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Collection Development Policy

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies | Library


The purpose of the collection development policy is to provide a reference point about which choices concerning the addition of new publications to the Library can be made. It indicates the criteria which should be used when choices are made concerning the purchase of new publications for the collection or accepting gifts and bequests. The aim is to indicate an overall policy for the development of the Library's collections and to describe their spread, which should be as evenly as possible, across the range of subjects and languages we aim to cover. It also considers the relationship between the Faculty Library and other Cambridge libraries with oriental collections including the University Library. The implementation of these guidelines is dependent on the availability of financial resources which are not evenly distributed among the subjects in our field of interest. All subject areas, however, have additional resources from trust funds or donations in addition to the recurrent funding provided by the University.


The Library is arranged and classified first by geographical region and secondly by subject area. The geographical scope of the collection includes Japan, China, the Indian Sub-Continent, countries of the Middle East and of Islamic North Africa. The range of languages covered includes Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin), Sanskrit, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew and the languages of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The range of subjects covered includes the language, literature, archaeology, history, travels, religion, philosophy, politics, economics, foreign relations and sociology of these countries. Not all of these subjects are covered in every geographical area, nor is each subject evenly represented within each subject area. The major part of the Library's collection is in the English language but there are also considerable numbers of publications in other European languages especially in German and French. There are also large holdings of publications in all the oriental languages taught in the Faculty although the proportion of the Library stock in the vernacular varies considerably between the different sections of the Library. There are also areas and languages which are peripheral to these major areas of interest and publications are sometimes added to the library in these areas by donation or by purchase when funds permit. These include subjects which have been taught in the Faculty in the past but no longer taught, subjects represented in bequests which have come to the Library in the past or which are about areas culturally close to those in which there is a major interest. These subjects/areas include Mongolia, Korea, Burma, Afghanistan and Sudan. The languages include Mongolian, Korean, Tibetan, languages of ancient Iran and a variety of modern languages of India other than those currently taught.


The primary function of the Faculty Library is to provide an academic collection for the use of undergraduates studying for the Oriental Studies Tripos. To some extent it also, because of its older founding collections, provides research material for M.Phil. students, research students and for academic staff both of the Oriental Faculty and of other Faculties with an interest in Oriental Subjects. All sections of the library attempt to collect basic encyclopaedias, bibliographical works, dictionaries and language teaching materials in their area of interest. In other respects the policy is not identical for each subject, partly because funding support also varies, and it is worth considering each section in more detail. Book purchases are made on the basis of recommendations made by teaching officers to the Librarian who has overall control of the funding. Recommendations are accepted from all teaching officers of the Faculty in the area of their expertise. The Library should also hold, as far as possible, a copy of every work cited on a reading list produced by a teaching officer for the guidance of their students.

Books in the Vernacular Languages

It is Library policy to acquire publications in all the vernacular languages which are taught in the Faculty. The Library is mainly, however, an English language collection and additions to the stock in oriental languages should be limited to a minority as should be determined by student needs in each language area. It is important to bear in mind that the processing of new publications in the vernacular is, at all stages, significantly more time-consuming for the Library staff than English-language publications and that the permanent Library staff are not equipped to process publications in all the languages in the Library's field of interest. Large numbers of publications in the vernacular languages are, however, often accepted as part of bequests and there is, therefore, sometimes a delay in processing these into the Library's stock.


As in any collection dealing in foreign language teaching, the Library acquires many texts in translation as well as in the original language. These are mainly literary works which are translated into English but there are also translations into other European languages where these are important and where none exists in English. Translations of literary works from English into oriental languages are not collected.

