Collection Development Policy

Part I: Goals and Operating Principles


The University of San Francisco Zief Law Library is a private academic law library dedicated to supporting the education of our law students and the scholarship of our faculty. Our collection development policy is designed to be flexible and adaptable to technological changes in the acquisition, storage, retrieval, and preservation of information. The collection meets the current standards of the American Bar Association and the Association of American Law Schools. The law librarians will periodically review this policy to address curriculum and scholarship changes and will continuously assess budget conditions that affect collection development.


The Zief Law Library's primary patrons are current USF law faculty and students. If staff, budget, and other resources permit, the law library will also attempt to accommodate the needs of the USF University community, alumni, and Special Access Card holders.

Government Depository Status

The law library has a selective housing arrangement with USF's Gleeson Library-Geshcke Center (“Gleeson” or “University” library), a federal government document depository. Under the shared housing agreement, the law library houses federal depository materials pertinent to the needs of the law school community. The law library is also a selective depository for California state documents. The law library sends non-legal state documents to the University library. As a result of these arrangements, the law library makes available to the public, in accordance with applicable regulations and library policies, the federal and California state government documents received through depository status.

Part II:  Collection Access

The law library’s goal is to provide meaningful access to research materials needed by our patrons whether or not available within the law library's collection. The law library helps patrons obtain desired information in a variety of ways, including the use of online research resources, teaching, creating instructional resources that guide patrons to relevant library collection materials, interlibrary loan, and cooperative agreements with other institutions.
The law library’s reference, reserve and general collections are fully cataloged and accessible via USF’s online public catalog (Ignacio).  The library’s microform and audio-visual collections are cataloged, and patrons may view and print hard copies of the microform collection using microfiche and microfilm reader/printers. Both the law school and the law library have equipment for viewing DVDs. The law library strives to furnish remote access to online research resources whenever feasible.

The law library subscribes to a wide variety of online research resources, including Westlaw, LexisNexis, Bloomberg Law, and HeinOnline. All of the research librarians teach basic legal research in cooperation with the first-year Legal Research, Writing, and Analysis program. All of the research librarians teach courses to upper-level students within the law school curriculum, including Advanced Legal Research, California Legal Research, and International Advocacy and Research.

Part III:  General Acquisition Guidelines

Collection Level

The law library collects at the Instructional Support Level in all major subject areas taught at the USF School of Law. Instructional Support Level is defined as a collection or access capability that is sufficient to support instruction and research at the J.D. level, and at the LL.M level in subject areas where the LL.M degree is available. This level consists of (1) reference tools; (2) appropriate primary authorities and secondary sources; (3) monograph titles; and (4) journal titles. Basic legal research and bibliographic tools are also included.

Criteria for Recommending Acquisition

The law library may use the following criteria to evaluate additions to the law library collection: 

  • Cost
  • User interface
  • Authoritativeness of publisher or producer
  • Significance of the subject
  • Importance and expertise of the author
  • Accuracy of the information
  • Potential for known use by patrons
  • Importance to the total collection
  • Appearance of title in important bibliographies, lists, and reviewing media
  • Current and/or permanent value
  • Scarcity of material on the subject
  • Availability of material elsewhere
  • Format (print, microfiche, digital, etc.)
  • Longevity of format
  • Physical quality (binding, print, margins, etc.)
  • Duplication
  • Available space
  • Maintenance (actual and staff costs)

The law library makes decisions about format based on budget conditions and the reliability and permanence of access. The law library evaluates available formats on a case-by-case basis.

Micro Formats

The law library will acquire microfilm and microfiche, with preference for microfiche, from time to time, but it is not a preferred format.  The law library may choose to purchase microfilm or microfiche occasionally for any of the following reasons: 

  • Acquire retrospective back files
  • Reduce shelf space required for hard copy
  • Provide duplication of large sets
  • Provide research materials
  • Replace deteriorating materials
  • Save costs in acquiring materials
  • Provide desired material not available in any other format. 
Audiovisual Materials

At the discretion of the law library director, the law library may purchase audio and video materials at a faculty member’s request for use in a specific course. Video materials are purchased in DVD format whenever possible.  The law library may purchase other law-related DVDs to support certain courses if, in the judgment of the law library staff, the purchase is warranted to support the curriculum.

Online Resources

The law library seeks out new online resources and evaluates their usefulness for the collection.  

Imprint Dates

In general, the law library acquires current material (i.e., having an imprint date within the last ten years) as a higher priority than acquiring retrospective material. Retrospective material is acquired if it constitutes a part of a back file of a current title, is likely to receive a high degree of use, or is received through donation.


Duplication within the collection is avoided unless there is a demonstrable need for additional copies based on student and faculty use.  Additional copies of the same title are not purchased unless class size or heavy demand warrant purchase.

Duplication of large sets may occur through micro format or through online access. Availability of materials in other Bay Area libraries, particularly library members of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) consortium, is taken into consideration to avoid duplication of expensive or rarely used items.

