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

The policy, strategy, and criteria for acquiring items for the Library are described here. All collections held at LSE in the Library have been recognised for their outstanding national and international importance and awarded 'Designation' status by the Arts Council.

Principles of Collection Policy

The Library aims to acquire collection materials in support of teaching, learning and research at LSE. In addition, the Library collections provide a resource of national and international importance for researchers working in the social sciences.

Materials are selected on the basis of their subject content, following the collection development policies which are agreed in consultation with the academic community of the School.

The Library will give priority to acquiring materials in electronic format where this gives:

  • enhanced service quality for our users in terms of access and use of the material
  • value for money for the School
  • appropriate assurances of long-term access to the content

The Library is committed to collecting, preserving and making available the digital research output of LSE, including theses, research papers, and research data.

The Library is mindful of its role as an archival collection for the social sciences. Where the principles set out above cannot be met through the acquisition of materials in electronic format alone, a copy in print format will be acquired.

The Library collects significant material in the social sciences on a worldwide basis, paying particular attention to the integrated and interdisciplinary approach of the School. The interdisciplinary nature of the social sciences and its publications means that the boundaries of any particular subject or discipline cannot be easily determined and described in isolation. For the purpose of collection development, a 'core area' of specialisation within the social sciences is defined for intensive collection.

Within this core area collection is to research level, i.e. to a level where independent research in the published sources can be pursued. Politics, economics and social studies form the nucleus which embraces, for example, the political, economic and social aspects of anthropology, geography, law and philosophy.

Aspects of these and other subjects which fall outside the 'core' may be excluded (eg. physical anthropology and geography), or collected more selectively to research level (eg. sociolinguistics). 

General Policy Statement

The policy, strategy, and criteria for acquiring items for the Library are described here. The aim is to provide information for use within the Library so that consistency and continuity are achieved in the management of the collections; and also publicity for the users of the Library so that the strengths and weaknesses of the collections are known, and users know how to influence future collecting developments.

All collections held at LSE in the Library have been recognised for their outstanding national and international importance and awarded 'Designation' status by the Arts Council (formerly Museums Libraries and Archives Council). 

For full information regarding our general collection policy see our:

General Policy Statement [PDF] 

Intellectual Freedom and Censorship

The Library acquires materials to facilitate teaching learning and research at the School. In doing so it supports the principles of universal access to information and intellectual freedom. The Library does not exclude materials because of the ideas or opinions expressed within the content. The presence of any particular material within the Library's collections does not imply its endorsement of the ideas or opinions expressed within the content.

Collection Development Policies

The Library's collection development policies are published here, as an indication of the scope and limits of our collections. Our aim is to sustain a continuing collection of research material in the social sciences, paying particular attention to the integrated and interdisciplinary approach of LSE.

All collections held at LSE in the Library have been recognised for their outstanding national and international importance and awarded 'Designation' status by the Arts Council (formerly Museums Libraries and Archives Council).

Collection Development Policies [PDF]

Criteria for Selection

Within the financial resources available the Library's aim is to acquire to research level in the major European languages in the subjects in which it specialises; to acquire materials required for teaching; and to provide a selection of other relevant publications.

In theoretical subjects (such as economic theory for example) publications are not usually acquired in languages other than English. In historical and descriptive subjects publications in the language of the geographical area concerned are acquired on the same basis as publications in English (as long as the relevant language is a European one) but not usually in other languages.


Our current collecting is focussed around three broad thematic areas (economics and social policy; politics and international relations; equality rights and citizenship). We are particularly interested in the archives of organisations and individuals who have shaped the development of legislation, policy and services at a national level, or significantly influenced the public agenda in other ways. We assess potential acquisitions against a range of criteria, including the informational and evidential value; relationship with our other holdings; collecting strengths of other institutions; physical condition; and resource requirements for processing, storage and access.

Further details are available in the Archives Collection Development Policy [PDF]


Very little, if anything, is unconditionally excluded from consideration, but a pragmatic rule is to exclude works of fiction, books of readings, rehashed material and elementary textbooks,  and also books which are primarily practitioners' tools (unless in each of these cases they are required for essential course reading).

Pamphlets and ephemera

Source material for research in British politics and social affairs includes pamphlets, leaflets, memoirs and all kinds of ephemeral material which may often not be of academic value in themselves but can be of potential importance to academic research. The Library tries to collect as much of this type of material as possible, some of it decidedly ephemeral, and in the case of some propaganda, likely to cause offence to groups of users. In this respect the Library tries to collect opinion and propaganda from all points of view no matter how extreme.


