Joint Collection Development Policy:
Human Nutrition and Food




February 27, 1998

The National Agricultural Library (NAL), the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and the Library of Congress (LC) acquire publications devoted to human nutrition and food, and provide document and information services for these materials. The three libraries have reviewed their respective collection development policies in human nutrition and food and have prepared this joint statement in order to clarify the collecting emphasis of each library and, where possible, to minimize duplication of effort. Users should consult the complete collection development policies of the libraries for additional information.

General Principles

Nutrition is defined as the "science of food, the nutrients and other substances therein, their action, interaction and balance in relation to health and disease, and the processes by which the organism ingests, absorbs, transports, utilizes and excretes food substances. 1 This joint statement deals specifically with human nutrition. Animal nutrition is covered in the joint statement "Veterinary Science and Related Subjects.2

Together NAL, NLM, and LC attempt to collect, retain, and preserve all significant information on human nutrition and food; however, aspects of the subject areas are collected and treated differently at each institution depending upon its mission and the needs of its users.


NAL collects information on human nutrition and food to support United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. These programs encompass areas as diverse as human nutritional needs, food production, safety and inspection, distribution, economics, and consumer education. NAL comprehensively collects materials on normal nutrition, that is, caloric and nutrient requirements throughout the life-cycle and for specific populations. It also maintains a strong research collection on physiology and biochemistry of nutrition. Although NAL's coverage of clinical nutrition is selective, dietary supplements are covered comprehensively. Works on nutrition monitoring and surveys and food assistance programs receive special emphasis. Through its Food and Nutrition Information Center, NAL serves USDA personnel working with nutrition education and food assistance programs throughout the United States. NAL collects instructional materials suitable for use by nutrition educators, health professionals and specific populations with special nutritional needs, although selected materials for the general public are included. Food habits and customs are important to USDA because of their influence on the nutritional status of the US population and their usefulness in planning nutrition education programs.

Because of USDA's responsibility for food safety and inspection, NAL comprehensively collects works about foodborne illness, food toxicology, and food inspection. In addition, in support of USDA's close relationship and regulatory role with the food industry, NAL collects information on food industry and technology including food irradiation and biotechnology. NAL collects information relevant to all aspects of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) for food producers and handlers. NAL's comprehensive collection of works on food service management for schools supports USDA's school meal program throughout the United States. NAL collects selected material on home food preparation and handling. Because of USDA's leadership in food programs around the world, NAL collects materials related to the food supply, food consumption, and world hunger (food security) at the comprehensive level.


Since NLM's coverage of nutrition is shaped by its responsibility to serve the health professional, it comprehensively collects research and clinical literature in every aspect of human nutrition including normal nutrition, i.e., caloric and nutrient requirements throughout the life cycle and for specific populations, and clinical nutrition, i.e., nutrition intervention aimed at the treatment or prevention of disease or illness. Topics of special collecting emphasis include diet therapy, dietary supplements, enteral and parenteral nutrition support, and nutritional epidemiology. Because of the library's emphasis on biomedical research, NLM is particularly interested in works dealing with the physiology and biochemistry of nutrition. NLM also collects titles on nutrition policy as a public health issue, and nutrition as a health care profession.

The library collects works on nutrition education written primarily for those engaged in or preparing for careers in nutrition research, clinical nutrition, or nutrition in a health care setting. A limited number of instructional works written for general audiences or patients may be selected for their historical value, to chronicle public health outreach efforts, or to represent materials available to health providers for direct patient care. Such materials are collected very selectively with the emphasis on authoritative materials likely to be widely used in U.S. health care.

NLM collects more narrowly in food-related subject areas. The library's primary interests are food composition, foodborne illness and food toxicology. NLM also collects works dealing with the public health aspects of food labeling and food inspection, but does not collect works on the management or techniques of dairy, meat, fish or other food inspection programs. NLM collects works on dietary habits and customs when the content is directly related to biomedicine or health care; purely sociocultural works on food customs generally are not collected. NLM collects works on food service management in health care facilities, but not those on general food service management. NLM does not collect works on the food industry, food technology, food supply (including food consumption and food economics), or home food preparation and handling.


LC collects information on human nutrition and food to support its mission and responsibility to serve (1) the Congress as well as the United States Government as a whole, (2) the scholarly and scientific communities, and (3) the general public.

The strength of LC's science and technology collection lies in its size and depth. The collections pertinent to science and technology comprise roughly one fourth of LC's entire collection of books and journals. The Library also has an extensive collection of technical reports and standards. These factors help contribute to its broad coverage and research collecting strength in many areas of human nutrition and food. In addition, LC's extensive holdings of law and Congressional publications provide a strong basis of law, legislation, and regulations pertaining to the subject.

LC collects at a research level materials on normal nutrition and food composition, physiology and biochemistry of nutrition, nutrition policy, food assistance programs, nutrition monitoring and surveys, food habits and customs, food security, food toxicology, food additives, food history, and food supply. The strength of its collections in clinical nutrition is heavily dependent on English language copyright deposits.

LC places less emphasis on collecting materials on food inspection, nutrition education, home food preparation, food service management, and the food industry, including processing and manufacture, distribution and marketing, and preservation and storage.

LC's comprehensive collection of cookbooks and cookery is an invaluable source of information, particularly on diet selection, nutrient content of foods, and recipes for special classes and groups. Noteworthy are two special collections housed in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. The Katherine Golden Bitting 4,346-volume gastronomic collection contains materials dating from the fifteenth through twentieth centuries on the sources, preparation, and consumption of foods, their chemistry, bacteriology, preservation, etc. The Elizabeth Robins Pennell 433-volume cookery collection is strong in French and Italian cookbooks dating from the sixteenth through eighteenth centuries.

