The Collections Policy Statements govern the Library's collections development and acquisitions efforts. They provide the policy framework to support the Library's responsibilities to serve the Congress as well as the United States Government as a whole, the scholarly community, and the general public. The policies provide a plan for developing the collections and maintaining their existing strengths. They set forth the scope, level of collecting intensity and goals sought by the Library to fulfill its service mission.
The Library's collection building activities are extremely broad, covering virtually every discipline and field of study, including the entire range of different forms of publication and media for recording and storing knowledge, with the exception of technical agriculture and clinical medicine (where it yields to the National Agricultural Library and the National Library of Medicine, respectively). The Library's goal is to formulate statements which are sufficiently inclusive to ensure this broad coverage, yet specific enough to serve the particular needs of the Library's varied clienteles.
The Library has been developing its body of Collections Policy Statements since the mid-20th century and has based their formulation on three fundamental principles, or "canons of selection" which succinctly summarize its collections development programs:
- The Library should possess all books and other library materials necessary to the Congress and the various officers of the Federal Government to perform their duties;
- The Library should possess all books and other materials (whether in original form or copy) which record the life and achievement of the American people; and
- The Library should possess in some useful form, the records of other societies, past and present, and should accumulate, in original or in copy, full and representative collections of the written records of those societies and peoples whose experience is of most immediate concern to the people of the United States.
In a project involving dozens of subject specialists and other staff across the Library, all of the Collections Policy Statements were reviewed and updated in 2008. As part of that effort, the following new Collections Policy Statements were created
- Anthropology, Archaeology and Ethnology
- Computer Science, Telecommunication & Artificial Intelligence
- Cookery, Nutrition and Food Technology
- Environmental Sciences
- Veterans History Project
The intention is that all of the Collections Policy Statements will be reviewed and updated on a regular cycle in coming years.