Chapter 18 – University Libraries

(10/94; amended 10/03; 11/06; 1/10; 3/17)

18.1 General

The University of Iowa Libraries ( provides leadership in the creation, transmission, and preservation of knowledge to advance intellectual discovery and encourage lifelong learning. The University Libraries holds collections in various formats, including books, audio, film, multimedia, and microforms. The libraries provide access to a growing collection of electronic resources, including full-text journals. Most collections are open for browsing by all University community members; others are available upon request. 

18.2 Organization and Description

  1. The University Libraries system consists of the Main Library, the Hardin Library for the Health Sciences, and several branch libraries. The Main Library serves as the principal repository for the social sciences and the humanities. Located within this building are various special collections, including:
    1. A depository for U.S. federal, United Nations, European Union, and State of Iowa publications; many additional state, foreign, and international publications; and statistical and other resources in paper, microform, and electronic formats.
    2. A map collection of aerial photographs, state and foreign atlases, electronic mapping programs, and other cartographic resources.
    3. Special collections of unique, rare, and valuable books, documents, and other collections. Rare books range in age from the 15th century to newly created artists' books and include 4,000 "miniatures" less than three inches tall. There also are manuscript collections ranging from medieval to modern. The Iowa Authors Collection contains work of writers associated with the State of Iowa. The libraries' special collections are especially strong in the French Revolution, the Civil War, the culinary arts, political cartooning, and film and television screenwriting and production (
    4. Archives of The University of Iowa: publications, building plans, campus maps, photographs, catalogs and yearbooks, directories, student newspapers, programs of lectures, dramatic performances, athletic events, and personal papers.
    5. The Louise Noun-Mary Louise Smith Iowa Women's Archives, which collects, organizes, describes, and preserves personal papers, manuscripts, and organizational records pertaining to Iowa women. The archives also serve as a resource to stimulate and nourish creative teaching and learning through its collections and outreach programs (
    6. Media collections, consisting of non-print materials such as newspapers, videotapes, DVDs, audio cassettes, and records. Film subjects range from documentaries to feature-length and foreign language films.
    7. The East Asian Collection, which acquires materials in all formats in support of the East Asian Studies programs and research at the University. It contains materials primarily in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, with a focus on the humanities and social sciences.
  2. The Hardin Library for the Health Sciences collects and provides access to current literature in health sciences-related areas ( The John Martin Rare Book Room offers an outstanding collection on the history of medicine.
  3. The branch libraries ( serve the sciences, the fine arts, and business.
  4. The Law Library is independent of the University Libraries system and is administered by the College of Law. 

18.3 Collection Services

  1. The University Libraries divides responsibility for building the libraries' collections ( among a number of librarians, each of whom is responsible for selecting library materials on one or more subject areas. It is the function of these collection management librarians to determine which books, periodicals, videotapes, electronic resources, computer files, and other information sources should be acquired by the libraries. Selection decisions that fall under the purview of collection management librarians include decisions to purchase a resource, to subscribe to a periodical or database, to accept a gift in kind, to request that an Internet resource be cataloged or otherwise made available through University Libraries' web pages, to remove or "weed" materials from the collection, and to cancel subscriptions. These decisions are made in each case on the basis of the collection management librarians' knowledge of current curriculum needs, faculty research interests, research trends in the relevant subject areas, and the strengths and weaknesses of the collections already in place. Communication between the collection management librarians and faculty is essential for the librarians to have the information necessary for their decisions.
  2. The general criteria used by collection management librarians for the acquisition of library materials at The University of Iowa Libraries are listed below in priority order:
    1. curriculum support;
    2. standard source availability (i.e., standard or "core" materials on subjects studied at the University);
    3. faculty research support;
    4. graduate student research support;
    5. subject representation (i.e., representative materials on major trends in scholarship);
    6. collection continuity (i.e., maintenance of strong existing collections); and
    7. inter-institutional agreements (i.e., agreements with other academic libraries to assume responsibility for collections in particular subject areas).
  3. In selecting and making available information resources, the libraries will comply with copyright law and with the provisions of any licenses that are signed on behalf of the University. The libraries will take reasonable measures to promote copyright and license compliance among its users. The selection of a resource that requires the University to agree to a license is contingent on the acceptability of the license provisions. Within the University Libraries, the acceptability of a license is determined by the Director of Collections or that person's designee; approval of licenses falls under the jurisdiction of the University's Director of Purchasing.
  4. In selecting and deselecting information resources, the libraries fully subscribe to the Library Bill of Rights ( issued by the American Library Association. Among other rights, this statement affirms that no materials should be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of its creators, that materials selected should reflect all points of view on current and historical issues, and that censorship should be challenged. 

18.4 Reference and Library Instruction

  1. University Libraries staff are actively engaged in a comprehensive instructional program (, which promotes the development of critical thinking and research skills through a variety of services. Librarians collaborate with faculty members to provide in-class instruction tailored to complement course content. In addition, librarians have developed a credit-bearing course, Library Research in Context, which links research skills to courses in the major. Special information skills workshops are developed for groups such as new international students and students enrolled in a variety of summer preparatory programs. Interdisciplinary research seminars are offered for graduate students and faculty. Library staff provide instructional handouts, web-based tutorials, and course-related resource pages.
  2. Reference and information services are available at several locations in the Main Library, at all of the branch libraries, and at Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. In addition to walk-in services, faculty, staff, and students can receive reference and information assistance via telephone, email, and Internet chat services (
  3. Librarians provide a free research consultation service to University of Iowa faculty, staff, and students. This service is customized for the individual user and provides access and direction to research materials that pertain to the user's specific project or thesis. 

18.5 Access Services

  1. Most University library materials can be checked out of the libraries by University community members; lengths of check-out times vary according to types of materials and user status. Materials which do not circulate can be used within the various libraries where they are housed (
  2. All of the University Libraries — Main Library, the branch libraries, and Hardin Library for the Health Sciences — provide reserve collections in support of classroom teaching (
  3. Access to materials not held by University Libraries may be arranged through Interlibrary Loan services provided by the Main Library and Hardin Library for the Health Sciences ( University Libraries maintains consortial agreements with the State of Iowa Regents libraries, the National Library of Medicine's Regional Medical Library Network, and the Big Ten Academic Alliance (Big Ten institutions and the University of Chicago). 
  4. Access to materials held off-site at the Libraries Annex, a high-density storage facility with capacity of up to 4.8 million volumes, is available by placing a request through the library catalog and requesting delivery to a campus office or for pick-up at an on-campus library.