Collectiosn Relating to Specific Subject Areas
Egyptology and Assyriology

The collection aims to cover the archaeology of Ancient Egypt and also history of the ancient Egyptian civilization up to Graeco-Roman times. Archaeological reports are a significant part of the collection. Also purchased are publications on Egyptian religion, art and architecture; museum and exhibition catalogues are included in the collection. The collection also covers language teaching materials for the languages of ancient Egypt (hieroglyphs, Hieratic, Demotic and Coptic) and texts, translations and commentaries in these languages. The Assyriology section contains basic refererence material and a good collection of more specialized works on the archaeology, history and textual record of ancient Mesopotamia. The archaeology publications cover both prehistoric and historic periods, from ca. 10,000 BC through to the Achaemenid Period; included are excavation reports and works on architecture, cylinder seals, wall reliefs and other art historical studies. The history publications range from works with general chronological coverage to thematic period-specific studies. The publications on ancient texts cover literary, socio-economic and historical texts in the original Sumerian or Akkadian, plus translations into modern languages. Covered to a lesser extent are the archaeology, texts and history of the areas surrounding Mesopotamia; Turkey, Jordan and the Levant, Iran and the Arabian Gulf.


The Hebrew section aims to cover language teaching material for Hebrew in the classical, medieval and modern eras. Hebrew Bible texts, commentaries and background material to biblical studies are the basis of the collection. Also included are Syriac and Aramaic language materials and texts, also studies in comparative Semitics. There are sections on background to the Old Testament and the archaeology of Palestine. A medieval Hebrew and Rabbinics section contains texts and commentaries of medieval Jewish writers and publications on Jewish history, religion and institutions. Hellenistic Jewish literature, Greek and Latin Bible are also represented. There is a fast-growing modern Hebrew section which covers literary and critical works of twentieth century Israeli writers and also the modern history of Israel.

Islamic Studies

The collection covers language teaching materials for Arabic and Persian languages. There are sections containing descriptive works, historical travels, history, philosophy and literature of Arabic speaking countries, including those in North Africa. Also included are studies of Koran and Hadith and associated religious texts and commentaries. Art and architecture of Islamic countries are purchased when funds permit. Politics and economics of the modern Middle East is not collected consistently because of the lack of funds. This aspect of the subject was, in the past, covered by the CMEIS but funds are now very limited. A similar range of subjects is covered for Persian studies which includes classical and modern literature, Persian history and culture up to Qajar and modern Iran. There is a section on ancient Iran including Zoroastrian texts and publications concerning other early languages of Iran which link also with Assyriology and Central Asian studies. There is a small Turkish section consisting of publications on language, Ottoman history, modern history and politics of Turkey and both classical and modern literature.

Indian Studies

The Indian Studies section of the Library covers Sanskrit and Hindi language teaching with literary texts and commentaries in these languages. There is also a section on Buddhist texts in Pali and Prakrit and the collection also contains a small number of publications in other Indian languages though these are not collected consistently. There is now an initiative to collect Urdu material for teaching purposes. Cultural aspects of Indian civilization also covered including history, with special reference to the history of India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Also, publications on caste and social structure, philosophy (including texts), religion (including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam) are collected extensively. Where funds permit, publications on art, sculpture and architecture are purchased. The archaeology of India and Pakistan are covered by a separately housed section which also includes material on epigraphy, inscriptions and numismatics. There is a small section of publications on Tibet, Nepal, Kashmir, Bangladesh and Burma but these areas are not consistently collected. Publications on South-East Asia are not collected by the Library; any gifts in this area are redirected to the Library of the Centre of South Asian Studies.


The collection supports undergraduate teaching in Chinese language (Mandarin) and Chinese literary texts, both classical and modern. There is a large collection on Chinese history from earliest times to the twentieth century which also includes biographical works. Also collected are works on geography, ethnology and economics. Religion and philosophy, including texts and commentaries, are also represented. Publications on archaeology, art and architecture are purchased when funds permit. Science and medicine are not collected as these subjects are covered by the Needham Research Institute. The collection includes publications which originate in the PRC and also from Hong Kong and Taiwan. The collection also contains, mainly as parts of bequests received in the past, some specialist research material and publications in the languages of the ethnic minorities of China.