The scope is theoretically as wide as for books but more limited in practice. This is because of the continuing and escalating costs of serial publications. Current policy is to hold periodic reviews of serial holdings to ensure that the most cost effective collection is being maintained for the research and teaching needs of our users. The Library will give priority to acquiring serials in electronic format according to its stated "e-first" policy.

Official Publications

Policy for official publications recognises that government documents are in themselves a source of primary research material by the very nature of their publishers. They are therefore collected extensively for all countries of the world to the same depth as other source materials, and by subject on the same principles as commercially published books and journals.

Coverage of United Kingdom official publications is a top priority. An exchange agreement with the United States ensures an extensive collection of federal government publications. For other countries we aim at completeness in those central government publications which contain economic or social data or illustrate the processes of government and public administration. State/provincial and local government publications are not collected extensively.

Publications of intergovernmental organisations are collected on the same principles as governmental publications although depository and exchange agreements with the United Nations, European Communities, and the Organization of American States, mean that their publications are often acquired beyond our normal subject coverage.


Copies of LSE PhD theses have been historically collected in print. From 2012 electronic copies are increasingly available through LSE Theses Online

Other formats

No distinction is made regarding format of material. The Library will therefore collect relevant material in  print, microform, and digital format.  NB. Materials may be withdrawn if  superseded by new formats (e.g. CD-Rom by web based services), or because of obsolescent technology (e.g. microcards).


Primary material is acquired in microform where existing strengths in the collection can be supplemented.


A small audio-visual collection is maintained largely of material required for teaching purposes.


New maps are no longer acquired, and atlases only selectively.

Electronic information sources

As regards content, electronic information sources are acquired using the same selection criteria applied to other formats. The Library will give priority to acquiring materials in electronic format where this gives:

  • enhanced service quality for our users in terms of access and use of the material
  • value for money for the School
  • appropriate assurances of long-term access to the content

Access is available to most of these sources via the Library Catalogue on the School network.  Some CD-ROMS are available only from the Library Service Counter.

NB. Electronic sources may be withdrawn from the Library if superseded by access format (e.g. CD-Rom superseded by web based service), other eservices, or because of changes in licence terms.


The Library welcomes gifts of books and other materials which support the teaching and research needs of LSE and which fall within the Library's collection development policy.

Anyone wishing to donate materials to the Library should contact the Collection Development Manager. Wherever possible it is very helpful to supply a list of publications for checking. All donations will be acknowledged.

Material which is deemed suitable will be integrated into the collections according to subject. It is not possible, except in exceptional circumstances, to maintain separate collections.

Material may not be accepted for the following reasons:

  • It duplicates items already in stock unless further copies are needed for the Course Collection
  • It is in poor physical condition (i.e. brittle paper, water damage, writing on pages, torn and/or missing pages)
  • Journals may only be accepted if they are full runs or fill gaps in current holdings.

The wishes of donors concerning unwanted items are ascertained and disposals made in accordance with them.  

Retention and Disposal Policy

This section lays down general principles to guide decisions on retention and disposal of printed material from Main Collection stock. Procedures are in place for Course Collection material. Gifts are covered by the donations policy.


The chief criteria for retention of stock relate to its present and potential future importance for LSE teaching and research. The Library will therefore aim to keep material falling into the following categories:

  • Material required for teaching
  • High use material
  • Research material in 'core areas', as defined in the Library's collection development policies. Including material covered by any collaborative collection management scheme.

To date the Library is participating in the following:

  • BL Concordat (Western European Government publications)
  • Co-FoR (Russian and East European Studies)
  • SCOLMA (selected African materials)
  • Unique, rare or hard to obtain material.
  • Historically deposited collections, unless permission is given to dispose as the Library sees fit.

Disposal / Relegation to store

Disposal encompasses the removal of items to other appropriate Library collections or to the UK Research Reserve; relegation to low use store; offering to charitable book disposal firms for redistribution and/or recycling; and physical recycling of unwanted or unusable material. Material for disposal will normally be identified by the Collection Development Team.

All major (i.e. collection or part of collection) disposal decisions will require final approval by the Library Leadership Team (LLT).

Catalogue records for material approved for relegation or disposal will be altered or removed as appropriate. All items designated for disposal will be stamped as 'withdrawn' from stock.

The following factors will be taken in account in making decisions for disposal or relegation:

  • Documented feedback from consultation with academic staff.
  • Availability and accessibility in other London or M25 libraries.
  • LSE participation in collaborative collection management schemes.
  • Availability in electronic format, including access for non - LSE visitors.
  • Consultation with appropriate Library Service Groups and final approval of Library Leadership Team.

The relegation of stock to store will be supported by an active programme of digitisation to be planned and implemented by the Digital Library Team.