Collections and services statement

Collections and Services
March 2015

Overview of the ISU Library

The Iowa State University Library includes the Parks Library, which houses the main collections and library services, the Veterinary Medical Library, and subject-based reading rooms in Design and Mathematics. The Library provides an extensive array of print, electronic, and non-print information resources and services to support the university's mission to create, share, and apply knowledge to make Iowa and the world a better place.

Assistance to library users is provided at public service desks in Parks Library and in the branch facilities. The Library website ( includes the Library's catalog, and access to a substantial number of indexing and abstracting databases, full-text publications, and other selected research tools. Moreover, the Library website provides several electronic-based library services (e.g. reference, interlibrary loan, circulation, reserve, and instruction).


The Library's comprehensive collections support research and study through the master's level in most fields and at the doctoral level in eighty-one Ph.D. specializations. As a charter member (1932) of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Library’s resources are part of a national collection supporting comprehensive research in many disciplines, particularly in science and technology. The collection's major strengths are:

  • Animal Science
  • Material Science
  • Plant Science
  • Veterinary Medicine

Also widely recognized are collections in entomology, botany, economics, agriculture, engineering, and veterinary medicine. The Library acquires materials in many formats with an emphasis on electronic resources where appropriate. The collection of journals and other serials is noteworthy for its strength in scientific publications, and large numbers of complete journal back files in these subject areas, some dating to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, permit unusually comprehensive retrospective study. The Library's extensive collections of rare and valuable scholarly materials include a separate Department of Special Collections (rare books, manuscripts, and archives).

Holdings in Collections (June 2014)

Volumes held


Books purchased annually


Journals received annually


Electronic Journal Titles


Manuscripts & archives

21,267 linear ft.

Aerial photos & maps


Audio materials


Films & videos


Microform units


Photographs & slides


Expenditures for library materials and access during fiscal year 2014 exceeded $11 million. The Library's materials and access budget has grown, on average, about 2% annually since 2010, while the standard inflation rate for serials remains high (in the range of 5-7% for fy15).







% Increase






Collection Development

The Associate Dean for Collections and Technical Services leads and coordinates overall development and management of library collections, working with librarians and staff in the Science and Technology (S/T) Department, Social Sciences and Humanities (SS/H) Department, and other units as appropriate. Subject librarians in the S/T and SS/H departments are responsible for reference, instruction, and collection management activities in their areas of expertise. The latter function includes identifying and selecting materials in a wide variety of formats, including print, electronic, and non-print resources. Academic libraries have a responsibility to collect materials across a broad spectrum of disciplines represented by the university community. The collection should be inclusive of all points of view and materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. An academic library’s collection should strive for a balance of viewpoints that reflect a diversity of opinions, both contemporary and historical.

Since 1968, the Library has maintained acquisitions plans by which many newly published books of a scholarly nature from publishers throughout the world are received automatically. In addition, subject librarians work closely with faculty in academic departments and research centers in the assessment of collections and the selection of new materials.

Access to other library collections

In terms of resource sharing, the Library participates in a variety of networks, interlibrary arrangements, and cooperative agreements that enhance regional or national access to materials. Among these are the following:, The Center for Research Libraries (CRL), Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA), Rapid Libraries, the State of Iowa Libraries Online (SILO) System, the State of Iowa Board of Regents Universities, and the State Library of Iowa's Interlibrary Loan Reimbursement Program. Other individual agreements are in place with institutions such as Florida State University, the University of Illinois, and the Mayo Clinic. The Library responds to the needs of faculty and students by annually obtaining over 10,000 loans of books and copies of journal articles from other libraries and commercial document suppliers.

A more detailed examination of interlibrary loans pursuant to cooperative arrangements reveals a wealth of resources available to ISU faculty and staff. For example, through its membership in the OCLC interlibrary loan network, the Library has access to over 336 million items and 2,billion holdings in WorldCat. The Library is a member of, or has formal cooperative agreements with, the following networks or organizations through which it obtains materials for faculty and students. In addition, its membership in the Center for Research Libraries provides access to the Center’s collection of approximately 5 million volumes of specialized materials and items in non-English languages, including large holdings of foreign government documents, non-U.S. doctoral dissertations, and newspapers in microform.

  • Greater Western Library Alliance. The ISU Library is a member of the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA). This group is comprised of the following thirty-three research libraries: Arizona State University, Baylor University, Brigham Young University, Colorado State University, Iowa State University, Kansas State University, Oklahoma State University, Oregon State University, Rice University, Southern Illinois University, Southern Methodist University, Texas A&M University, Texas Tech University, University of Arizona, University of Arkansas, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, University of Houston, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Kansas, University of Missouri, University of Nevada at Las Vegas, University of New Mexico, University of Oklahoma, University of Oregon, University of Southern California, University of Texas at Austin, University of Utah, University of Washington, University of Wyoming, Utah State University, Washington State University, and Washington University in St. Louis. During FY 2014, the ISU Library borrowed 2,914 items from its GWLA libraries. Member libraries have formal agreements including no-charge exchange of books and copies of journal articles, exchange of doctoral dissertations and expedited delivery via secure electronic delivery, fax, and commercial shipping.
  • Iowa Interlibrary Loan Reimbursement Program. The ISU Library has a formal agreement with the State Library of Iowa providing no-charge loans and photocopies of library materials to all public and academic libraries in the state.
  • Iowa State Board of Regents Universities. The libraries of the University of Iowa, University of Northern Iowa, and Iowa State University share various cooperative activities (including expanded interlibrary loan agreements) under the direction of the Interinstitutional Library Committee consisting of the three Deans/University Librarians.
  • State of Iowa Libraries Online (SILO). SILO, an Internet-based union catalog, allows Iowa libraries, including the ISU Library, to direct interlibrary loan requests to other Iowa libraries. This system was developed by the Iowa State Library to create a statewide, multi-type library network, which provides cost effective access to resources from any library in the state. The State Library has contracted with the ISU Library to provide technical support for the project, including an automated library system.
  • Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). The ISU Library contributes its holdings to the OCLC WorldCat database and uses the OCLC Interlibrary Loan system to access the collections of libraries around the world.
  • OCLC Reciprocal Borrowing Agreement. This program provides faculty members of the participating institutions, including many Association of Research Libraries members, borrowing privileges and on-site access to the collections of some of the most important research libraries in the United States.
  • Rapid. An ordering software for journal articles developed by Colorado State University. Member libraries commit to supplying electronic versions of requested documents in 24 hours.

