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Collection Development Policy

Revised Edition: November 2013

Mission Statement

The mission of Paul Bechtold Library is to support Catholic Theological Union in its work of preparing effective leaders for the Church, ready to witness to Christ’s good news of justice, love, and peace. It also serves as a source of materials on Catholicism for the theological schools that make up the Association of Chicago Theological Schools, and for alumni and researchers throughout the world—especially those interested in religious life—who have a scholarly need to consult the collections.


Today the Paul Bechtold Library contains nearly 150,000 volumes that are supplemented by a wide array of electronic databases and resources. The library is recognized for its collection on religious life. The staff consists of three professionals, each with two master's degrees. There are three supporting staff.

The purpose of the collection development policy is to state the philosophies, principles, and guidelines that direct the process of selecting and acquiring materials. It provides a basis for ensuring appropriate coverage of all areas within the recognized disciplines of theology (and related/supporting areas), regardless of the specific interest and research areas of faculty or other prominent users of the library. It is also used to communicate the library’s policies to the Dean, faculty, students, and other members of the Catholic Theological Union community. It is based, in part, on the July 2000 Collection Development Policy written by then-director Kenneth O’Malley, CP.

The Paul Bechtold Library is a member of the Association of Chicago Theological Schools (ACTS) which was founded in 1984, and currently comprises eleven area theological schools. Membership in the ACTS makes available some denominational materials collected by these institutions that would not otherwise be accessible by the CTU community. Research collections at these schools vary. It is also a member of the Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois (CARLI), and the I-Share Group Catalog which provides access to the collections of over eighty academic libraries in Illinois.

How Books Are Selected

Materials needed for instructional purposes in all programs are always ordered. However, textbooks, outlines, and popular and juvenile literature are rarely purchased unless required for courses. In general, the library collects in English; exceptions are for primary sources, some reference works and some works in the original language of important Catholic theologians. The Librarian has the responsibility for selecting books, serials, and other materials for the collection, accepting recommendations from faculty, staff, and students.

Collecting profiles have been established with a number of book vendors and publishers who notify the library of new publications in areas of interest. Occasionally, scholarly review journals are consulted, but for the most part the library needs to obtain those materials long before reviews appear in print.

The Paul Bechtold Library asserts its duty to acquire and keep in its collection a representative selection of materials on all subjects of interest to the Catholic theological community, including materials on all aspects of controversial questions. Inasmuch as the Catholic Theological Union is a private institution, governed by its Board of Trustees, it is not subject to criticism of library-owned materials or attempts at censorship, which originate outside its corporate structure.

Collecting Areas by Library of Congress Classification

Philosophy and Psychology (B-BJ)

The library collects only a limited range of publications in this field, with more depth in the areas of the philosophy of religion, the psychology of religion and counseling, and religious ethics with an emphasis on Catholic ethical thought.

Religions. Mythology. (BL)

The library collects some reference works in this area.

Judaism (BM)

The PBL has a limited working collection of Judaica and Hebraica and assumes responsibility for acquisitions in these fields only to meet the reading, reference, and instructional needs of the CTU community. The library acquires selected Hebrew reference works, such as standard editions of the Bible, Mishnah, Talmud, and encyclopedias and dictionaries. It does purchase some books on the Hebrew Bible, and the biblical and intertestamental periods. This includes materials on the Essenes, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and related studies. It does purchase, in some depth, in the area of Jewish-Christian relations, inter-religious dialogue, and related fields.

Islam. Bahaism. Theosophy (BP); and Buddhism (BQ).

The PBL collects some reference works, plus works that support the inter-religious dialogue program at CTU. Non-reference material is limited to English translations of primary texts and secondary literature.

Christianity (BR)

Catholicism is collected in depth in English. The collection is very strong in early Christian writers—the library subscribes to non-English series such as Sources Chrétiennes, Corpus Christianorum, B.A.C., among others.

The Bible (BS)

The Paul Bechtold Library collects biblical texts, biblical theology, biblical commentaries and criticism, hermeneutics, and archaeology. Texts of the Bible are collected for research and historical purposes only. Thus, new editions of the Bible will be purchased in other languages, but in most cases not new printings or expensive editions and reprints. Works about the Bible will be purchased in English and in original languages of major Biblical scholars; in addition, there will be an effort to purchase Bible criticism and commentaries from Latin America and Asia.

Doctrinal Theology (BT)

Works in Catholic dogmatics and Catholic moral theology are collected in English at the PBL. Works by major Catholic theologians may be collected in the original language.

Homiletics and Practical Theology (BV)

Liturgy and ritual, homiletics, and the theology of mission are collected in depth at the PBL. Catechetical material is purchased in English and Spanish, with some other languages acquired when available. The Weber-Killgallon Catechetical Resource Center is one of the finest in the nation and concentrates on catechetics for Latino/a and African-Americans. Works on mission and liturgy, in particular, my be purchased in Spanish and languages of affiliated religious orders.

Denominations and Sects (BX)

This classification number includes the largest portion of the library collection, encompassing Catholic doctrine, Catholic liturgy and ritual, saints, Catholic teaching on justice and social action (including Eastern rites). Of great depth is the collection on religious orders and their role within Catholicism; material related to affiliated religious orders is collected in all languages. The Franciscan collection is particularly strong. The PBL collects some material on Eastern Orthodox Christianity, but material for other denominations may be found at other ACTS libraries. The library also collects material on the ecumenical movement.

Cognate Areas (A, C-Z)

The PBL only acquires cognate material that has a direct relationship to its curriculum of theology and pastoral ministry, or serves as background material for study in these fields. More current and in depth material in these disciplines may be borrowed through the I-Share program. Areas where the library will collect some material are: D—Judaic and Islam materials; G—religious anthropology; K—canon law; M—Catholic hymnology; N—Christian art; P—Catholic fiction and literature; R—medical ethics.

Manuscripts and Archives

The collecting policy of the Manuscripts and Archives Department encompasses these main areas:

Personal Papers. This department collects the papers of CTU tenured faculty members. The papers of other individuals who have made noteworthy contributions to areas of interest within Catholicism (specifically catechetics, religious orders and life, and Vatican II) are accepted on an individual basis.

Catholic Theological Union. The official records of CTU may be found in the Library Archives. This department collects the unofficial records of the School which includes newsletters, reports, and program brochures, as well as audiovisual materials such as posters, photographs, and video recordings.

Records of Other Religious Organizations. The records of other religious organizations are accepted on an individual basis. Some of the collections which we currently house are the records of The Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologian in the U.S. (ACHTUS), The Adult Catechetical Teaching Aids (ACTA), and The National Academy of American Liturgists (NAAL).

Rare Books

The Paul Bechtold Library has a very small collection of rare books focusing on religious orders, particularly Franciscana.


The PBL collects major scholarly journals in theology and biblical studies; scholarly and practical titles in liturgy, catechetics, and spirituality; and, scholarly, practical, and popular titles of religious orders. Periodicals may be collected in all languages, and effort is made to acquire titles from the global South and Asia.

Electronic Resources and Non-Print Resources

Increasingly, the library acquires electronic and other non-print resources to support instruction and research. Electronic resources include bibliographic materials and full text files in a variety of formats, including licensed resources (e.g., the ATLA Religion Database). The library also occasionally acquires other non-book materials, such as DVDs and CDs to support instruction. The library purchases some Catholic newspapers and periodicals, especially in English, that have been microfilmed commercially.

Melody Layton McMahon
Director of the Library
November 2013