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Collection Development Policy - August 2021

1. Profile of the Library

The Carmelite Library is the library of the Australia-Timor Leste Province of the Carmelite Friars. It is an affiliated library of Yarra Theological Union and member of the University of Divinity network.

The Library was first established with the arrival of the Carmelites in Australia from Ireland in 1881. From 1928 it was further developed in Albert Park in 1928, although the core holdings included books collected since the first Australian Carmelite foundation in 1881. It was originally intended to cater to the needs of the Order's novices, seminarians and teachers. It was relocated to Kew in 1928, to Donvale in 1937, and returned to Middle Park in 2002, where it is now housed in the Carmelite Hall, a heritage building (1918).

From 1990 a change in policy was adopted to meet the changing educational strategy of the Order, a desire to avoid duplication of resources, and a recognition that specialisation would allow the Library to become a more valuable intellectual, cultural, spiritual and ecclesiastical resource in Melbourne and beyond. The Carmelites decided to concentrate in those areas most closely associated with the life and spirit of the Order, and the Library is now specialised in three areas: Carmelitana, that is all aspects of the life, history and spiritual tradition of the Order; Christian spirituality and mysticism; and Mariology, the theological study of the Virgin Mary. The owners of the Library now regard it principally as a specialised research collection in these areas, made available to a broad public. It serves the needs of researchers, and in particular supports the research and teaching of the University of Divinity. In addition, the Library is open to the public as a spiritual resource, a place of welcome and reflection for anyone interested in the spiritual journey.

the Carmelites have formed a partnership with the University of Divinity for the management of the Library from October 2023 to December 2024. During this time the University team will work with the Carmelite Library Interim Board to collaboratively develop recommendations as to the most appropriate long-term structure for the library operation.

2. Relationship to Mission

The Library’s original principal function of supporting the Order’s work in undergraduate theological education is now shared with other libraries of the University of Divinity. The Library also continues to provide a general resource for members of the local Carmelite community and the Province.

The subject specialisations give expression to the Order’s spiritual tradition and its commitment to work in the area of spirituality and spiritual development. The Library participates in this mission by:

  1. providing a comprehensive resource for the study of the history and spirituality of the Carmelite Order;
  2. providing a high-level resource for research on the Christian spiritual and mystical tradition;
  3. providing materials for research on the theology and cult of the Virgin Mary;
  4. supporting research and teaching by Carmelite faculty and others; and
  5. promoting opportunities for teaching, learning, study and conversation for people interested in the Library’s specialisations and the spiritual journey in general.

3. Purpose of the Collection Development Policy

The purposes of this collection development policy are:

  1. to provide a formal statement of the collection development criteria and priorities currently in use;
  2. to inform members of the Provincial Council and Provincial Chapter of the principles at work in the ongoing development of the collection;
  3. to assist the work of the Library’s Advisory Board;
  4. to guide library staff and others who may make decisions regarding selection and deselection of holdings, and to help ensure continuity of policy;
  5. to identify the strengths and priorities of the collection for future development;
  6. to indicate the character and scope of the collection to potential users and to other libraries collecting in related areas; and
  7. to help create a broader public awareness of a specialised collection containing much monograph and periodical material unavailable elsewhere in Australia.

4. Clientele served

The Library offers broad public access to users and there are no restrictions on access. Users are diverse, but fall into two broad user groups.  The first includes researchers, postgraduates, teachers, and students of the University of Divinity and other schools and universities. The second includes all general readers for whom spiritual reading is a matter of personal interest and lifelong learning. This group includes the members of the Order, friends or associates of the Carmelite community, all users of the Carmelite Centre, and anyone engaged in spiritual life. The Library has a close on-going relationship with the Carmelite Centre, which provides programs facilitating spiritual journeys, study groups, meditation, spiritual direction, pastoral supervision, and workshops. The Library has its own educational and outreach programs. There are currently over 700 registered users.

5. Access to the Collection

In partnership with the Carmelites, the University of Divinity has allocated a team who will manage the Carmelite Library from October 2023 to December 2024 and work with the Carmelite Library Interim Board to develop recommendations as to the most appropriate long-term structure for the library’s operation. In order to allow time for the University team to prepare for this project, the Library will be closed to the public from 28 September 2023 to the end of January 2024. During this time you can still borrow and return Library resources. Please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to make arrangements. The catalogue is available online and via the Library website, also via the University of Divinity Combined Catalogue and the National Library of Australia’s Trove. Borrowing privileges are available to all members, 28 days renewable. Inter-library loan is available.

6. Description of the Collection

The Library holds over 55,000 monograph titles, 60 periodical titles, and is growing. In recent years it has generally added about 1000 titles each year.

The foundation of the collection consisted of the seminary and rare books retained after the downsizing of the 1990s. Spirituality is a broad-ranging interdisciplinary field, so there was retention of monograph material in those areas. Systematic acquisition since has been restricted almost exclusively to the Library’s areas of specialisation.

The Library concentrates on the acquisition of print materials (reference and folio works, monographs, periodicals, pamphlets), but also holds collections of CDs, DVDs, and artworks, including an icon collection.

Classification is modified Dewey, with important adaptations for Mariology, Spirituality, and Carmelitana. Books are catalogued according to RDA and other authorities by author, title, series and subject (LCSH). The catalogue is available direct online and via the website. It is also found via the University of Divinity Combined Online Catalogue and its holdings are on Libraries Australia. Shelving is open access. There is also an unclassified stack collection that is readily accessible by staff for requests.