Physical facilities

The Library provides 2,648 seating spaces for general patron use, including 2,369 in Parks Library and 279 in the Veterinary Medical Library and the reading rooms; and 98 individual research studies available to faculty, graduate students, and professional and scientific staff who require intensive research use of the collection. The general collection is available on open stacks in all locations. Books and serials are shelved according to the Library of Congress Classification System.

Use of the Library’s facilities continues to be high. In FY 2014, over 1.9 million individuals entered the Library’s facilities. Circulation of materials for use outside the Library in FY 2014 totaled 121,810. In-house use of materials was 52,658.

Public computers are available in a variety of locations in the Parks Library and branch facilities, including labs, bookstacks, multimedia production studios, and individual and collaborative study areas. All public computers provide access to the Library website and Internet, and are networked to fee-based laser printers or copiers. All are equipped with USB ports to accommodate flash drives; many also provide specialized hardware/software features. The Parks Library also houses two classrooms for library instructional activities not requiring hands-on use of computers.


a. Parks Library and Branch Facilities

The Library provides a large number of essential services for its users through the physical library and its Library website. Assistance in using library collections and services is provided at each of the branch facilities and at numerous service desks in Parks Library. These service desks include the Research Help Desk, the Circulation Desk, the Media Center, and Special Collections.

Librarians in the Library’s Science and Technology Department and Social Sciences and Humanities Department provide specialized reference and instructional services. The Research Help Desk is staffed by subject specialists and media/IT staff and students to help users with research and technical questions. With the addition of collaborative workspaces and media production facilities, the Library offers many different study/research options, from individual computer workstations and quiet study carrels to wired tables for laptop/group study, group study rooms, the café, and a designated quiet study room on the second floor. In-depth reference assistance is provided through individually scheduled appointments or by referral. Subject librarians also give class presentations, seminars, workshops, and tours in support of individual academic courses, and to acquaint students, faculty, researchers and other groups with the Library’s resources, upon request. Arrangements can be made for these to take place in the Library's user education facilities, or the subject specialist may go to the scheduled classroom if it is more appropriate. Librarians also teach a basic undergraduate library skills course, Library 160, which is a pre-requisite/co-requisite for English 105 and a requirement for graduation.

The Library offers two free services for the delivery of materials between Library facilities: Vet Med Express (VME) and Storage Delivery. Specific items, such as a book, can be requested online and delivered between the Vet Med Library and Parks Library with the VME service, and to and from the Storage Building and Parks Library with the Storage Delivery Service. These services operate Monday-Friday and are available to ISU students, faculty and staff only.

The Library also offers a Document Delivery Service (DDS) for delivering materials directly to Library users in their home or office. No charge delivery of books to distance learners (more than 25 miles from Ames) is available via DDS. Also, a limited number of documents (30) will be scanned for free from the Library’s print collections and delivered electronically to ISU faculty, staff, students and associates.

b. Library website

Through the Library website, the Library offers access to a wide-range of resources and services including the Library’s catalog, indexing and abstracting databases, other libraries’ catalogs, full texts of selected reference tools, a substantial number of full-text electronic journals, and a variety of specialized Internet resources. The Library catalog also includes information about circulation, “on order” or “in process” materials, and the availability of current journal issues. The Library website provides access to electronic services such as Ask a Librarian (a virtual reference service with both live and e-mail options), the electronic reserve service, the Instructional Commons, document delivery, Vet Med Express, interlibrary loan, and a growing number of instructional tutorials on the use of the catalog and library resources. Most Library website databases are also accessible off-campus to ISU users through the Internet. More specialized research databases (e.g. SciFinder Scholar and Dissertation Abstracts) and electronic resources (including a wide-array of government documents) are available through individual workstations located in the Reference Collection and Reserve and Media Services in Parks Library, as well as in the branch facilities.

c. Digital Repository

Digital Repository @ Iowa State University provides free, public access to the research and scholarship of Iowa State's faculty, students and staff. Through the internet, readers worldwide can access a range of content including, but not limited to:

  • Journal articles and manuscripts;
  • Conference proceedings, presentations and posters;
  • Theses and dissertations;
  • Project reports;
  • Audio and video files;
  • Administrative and policy documents; and
  • University publications.

Digital Repository @ Iowa State University is managed by the Iowa State University Library, with funding support from the Office of the Vice President for Research.

Revised February 2001
Updated March 2015

Iowa State University

University Library, Ames, Iowa 50011, Email Webmaster
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