The Japanese section of the Library includes publications on Japanese culture and on Japanese history from early times up to the present day. Works on religion (Shinto, Buddhism and others), philosophy and biography are also collected. There is a large section of literary texts, both classical and modern, with translations and commentaries. More recently publications have been purchased which cover aspects of modern Japanese culture, sociology, foreign relations, economics, business and management and this now forms an important part of the collection. In these subjects there is an overlap with the Libraries of Economics and the Judge Institute. Publications on archaeology, art and architecture and theatre are purchased when funds permit.

Mongolia and Central Asia

There is a small section of the Library devoted to the study of Mongolia and Central Asia which is based on the collection of Owen Lattimore. This was transferred to the library on permanent loan in 1990. There is no regular funding to support this section but important new publications are sometimes purchased from a general fund. Relevant items from bequests are often added to this section.

Book Purchase

New publications for the Library are purchased on the basis of their relevance to the courses taught in the Faculty. Suggestions are received from teaching officers for items which directly support the courses they teach, which can be single items of in the form of lists. Multiple copies of a publication heavily used by students can be purchased up to a limit of three and one copy is restricted to a reference copy or overnight loan. Where there is a choice, hardback publications are preferred to paperback but paperbacks are purchased if this is all that is available or funds are very short. New editions are not automatically purchased but obtained if they are significant reference works or specifically requested by teaching officers. Lost books are not automatically replaced but new copies are purchased when specifically requested or where the item is frequently used by students. Publications are sometimes purchased if they support special collections which are housed in the Faculty Library for historical reasons. These can include works concerning particular areas, languages or on oriental scholarship.

Special categories of publication:
  • Reference books
    An up-to-date collection of reference works is maintained as funds permit. Reference books containing historical, linguistic or biographical information concentrating on oriental subjects are especially important.
  • Periodicals
    Subscriptions are held for academic periodicals within the subject areas taught in the Faculty. The recurrent funding covers subscriptions to journals which are of general interest across the field of oriental studies or to more than one subject. The remainder of the recurrent grant for periodicals is spread across the various subject fields as evenly as possible. Any additional subscriptions must be paid from Trust Funds which support individual subjects areas. Some subscriptions to primary journals in the field of oriental studies duplicate subscriptions in the University Library (UL) but many titles are taken by the Faculty Library and not by the UL. The whereabouts of other subscriptions held locally, including other Faculty and Departmental libraries, is always taken into consideration when a new subscription is suggested as the funding available for new journals is extremely limited. Newspapers and more ephemeral journals are also purchased, many in the vernacular languages, to assist with language learning. The aim is to cover all the languages taught in the Faculty by some publications in the vernacular. Some journals are received from the academic staff as gifts. Back-runs of journals are also sometimes donated to the Library.
  • Standing orders
    As well as periodicals subscriptions a large number of publications are purchased on standing order which arrive at random intervals. These are often large-scale dictionary publications, text series, or bibliographical works. They form an important part of Library acquisitions.
  • Maps
    The Library has a collection of over 1000 atlases and maps, including some antiquarian maps. These have been acquired mainly as gifts, often in connection with archaeological interests, although some new maps are purchased, on request, if they fall within the areas if interest of Faculty teaching. There is no agreed policy to collect cartographic material on a regular basis or to duplicate the holdings of the UL in this area.
  • Manuscripts and archives
    The Library holds a small collection of archives consisting of the private papers of a number of orientalists, often past Faculty members. Some of these collections are of photographic negatives or prints or some contain photographs within a collection of papers. These collections also contain a very small number of manuscripts and a variety of artifacts. It is not the Library's general policy to accept archive collections as there are no suitable arrangements in place to process these or to make these available to readers, nor does the library have a full-time archivist on the staff. If possible, archive collections should be directed to a Library (possibly the UL) which has suitable accommodation and staffing to deal with these.
  • Rare books
    The Library has a collection of around 500 volumes of rare publications, mainly early printed books (some dating back to the sixteenth century), which came to the Library mainly as part of the founding collections. These are kept separately from the other Library stock in secure accommodation. New items are not generally added to this collection unless rare items come to the Library as part of a bequest.
  • Theses
    Undergraduate dissertations are collected by the Library which aims to have a complete collection of all those produced by students of the Faculty. PhD theses are accepted if offered as a gift in addition to the copy deposited in the UL. Published theses from other universities are purchased from UMI when specially requested.
  • Microforms, audio-visual material and electronic media
    The library possesses a small collection of items on microfilm and microfiche and is also actively collecting video recordings mainly of films from the countries in our field of interest. Film is becoming an important aspect of some undergraduate studies especially those in Japanese and Chinese. The Library purchases audio- and videotapes which support language teaching in various subjects. These are borrowed by teaching officers for use in class or by the students for private learning sessions. There is close co-operation with the library of the Language Centre on purchasing policy so that items are not duplicated. However, on occasion it has been decided to buy copies of audio tapes for both the Faculty Library and the Language Centre so that the Faculty copy can be used for teaching and the Language Centre copy for private study. Publications in other electronic media are purchased if these are relevant to our field of interest and if funds permit - there is, however, no funding especially earmarked for this purpose and the cost is borne by the general book fund. Care is taken to check with other libraries, especially the UL if these publications being bought elsewhere. Items which have been purchased so far include bibliographies and texts in Hebrew and Islamic studies on CD-ROM and downloaded software; more CD-ROM databases are planned for the future.
Relationship to Other Cambridge Libraries

