensing models have become more common for core texts and other popular academic titles. Library Services do not consider e-textbook models to be a sustainable solution to the provision of online access to textbook content. As a result Library Services advises against the inclusion of e-textbook licensed content on reading lists and will seek to work with academics to identify alternative resources where appropriate.

Where e-textbook licensing is the only option for core resources, Library Services will aim to negotiate the best prices possible. Due to budget limitations, we cannot guarantee that we will be able to purchase all requested e-textbooks.

Library Services will regularly review the usage and value for money provided by e-textbooks and share this data with reading list owners to ensure these resources are being well used, in line with the core resource designation. Where low-performing titles are identified, subject librarians will work with teaching staff to ensure that these titles are appropriately promoted. Where e-textbook titles continue to offer poor value for money, Library Services will, in consultation with academic colleagues, propose cancellation in order to free up funds for other high-demand resources.

Withdrawal of books

We will withdraw:

  • superseded editions of books, keeping the latest and previous editions regardless of format
  • infrequently used books
  • books in poor physical condition, replacing where appropriate
  • books which no longer support the College's research and teaching
  • resources which no longer meet our evaluation criteria

We have an agreement to send withdrawn books to, however we will occasionally consider applications for donations to charity.

Withdrawal of print journals

We will make withdrawal decisions based on the availability of titles elsewhere e.g. via UKRR (United Kingdom Research Reserve) or as sustainable e-journal backfiles.

Withdrawn print journals will be offered to UKRR.

Reading lists

Academic departments are responsible for providing Library Services with details of recommended readings for new and existing courses, allowing sufficient time for us to order and process recommendations.

Material on reading lists must be identified as either core, supplementary or background reading.

  • Core reading – essential to the course, all students will need to use this text
  • Supplementary reading – supplementary texts, students are encouraged to use these texts
  • Background reading – additional texts which are suggested for background subject area reading

We try to obtain core reading material on reading lists in an electronic form wherever possible to ensure ease of access.

Library Services will buy multiple copies of an item designated as core reading, according to the number of students registered on the module.

Usually, only one copy will be purchased of items designated as supplementary reading.

Library Services will not usually automatically purchase copies of items designated as background reading, but we will facilitate access to background reading material wherever possible.

We are responsive to high demand and will purchase further copies of print books if necessary.

Online resources

Online resources include resources such as e-journals, databases, streaming services and e-book collections whether paid for or open access.

  • Selection and cancellation decisions are made by your librarian, in accordance with evaluation criteria.
  • Access to online resources is provided subject to licensing terms and conditions.
  • Where there is a choice of provider or platform, we will select the most suitable based on user experience, cost and inter-operability with other services.
  • Departments wishing to fund a particular resource should contact their librarian who can help to organise the licensing, invoicing and access arrangements.
  • We will offer remote access to online resources for College alumni, where this offers value for money and where licences allow.
  • Where we offer full online access to a journal title, we will not normally keep print copies.

Purchasing subscriptions and inclusion decisions for online resources:

  • Suggestions for purchasing or subscribing to paid for online resources are taken by the relevant Subject Librarian to the Content Operations Group. Over a certain monetary value, a recommendation to invest in the resource is escalated to the Content Strategy Group.
  • Due to the ongoing financial commitment required for subscription resources, the decision-making process can take longer and we might not be able to subscribe to every suggested resource
  • Suggestions for including open access online resources in our collections are taken by the relevant Subject Librarian. If the resource is cross-disciplinary in nature the Subject Librarian will take the recommendation to the Content Operations Group for a final decision. If there are significant questions or concerns about the validity of the publisher or the platform, the relevant Subject Librarian will consult with the Open Access Team.

Theses and dissertations

This policy covers Imperial College London research and taught degree theses and dissertations.    

Theses for research degrees (PhD, MPhil, MD and MS)

Students must deposit a digital copy of their thesis in Spiral, the College’s Institutional Repository.

Though submission is now digital, we maintain a print reference collection of our older research theses.

Online access to digital theses is provided through Spiral. Where theses are held in the Library in print, and are not currently digitised, requests for a digital copy can be made via the Document Delivery Service.

Dissertations and projects as part of taught courses (MSc, MBA)

Academic departments may deposit a digital copy of their students’ dissertations in Spiral.

DSc theses

We will add a digital copy of the DSc thesis to Spiral.

DIC theses

We no longer accept DIC theses.


Offers of donations should be made by email to, including a list of items (please include the author, title and publication date of the resource as a minimum, and any other details you have available). We will not accept donations left at any of our libraries without prior consent to their acceptance. We will accept items that meet our evaluation criteria.

  • Material on offer must be in good physical condition
  • We cannot accept obsolete textbooks or items in obsolete or inaccessible format
  • We will not normally bookplate donations
  • We will not normally pay for transportation
  • We cannot guarantee that the Library will keep donated items, we pass on unwanted donated items to

Other information resources


We add maps to the collection where they support current research and teaching needs, or for inclusion in the Arts, Humanities and General Interest – Haldane Collection, providing support for Imperial Horizons and recreational reading.

Other materials

We will consider purchase requests for other materials. All purchase decisions are at the discretion of the relevant Subject Librarian.

Special collections

We have a number of special collections of historical interest. We do not normally add to these collections.