Skip to Main Content
Research Guides

Collection Guidelines: Built Environments: Scope

This guide provides an outline describing library collection development for the Built Environments Library.


The BEL collects books, e-books, journals, online publications and audiovisual media for a range of about 210 classes geared to all student levels. Because architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning all have significant historical components inherent in their study, the BEL attempts to provide coverage of all periods. Due to budgetary constraints, we cannot be comprehensive in our acquisitions, and we, therefore, prioritize our purchases of all media to correspond to most pressing curricular needs.

First, we ask that students and faculty inform the BEL Librarian about their particular research needs; each Friday a new batch of books is ordered responding to these numerous requests.  Second, we have organized slip notification plans with our main vendor, YBP (formerly Yankee Book Peddler), for current selections in a wide variety of topics. We receive slips in our four main subject areas and some supplementary fields, as well, including transportation, public health, engineering and history. Third, we will attempt to locate out-of-print titles to backfill our collection. These are bought from used book dealers. Out-of-print titles can range widely in dates of publication.  


The BEL seeks to have a temporally and culturally diverse book and journal collection, and efforts are made to locate resources focusing on the built environment globally.  This is particularly true for the realm of architectural and landscape architectural history.  Collection of DVDs is more limited and responds mostly to patron requests. Beyond this goal, collection efforts focus most seriously on areas of most curricular interest. In architecture, studies of Seattle, Pacific Northwest and West Coast history, Japanese architectural history, Chinese architectural history, French architectural history, Scandinavian architectural and furniture design history, Italian architectural and furniture design history and American architectural history in general. In landscape architecture this would include American, European and Asian garden traditions. Urban design and planning has complex sources and efforts are made to focus on city planning in the United States, Europe (particularly Scandinavia), and Asia (particularly China, Japan and Korea). African studies, though less common, are also bought regularly.


Most materials purchased are in English. Because much of the material in architecture and landscape architecture is visual in nature, books and journals in other languages are purchased; the most common foreign language sources are French, German, Scandinavian languages, and Chinese and Japanese scripts.


Students in the fine arts--architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design and planning—use books more than other fields in the natural sciences, engineering, law or medicine. CM students, having overlap with civil engineering, use online resources more than the fine arts studio classes. Gradually, electronic journals are supplanting paper copies, although we still receive both with some subscriptions.


Although we maintain collections of older media—CDs, VHS tapes, cassettes, even LPs—we do not actively collect them.