Lots of books piled up on top of each other in a few piles that are also leaning to one side because there are so many.

Library collections policy

Our collections are internationally recognised for their outstanding importance

The policy, strategy, and criteria for acquiring items for the Library are described here.


Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
Intellectual Freedom and Censorship
Criteria of Selection
Acquisition of Material
Cataloguing of Material
Management of Material



As LSE Library, we select, acquire, catalogue and manage material to support teaching, learning and research at LSE. In our national research library role as the British Library of Political and Economic Sciences (BLPES), we build and maintain collections of national significance in the social sciences, but more specifically, the two flagship collections identified in a recent evaluation of our collections. These collections focus on:

(a) British political and economic history, with a particular emphasis on:

  • the modern era, from the last quarter of the 19th century onwards
  • the work of national pressure groups, campaigners, reformers and think tanks, and their efforts to influence public debate and policy 

The collection covers a wide range of people, events, ideas and movements. However, six themes have been identified as special strengths:

  • Women’s equality and rights 
  • LGBT+ equality and rights 
  • Peace and internationalism 
  • Britain’s relationship with the European Union 
  • Development of left-wing thought 
  • Poverty and welfare  

(b) The development of the social sciences in the UK, with a particular emphasis on the history and intellectual legacy of LSE and its members.

This policy outlines our collection development and management decisions and covers the entire lifecycle of published material, from selection and acquisition to cataloguing and management. We will regularly review and improve our practices; therefore, this collections policy will be a dynamic working document that changes according to circumstances and need.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Collections are the heart of an academic library but they are also a reflection of their parent institution. We want to make our collections as accessible, inclusive and representative of the entire LSE community as possible, to meet the LSE 2030 [PDF] priority of ‘developing LSE for everyone’. We have worked with different parts of the LSE community to develop this policy, particularly Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). We will continue to work with LSE colleagues to improve our collection development and management processes, whilst also learning from best practice developed at other academic libraries.

We have developed this policy to not just comply with the Equality Act (2010), but we have also reflected on diversity and inclusivity recommendations from other organisations, including the  American Library Association (ALA) and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). We especially aim to identify where groups are underrepresented in or adversely impacted by our collections and will take active measures to improve this.

We recognise that our collections are very Western-centric by nature, and are dominated by UK and US published titles, which are published mainly in English and Western European languages. We intend to diversify our collections in forthcoming years. This includes using a wider range of suppliers, purchasing titles in the social sciences from countries and regions less represented in our collections, and increasing the range of language of titles in our collections. LSE is a diverse institution with students and staff from around 150 countries, with a global research outlook and impact. We believe it is necessary to provide access to collections that both reflect the LSE community and supports the global research being undertaken.

We are particularly interested in working with academic staff who are developing more inclusive and representative reading lists. We can provide data from our reading list platform, Leganto, on the current diversity of reading lists. We can recommend academic publishers from Africa, Asia and Latin America and we will increase the range of material available to be used in teaching and research. We will be flexible with our processes to make sure we aim to acquire all materials that are needed, wherever they need to be sourced from. We are also keen for our users to participate in making our collections more diverse by recommending titles for purchase using our Get It For Me service. 

A more detailed breakdown of the criteria used in identifying and selecting potential acquisitions can be found in the Archives Collection Development Policy [PDF]. Our archive collections also lack diversity, and here again we aim to identify communities which are underrepresented in our collections and to take active measures to improve this.

Intellectual Freedom and Censorship 

We acquire material to facilitate teaching, learning and research at LSE. In doing so we support the principles of universal access to information and intellectual freedom. We do not exclude material because of the ideas or opinions expressed within the content. The presence of any material within our collections does not imply an endorsement of the ideas or opinions expressed within the content. However, we believe we have a duty to curate our collections responsibly and we may take measures to minimise offence.  

