The Research Libraries Group (RLG) was founded in 1975 by the New York Public Library and Columbia, Harvard and Yale universities. RLG grew to over 150 research libraries and worked to provide information discovery services, develop and operate collaborative programs, and create and promote relevant standards and practices. RLG developed a system of collecting levels (see listing below), known as the RLG Conspectus, intended primarily for the uniform evaluation of collections in research libraries. The use of these collecting levels evolved from a tool for evaluation into a meaningful set of descriptors employed in library collection policy statements. Updates to the RLG Conspectus ended in 1997, and RLG became a part of OCLC in 2006.
In 2015 the Collection Development Office (CDO) undertook a long-term project to update the Library’s Collection Policy Statements, most of which incorporated use of the RLG Conspectus. After reviewing the current use of the RLG Conspectus among several academic libraries in the United States and the collection development policies of national libraries in several foreign countries, and after consultation with several Library of Congress recommending officers, CDO decided to retain use of these collecting levels in the Library’s Collection Policy Statements.
It should be noted that these collecting levels are aspirational in nature. That is, they are goals for guiding our collecting policies. Changing resources in, for example, budgets or human capital, may require adjustments in collection building, especially at the comprehensive level.
- Out-of-Scope: The Library does not collect in this area.
- Minimal Level: A subject area in which few selections are made beyond very basic works. For foreign law collections, this includes statutes and codes.
- Basic Information Level: A collection of up-to-date general materials that serve to introduce and define a subject and to indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere. It may include dictionaries, encyclopedias, selected editions of important works, historical surveys, bibliographies, handbooks, a few major periodicals, in the minimum number that will serve the purpose. A basic information collection is not sufficiently intensive to support any courses of independent study in the subject area involved. For law collections, this includes selected monographs and loose-leaf titles in American law and case reports and digests in foreign law.
- Instructional Support Level: A collection that in a university is adequate to support undergraduate and most graduate instruction, or sustained independent study; that is, adequate to maintain knowledge of a subject required for limited or generalized purposes, of less than research intensity. It includes a wide range of basic monographs, complete collections of works of more important writers, selections from the works of secondary writers, a selection of representative journals, and reference tools and fundamental bibliographical apparatus pertaining to the subject. In American law collections, this includes comprehensive trade publications and loose-leaf materials, and for foreign law, periodicals and monographs.
- Research Level: A collection that includes the major published source materials required for dissertations and independent research, including materials containing research reporting, new findings, scientific experimental results, and other information useful to researchers. It is intended to include all important reference works and a wide selection of specialized monographs, as well as a very extensive collection of journals and major indexing and abstracting services in the field. Older material is retained for historical research. Government documents are included in American and foreign law collections.
- Comprehensive Level: A collection which, so far as is reasonably possible, includes all significant works of recorded knowledge (publications, manuscripts, and other forms), in all applicable languages, for a necessarily defined and limited field. This level of collecting intensity is one that maintains a " special collection." The aim, if not achievement, is exhaustiveness. Older material is retained for historical research. In law collections, this includes manuscripts, dissertations, and material on non-legal aspects.