 In summary, the Library has a well-focussed and coherent collection policy in areas which are not covered in such depth elsewhere in Australia:

  1. the Carmelitana collection is the most significant in the region and one of the top half dozen in the world, including exceptional holdings on the major Carmelite mystical writers and all the relevant scholarly periodicals;
  2. the specialisation area of Christian spirituality and mysticism is a nationally significant holding of monographs and periodicals;
  3. the largest Melbourne holding in the specialisation area Mariology, if not Australia, including all the significant periodicals;
  4. the Library's project “Bibliographical Heritage of Religious Institutes” is establishing a research collection of specialised and older materials relating to monastic and religious life in danger of loss or dispersal because of the closure of institutional libraries;
  5. other strengths of the collection include holdings in related areas such as hagiography and lives of saints, Christian biography, prayer-books and devotions, retreats and meditations, history of women, popular religion, and spiritual and mystical traditions of the world religions.

The Carmelite Library’s choice for specialisation has enabled it to build a significant resource for research on a comparatively modest budget. In many sectors of its areas of specialisation, the holdings are sufficient for post-graduate work, research, and publication.

7. Budget

The budget allocation in recent years has been about $130,000, but there are currently severe financial restraints. A major renovation of the Library premises and precinct was carried out in 2006. Since the Library’s relocation to Middle Park in 2002 the Carmelites have invested an estimated $3.5 million in preserving ad developing the collection.

The Library is supported by the Province, with assistance from grants, monetary donations, and other outside funding. The highly successful policy of collecting materials by donation or second-hand purchase has resulted in a large number of titles entering the collection annually relative to the expenditure.

8. Selection Principles and Procedures

The librarian is responsible for selection of all materials. Literary merit, enduring value, continuing relevance, authoritativeness, rarity and availability of material on the subject, and budgetary constraints are principles that guide selection. Priority is in this order (1) Carmelitana, (2) Spirituality, and (3) Mariology. The principal criteria are the comprehensiveness and quality of the collection; user demand is a significant factor, but secondary. Acquisitions are made in the principal European languages of scholarship relevant to each subject area. Identification of spirituality subject gaps in the collection is the rationale for special funding applications. With donations, special consideration is also given to valuable materials not otherwise available within the University of Divinity. Selection procedures include review of online and print catalogues, subject bibliographies, book reviews, recommendations, and user requests.

The interdisciplinary character of spirituality as a field of research and teaching informs the maintenance of broad selection. Preservation of the coherence and usefulness of the specialised collection is paramount, with consideration of availability of related materials in other libraries. Preference is often given to material not held by, or thought unlikely to be purchased by, other libraries. Budgetary constraints impose restrictions on purchases, particularly expensive scholarly works.

9. Special Collections

The Carmelitana is a large special collection, housed in separate ranges of the Library. These are works by or about Carmelites, their history and traditions. This collection has its own in-house classification. The collection includes comprehensive multilingual holdings on the major Carmelite mystical authors (e.g. St John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Edith Stein), and all the scholarly periodicals and specialist indexes in the area.

A significant rare book collection of about 750 pre-1800 Carmelite titles includes important holdings of liturgical texts, biography, history, theology and mystical literature.

Mariology is a special collection incorporated into the General Collection. The Library also holds one of Melbourne’s strongest collections of icon books.

10. Limitations of the Collection    

The Library, as a rule, does not acquire theological material outside its areas of specialisation. The major limitation in the specialist areas is financial. Opening hours have had to be reduced for financial reasons.

11. Cooperative Relationships with other Libraries (including Inter-Library Loans)

The Carmelite Library is an associated library of Yarra Theological Union, one of the associated teaching institutions of the University of Divinity. The librarian participates in the cooperative work of the University’s Library Committee. The Library is a participating member of two international organisations, the Australian and New Zealand Theological Library Association and the Carmelite Librarians’ Association. An inter-library loan system is available.

The Library’s specialisation policy was decided independently based on criteria internal to the Carmelite Order, but there was a lively awareness that no other library in Australia was pursuing the same specialisations and that therefore a significant contribution could be made to the distributed theological collection in Melbourne and the national distributed collection in general.

Since the Carmelite Library is a specialised research collection and not a campus library or an undergraduate service collection, its holdings include a large proportion of titles not held by other libraries in the University of Divinity network. Our collection policy is likely to fit readily into future cooperative developments between theological libraries in Melbourne.

12. Collection Evaluation

Comprehensive reviews were undertaken by Dr Ken O’Malley of Chicago Theological Union in 1993, and as part of the Melbourne College of Divinity conspectus process in 1999, The most recent review was tabled by Jock Murphy and Shane Carmody of the State Library of Victoria in 2016. Their conclusion was that the Library is “both viable and valuable,” that the Library “has a future, should the province wish this to be so.”

13. Preservation Activity

Repairs are carried out as needed. The library is not air-conditioned or humidity-controlled but conditions are generally good.

A significant preservation concern relates to unbound periodicals. Little binding has been done over the years, and the majority of periodicals are unbound and with increased susceptibility to loss. This is of some concern, especially given the proportion of periodicals not readily available elsewhere. A limited binding program has been undertaken, but within present budgetary limitations the situation is unlikely to be rectified in the near future. Large parts of this collection are now stored in boxes in stack.

The significant Rare Book collection is inadequately housed and conserved. Application has been made for a Community Heritage Grant in order to carry out a significance assessment as a first step towards improved curation of this part of the collection.

14. Weeding

In accordance with the practice of research collections, deselection is not practised in the areas of specialisation, where older materials, variant editions, translations, and so on are retained. The Library has adopted the ‘steady state’ policy recommended by Murphy and Carmody, i.e. only very judicious weeding of material judged redundant, or else available with certainty in another library of the University of Divinity. The working collection is accessible on the shelves; low demand materials are kept in stack.

15. Review of the Collection Development Policy

The collection development policy is reviewed periodically, in consultation with the Advisory Board and the Carmelite Provincial Council.

Approved by the Carmelite Provincial Council, August 2021

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