The law library does not duplicate materials housed in the University library collection unless duplication is warranted because of law library patron needs. Generally, the law library relies on the University library to provide access to interdisciplinary materials.

Accessibility in Lieu of Acquisition

The Zief Law Library uses the OCLC bibliographic utility and maintains an interlibrary loan program for patrons. The law library maintains reciprocal access agreements for faculty and students with other private academic law libraries. The law library strives to avoid purchasing rarely-used or expensive titles if those materials are available through interlibrary loan.

California Materials

The law library maintains a comprehensive print and online collection of California primary and secondary legal materials, including state codes, case law, regulations and other administrative agency materials, treatises, practice guides, and monographs.

Reference Material and Open Reserve

The law library maintains a separate reference collection located near the entrance of the library.  The law library also shelves heavily-used treatises, practice guides and study aids near the research desk in an open reserve area.  Having these frequently-used materials in an easily accessible location greatly benefits the students and other library patrons.


The law library strives to include a variety of treatises covering subjects addressed within the curriculum or by faculty research within the collection. Authoritativeness of the author, cost, the law curriculum, quality of the information, and institutional affiliation are major criteria the library considers in selecting treatises.


The law library relies on Westlaw, Lexis, HeinOnline and other online databases for access to law reviews and journals. The law library maintains print subscriptions only for those law reviews and journals that are not accessible online.

State and Federal Documents

The law library relies on participation in state and federal depository programs to supply many state and federal documents. The law library acquires additional government documents if it is necessary to do so to support the curriculum or patrons’ research needs. When appropriate, the library coordinates selection with the University library.


The law library accepts gifts and donations of books and other materials only when they can be used to enhance the collection or replace worn out volumes. Gifts of library materials may be accepted so long as the donor does not attach conditions to the gift and the materials conform to selection guidelines. Cash donation offers are negotiated if conditions are attached.  The law library staff consults with the law library director before accepting gifts. Only the law library staff may decide upon the appropriate classification, housing, and circulation of gift materials. The law library retains the right to dispose of gifts at any time and in any manner deemed appropriate. The law library does not estimate the value of the gift for tax purposes.

Part IV:  Specific Subject Areas Collected to Support Curriculum

  • Administrative Law
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Antitrust Law
  • Appellate Advocacy
  • Arbitration
  • Bankruptcy
  • Bioethics
  • Business Planning
  • California Law, Generally
  • Children's Rights
  • Chinese Law and Legal System
  • Civil Litigation Practice
  • Civil Procedure
  • Civil Rights Law 
  • Commercial Transactions
  • Community Property
  • Comparative Law
  • Conflict of Laws
  • Constitutional Law
  • Contracts
  • Copyright Law
  • Corporate Taxation
  • Corporations and Partnerships
  • Criminal Law
  • Criminal Procedure
  • Cyberspace Law
  • Death Penalty Law
  • Discovery
  • Discrimination Law
  • Employment Discrimination
  • Environmental Law: California, Federal and International 
  • Estate Planning
  • European Union Law
  • Evidence
  • Family Law
  • Federal Courts
  • Forensic Evidence
  • Gender & Sexuality Law
  • Health Care Law
  • Housing Discrimination
  • Human Rights Law
  • Immigration Law
  • Information Technology Law
  • Insurance Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • International Business Transactions
  • International Economic Relations
  • Jurisprudence
  • Juvenile Law and Justice
  • Labor Law
  • Land Use
  • Legal History
  • Legal Research, Writing & Analysis
  • Legal Scholarship
  • Marine Insurance
  • Maritime Law
  • Native American Law
  • Negotiation
  • Patent Law
  • Predatory Lending Law
  • Privacy Rights
  • Professional Responsibility and Ethics
  • Public Interest and Nonprofit Organizations
  • Public International Law
  • Real Estate Transactions
  • Real Property
  • Remedies
  • Securities Regulation
  • Secured Transactions
  • Sports Law
  • Street Law
  • Supreme Court
  • Taxation (Federal and Foreign/International)
  • Telecommunications Law
  • Torts
  • Trademark
  • Trial Advocacy and Practice
  • Uniform Commercial Code
  • Venture Capital Law
  • Water Law
  • Wills and Trusts
  • Workers' Compensation Law 

Part V:  Guidelines for Collection of Foreign, Comparative and International Law Materials

The Zief Law Library’s foreign, comparative and international law collection includes materials that are selected to complement the law school curriculum and scholarship interests of the law school faculty and patrons.  New materials are acquired based on the following guidelines.

General Criteria – All Areas

The Library collects primarily English-language materials. 