Criteria of Selection

We select and collect material in the social sciences in the broadest sense. We have two main print book collections, each with a different purpose:

  • Course Collection. This contains material used in teaching, based on reading lists compiled by academic staff. These are shorter loan items, available for LSE students and staff only.
  • Main Collection. This contains background reading or more research-based titles in the social sciences. These are longer loan items, available for all LSE users, and selected through various approaches. 

Where possible and appropriate, we will prioritise the purchase of electronic books, so we can deliver more titles to the widest audience, whilst at the same time effectively managing our space. The COVID-19 pandemic has identified the need to provide service continuity and equal access to material in any circumstances. However, we remain flexible and will purchase titles in the most appropriate format for the user.

Acquisition of Material

We acquire material with the following aims: 

  • Providing sufficient multiple copies/licences to meet demand.
  • Ensuring that all online titles are accessible and easy to access.
  • Providing a choice of formats, with all essential readings available in both print and online formats, where possible.
  • Ensuring that students’ experience of online reading list provision is consistent across all departments. 
  • Prioritising online access where appropriate and where it provides the widest audience with the resources they need; particularly with journal subscriptions, although decision-making will often be based on cost or long-term access.

To meet these aims when acquiring material, we will: 

  • Make use of national consortia framework and other national agreements.
  • Use a mix of acquisition and supply models.
  • Take a demand-driven and evidence-based approach.
  • Improve accessibility of material.
  • Regularly review subscriptions and ensure they meet current teaching, learning and research needs and anticipate future needs.


On occasion we acquire books and other print materials as donations, and most archive collections are acquired as gifts from the creator or owner. Due to space constraints and cataloguing capacity, we minimise the number of donations accepted. We will prioritise donations from within the LSE community and those which reflect the flagship collections identified above. Book donations will be absorbed into the Main Collection, whilst archives will be managed accordingly.

Cataloguing of Material 

We aim to catalogue materials in an inclusive way and endorse and apply the Cataloguing Code of Ethics

We catalogue library collections to international standards and make use of Library of Congress Name and Subject vocabularies and Library of Congress classification and Dewey Decimal Classification. The historic nature of these standards means that they have a white, western and male perspective and contain some terminology which is not inclusive. 

The international use of these standards across academic institutions means that we are not unique in the issues this raises. Local and manual solutions for non-inclusive language are not likely to be practical or possible to maintain, so where possible we will engage in discussion and collaborative solutions on an international level. When changes are made on an international level, we will reflect these in Library Search where appropriate. 

We catalogue archival collections in line with national and international standards. Archival materials may contain outdated or problematic attitudes and language. We aim to describe this material in a respectful and inclusive way without erasing or hiding its problematic history, in line with emerging professional protocols. 

Management of Material

Open access storage of our collections is nearly at capacity, therefore an important part of managing our collections is stock editing, which involves relegating material to offsite storage, or withdrawing it from stock according to the item’s status as either flagship, heritage, teaching and research, or low priority.

In deciding the most appropriate location for each collection, the following factors are considered:

  • Security and preservation requirements.
  • Frequency of use.
  • Ease of discovery.
  • Ease of retrieval.
  • Accuracy of shelving.
  • Access for collection management.
  • Accruing collections.

An ongoing programme of stock editing is undertaken as necessary. Items will be reviewed for withdrawal where they are:

  • superseded editions
  • multiple copies (except where required for teaching)
  • items that no longer support current school research and teaching
  • available in a secure electronic format
  • damaged beyond repair and do not merit replacement

Withdrawn stock is offered to charities, from whom we may receive a percentage of the sell-on profit.

Items will be retained if they:

  • have significant associations with LSE
  • are included in a contractual or collaborative agreement
  • reflect our commitment to developing more diverse and inclusive collections

We are a participant in the United Kingdom Research Reserve (UKRR), a collaborative national research collection of periodicals. Print copies of journals are withdrawn from stock where we have guaranteed access to the electronic backfile.

*Page last updated June 2023*