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Collection Policy

Read our policy guiding decisions around the Health Sciences Library collections.

Health Sciences Library Collection Policy


  • The Health Sciences Library takes an evidence-informed and holistic approach to developing and sustaining collections to advance health-focused research, professional clinical education, and scholarship at McMaster University.
  • Our priority is to provide an electronic collection that serves learners and researchers in a distributed environment, in order to provide the most equitable and efficient access to health information.
  • Our digital collections focus on the most current information, and they are not static. We do not guarantee long-term preservation for every item.
  • The library’s print circulating collection is not static, and most clinical subjects are reviewed for out of date material in order to ensure best practices in healthcare.  We do not retain every item purchased in perpetuity, though items accepted into the  History of Health and Medicine or the Archives collections are retained in accordance with their own collecting mandates.

The Health Sciences Library has two types of collections

  1. “Collections of Use” that support McMaster research, health professional programs, and study in the area of health. They are:
  • Evidence-based in support of health curriculums and learning for patient care
  • Broad-based to support a wide range of health research, scholarship, and learning
  • Easily discoverable, accessible and compatible with tools that clinical learners and scholars use in their everyday lives
  • Built and managed through several means:
    • Local collections (purchases, licensed subscriptions, locally preserved digital collections, donations)
    • Networked collections (consortially licensed content via OCUL, CRKN, open Internet collections)
    • Borrowed collections (through ILL)
  1. “Collections of Record” that are selectively curated for the long term stewardship of Faculty of Health Sciences contributions to scholarship.

The Health Sciences Library plays a critical role in upholding intellectual freedom:

We strive to acquire and make available the widest variety of materials, including those that may be considered unconventional, unpopular, or unacceptable.

As a member of Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) the Health Sciences Library supports the Statement of Freedom of Expression in Research Libraries (adopted by CARL membership, ca. 1987):

All persons in Canada have a fundamental right, as embodied in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Bill of Rights, to have access to all expressions of knowledge, creativity and intellectual activity.

It is the responsibility of research libraries to facilitate access to all expressions of knowledge, opinion, intellectual activity and creativity from all periods of history to the current era including those which some may consider unconventional, unpopular, unorthodox or unacceptable.

To this end research libraries shall acquire and make available, through purchase or resource sharing, the widest variety of materials that support the scholarly pursuits of their communities. (Source: CARL Guiding Principles – Freedom of Expression)

Health Sciences Library Collection Guideline


The Library prioritizes the purchase of electronic format for new resources. Requests for the print version may be submitted to the Collection Team for consideration.


The Library acquires English-language materials, though non-English journals may be available through subscriptions to journal packages.


The library normally maintains unlimited user access for journals. Access to books may be unlimited or limited by the number of users at one time.  Requests to increase the number users for a title may be requested through the Collection Team. The majority of our resources are accessible remotely via McMaster ID and password.

Donations / Gifts

The Library does not accept donations for the general collection, however we accept donations of material that fall within the scope of our History of Health and Medicine areas of interest.

For information on donating materials to the library, please see the Health Sciences Library Donation Policy:


Evidence-based weeding of materials in all formats is an essential component of the Library’s collection management responsibilities, in order to:

  • Ensure that the overall collection is current for patient care
  • Relevant and useful to McMaster researchers and students
  • Eliminate outdated and worn-out materials
  • Replace content with updated formats
  • Maximize shelf and floor space
  • Make materials more accessible and easier to find
Weeding occurs:
  • On a day-to-day basis, as staff handle/process materials (ie. Removing older editions of ebooks)
  • Annually in the summer
  • On a project basis, as needed

Types of Materials Acquired for the Collection

  • Our priority is to purchase barrier-free (Digital Rights Management-free), unlimited user access
  • Single user access ebooks are acquired selectively when the multiple or unlimited access option is too expensive
  • Access to ebooks is provided via multiple AODA-compliant platforms
Print books
  • Print books are not actively collected in most subject areas, but are purchased when the ebook is not available
  • In support of McMaster Children’s Hospital-Hamilton Health Sciences, the library will purchase core titles in print for the following subject areas: obstetrics & gynecology, women’s health, neonatology, pediatrics, and pediatric surgery.
  • “e” preferred
  • E -journal backfiles (to replace print) are purchased very selectively, as funds permit
  • The Library subscribes to selected online streaming sources in support of clinical learning