The Faculty Library aims to provide reading matter for undergraduates reading the Oriental Studies Tripos which is not the primary concern of the University Library and also to complement the oriental collections of the UL in some areas of special strength. The Faculty duplicates publications which are held by the UL where these are used by undergraduate students. The Faculty Library also holds and purchases items which are not in the UL; these are mainly foreign publications, many from Europe or the USA and rare items which are in the Faculty's early collections and have come to the Faculty Library by bequest. The Faculty Library's purchasing decisions also take into consideration the holdings of other Libraries in Cambridge which overlap in interest. These include the Faculties of Classics, Divinity, MML, SPS and History, the Centre of South Asian Studies, the Skilliter Library, the Ancient India and Iran Trust and Tyndale House. The Faculty may decide to duplicate a well- used item which is also in another of these libraries but may also decided not to purchase an items which is held in another library nearby if demand is not likely to be very great.

Donations and Special Collections

The Library is offered many collections of books as gifts and bequests from orientalists connected with Cambridge and from elsewhere. If they are within the field of interest of the Faculty Library, if there is shelf space to house them and if they are reasonably small (i.e. less than 500 vols), these are usually accepted. In the case of gifts and bequests which are larger than this consideration must be given to the amount of staff time likely to be taken in their processing. If there is no possibility of the books being catalogued within a reasonable time of, say, five years, they could be offered to the UL or another relevant collection. It is important to check whether there is any restriction of items being disposed of if they are found to be duplicate copies of items already held or if they are in other respects surplus to the Faculty Library's requirements.

Disposal of Stock

The vast majority of the Library's stock is kept permanently and is purchased with this aim in mind. There are some exceptions to this practice such as items which become unusable through damage or wear and are discarded. Sometimes publications arrive as gifts which are considered to be more relevant to the UL collections in which case they are transferred there. Sometimes, in the same way, publications can be transferred to other Faculty or Departmental libraries if they fall within their subject area. In some cases where the Library possesses duplicate copies of publications which are no longer needed and which are taking up much-needed shelf space. These items (after being offered to the UL) are sometimes sold and the resulting funding used to add new publications to the relevant section of the Library.

Updating the Policy

The policy should be revieved for updating at the meeting of the Faculty Library Committee held in the Michaelmas Term each year when a discussion is held about the division of the Library's recurrent funding between the various subject areas.

Catherine Ansorge - Librarian, Faculty of Oriental Studies.