Factors to consider in selecting materials are:

  • Relevance to courses being offered, and/or special USF Law programs, such as the International Human Rights Clinic
  • Relevance to current faculty research interests
  • Relevance to topics of current interest that generate frequent research questions.
Specific Areas

Public International Law

Public international law deals with relations among sovereign nation states.  The law library may collect materials on the following subjects: 

  • United Nations and its operations
  • Organization and operation of other international government organizations (IGOs)
  • Location and interpretation of treaties
  • International trade (as regulated by treaties such as NAFTA or the GATT, and by bodies such as the WTO)
  • Law of "commons," which are spaces/regions that are not under the sovereignty of any nation (e.g., the high seas, outer space, and Antarctica)
  • Human rights, including refugee law, children's rights, and women's rights
  • Law of war and war crimes tribunals and of dispute resolution among nations
  • International criminal law
  • Environmental law (core materials only)
  • Labor law
  • Theoretical and jurisprudential issues (if written by a respected author or scholar)
  • Arab-Israeli peace process and current literature on the Middle East conflicts
  • International law relating to terrorism.

Private International Law

Private international law involves rules which govern the choice of law in private matters, such as business contracts, family law, and the like. The law library may collect materials on the following subjects:

  • Conflict of laws
  • Transnational business arrangements
  • Dispute resolution among private parties in multi-national transactions
  • Litigation of cases with multi-national aspects.

Where potential purchases have a focus on certain jurisdictions or regions, collection efforts should focus on materials involving the Pacific Rim, North America, Europe, and the nations listed below in the "Foreign Law" section.  Materials with a strong practitioner orientation (e.g., how-to manuals, form books, etc.) are generally beyond the scope of the collection unless they support a law school course.

Comparative Law

Comparative law is the study of laws and legal systems of different nations.  The law library may collect materials on the following subjects:

  • Theories of comparative law, if written by a respected author or scholar, or the source is favorably reviewed
  • Intellectual property and technology
  • Trade regulation and antitrust law
  • Environmental law
  • Biotechnology and bioethics
  • Business organizations and transactions
  • Privacy and data protection
  • Constitutional law
  • Family law
  • Labor and employment law

Foreign Law

Foreign law refers to the law of an individual foreign country, or a supranational entity, such as the European Community (EC)/European Union (EU). This includes both primary and secondary sources.  Generally, the law library does not collect primary foreign law, except as it is found in English translations and deals with subjects of interest to our patrons. The law library may collect materials in the following areas:

  • Translations of major codes (civil, commercial, penal, procedural).  European countries whose codes would be considered for collection are France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Russia, and other EU member nations.  Asian countries whose codes would be considered include, but are not limited to, China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia.  Codes from Mexico will be considered due to the relationship between Mexico and the United States arising from NAFTA and other trade agreements, treaties and conventions.  Codes of other nations may be collected if they support the curriculum of the law school or the research needs of the library's primary patrons.
  • Overviews of the laws/legal system of an individual jurisdiction
  • Resources about doing business in a single foreign country (secondary sources or translations of laws)
  • Intellectual property laws of a foreign state

 Country-specific materials with a strong practitioner orientation (e.g., how-to manuals, form books, etc.) are generally beyond the scope of the collection, unless they support a course taught at the law school.

Part VI: Collection Methods

The law library employs an academic press preview plan for monograph selection. The library subscribes to the “green slip” service through Hein, and most monograph orders are placed through Midwest or other academic press preview plans.

The library maintains loose-leaf services and other continuations through service representatives of various publishing companies. The Head of Collection Services maintains contact with the representatives so that the library may review continuations and make renewal decisions regarding the services prior to yearly price increases.

The library maintains law-related government documents forwarded by the University library and processes and counts the official legal reports received through the University's depository status.

The library maintains the microform collection through direct order, plus standing orders on open-ended titles.

Selection Process

The law librarians work collaboratively to review and identify various materials for acquisition by the law library. Law faculty, students, and other library staff assist in the selection process by keeping the librarians informed about patron requests and gaps in the collection.  In addition, the research librarians regularly evaluate specific subject areas of interest to faculty to ensure that the library collection supports teaching and scholarship needs.  The technical services department produces a "New Acquisitions" list periodically to inform patrons of new law library titles and resources.


The law library periodically evaluates sections of the collection in order to make weeding decisions. Staff may consult faculty members to assist with weeding decisions in certain subject areas.

Part VII:  Future Challenges and Opportunities

Primary challenges include periodic modifications to library space to accommodate other law school functions and dedicating librarian time to analyze collection development needs (for example, researching new resources and titles, surveying faculty and student research needs, and analyzing the current collection levels in various subject areas).

The librarians strive to continuously monitor the collection to ensure it supports the curriculum and faculty’s scholarship needs.  As a member of various faculty committees, the law library director stays abreast of new course offerings and advises the law librarians when the collection needs to be modified to support curricular changes. The law library director also collaborates with the law school’s management on changes to the library’s physical space to ensure that the library has adequate collection growth space.

The law library’s faculty-research librarian liaison program is one of the most effective tools that the library has developed to assess collection needs.  This program allows the research librarians to establish familiarity with faculty members’ research agendas and gather information from faculty on an ongoing basis regarding their scholarship projects and teaching needs. 

The law library anticipates that demand for online access to legal materials will continue to grow. As online sources proliferate, law library staff members have shifted more emphasis to instruction and assumed a primary role in educating faculty and students about the resources available to support their research, teaching and learning.  Librarians improve access to the collection by designing programs that train faculty and students to integrate new online resources into their research.