Collecting Levels

NAL and LC employ collecting level definitions developed by the Research Libraries Group (RLG) and adopted by the Association of Research Libraries. The definitions follow:

Comprehensive Level: Collections in a specifically defined field of knowledge that strive to be exhaustive as far as is reasonably possible (i.e., "special collections") in all applicable languages include:

Research Level: Collections that contain the major published source materials required for doctoral study and independent research include:

Study or Instructional Support Level: Collections that provide information about a subject in a systematic way, but at a level of less than research intensity and support the needs of general library users through college and beginning graduate instruction include:

Basic Information Level: Collections that introduce and define a subject, indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere, and support the needs of general library users through the first two years of college instruction include:

Minimal Information Level: Collections that support minimal inquiries about this subject and include a very limited collection of general resources, including monographs and reference works. Periodicals directly dealing with this topic and in-depth electronic information resources are not collected.

Out of Scope: The library does not intentionally collect materials in any format for this subject. In its most recent statement of collecting policies (Collection Development Manual of the National Library of Medicine, Third Edition, 1993), NLM focused its collecting efforts on the biomedical literature. Instead of following the levels defined by RLG, NLM stated that it would attempt to collect comprehensively biomedical aspects of any subject.

NLM's concept of comprehensive collecting is compatible with the Comprehensive level as defined by the RLG, but the scope of the NLM collection, encompassing as it does all of biomedicine, is significantly broader than is generally understood for the "special collection" referred to in the RLG definition. NLM recognizes that while it is possible to assemble a collection which addresses all topics in biomedicine, it is impossible even for a national library to gather a complete, worldwide collection of all biomedical materials in all formats.

The following table summarizes NAL, NLM and LC's collecting levels in some 31 categories of human nutrition and food topics. For more specific information on any limitations based on intended audience, aspects of subjects, etc., refer to the text of the accompanying statement.

TOPIC Collecting Level
Physiology of Nutrition Research Comprehensive Research
Biochemistry of Nutrition Research Comprehensive Research
Normal Nutrition Comprehensive Comprehensive Research

Clinical Nutrition

Dietary Supplements Comprehensive Comprehensive Study
Diet Therapy Study Comprehensive Study
Epidemiology Basic Comprehensive Study
Nutrition Support Basic Comprehensive Study
Nutrition Education Comprehensive Comprehensive Study
Nutrition as a Profession Basic Comprehensive Basic
Food Security Comprehensive Out of Scope Research
Nutrition Policy Comprehensive Comprehensive Research
Food Assistance Programs Comprehensive Out of Scope Research
Nutrition Monitoring and Surveys Comprehensive Comprehensive Research

Food Habits and Customs

General Research Out of Scope Research
Health Related Research Comprehensive Research

Food Industry and Technology

Processing and Manufacture Comprehensive Out of Scope Basic
Preservation and Storage Comprehensive Out of Scope Study
Distribution and Marketing  Comprehensive Out of Scope Study
Food Irradiation Comprehensive Out of Scope Study
Biotechnology Comprehensive Out of Scope Research

Food Safety

Foodborne Illness Comprehensive Comprehensive Research
Food Toxicology Comprehensive Comprehensive Research

Hazard Analysis Critical

Control Points (HACCP) Comprehensive Out of scope Study
Inspection Comprehensive Out of scope Basic
Food Supply Comprehensive Out of scope Research
Food Composition Comprehensive Comprehensive Research
Food Science Comprehensive Out of scope Research

Food Service Management

General, Commercial Study Out of scope Basic
Schools Comprehensive Out of scope Basic
Health Facilities Basic Comprehensive Basic
Home Food Preparation
and Handling
Basic Out of Scope Study

User Services

NAL, NLM and LC cooperate to ensure that significant literature in human nutrition and food topics is collected, retained, preserved and made accessible to the wide variety of researchers and practitioners throughout the United States.

NAL's food and nutrition materials and NAL's collections in other subjects are available to users on site and may be loaned to other U.S. libraries, USDA staff, and congressional offices. Individuals who are not USDA employees are encouraged to use local sources whenever possible; those who are not able to acquire the material they need locally and cannot come to NAL must request material from NAL through their local library. NAL's document delivery service provides photocopies of articles free to USDA staff and for a fee to other libraries. For more information on NAL's circulation, document delivery, and interlibrary loan services, contact: USDA, National Agricultural Library, Document Delivery Services Branch, 10301 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, Maryland, 20705-2351. Telephone: (301) 504-5755, Fax: (301) 504-5675, Internet:

NLM makes its materials available on site to anyone who can come to the library and through the interlibrary loan process to those who cannot. Requestors who cannot obtain items in their region may request items from NLM through their local library. For requestors in the United States, NLM will provide photocopies of journal articles or short excerpts from monographic material and will lend books and audiovisuals. For those outside the United States, NLM provides only photocopies of journal articles or short excerpts from monographs. Medical libraries are encouraged to send interlibrary loan requests via DOCLINE. For information about DOCLINE participation, contact the nearest Regional Medical Library at 1-800-338-RMLS. International medical libraries may contact the closest International MEDLARS Center or the National Library of Medicine to determine if the center or another library in the immediate area accesses DOCLINE via the Internet. For more information on NLM's Interlibrary Loan Policy contact: National Library of Medicine, 8600 Rockville Pike, Bethesda, MD 20894.
Telephone: (1-888) FIND-NLM, Fax: (301) 496-2809, Internet:

LC's collections are available to users on site and are a source for material not available through local, state or regional libraries. Requests are accepted from recognized libraries that are listed in standard directories or are affiliated with networks and that make their own material available on interlibrary loan. School libraries below the college level should seek assistance from a local academic or public library system. LC's interlibrary loan policies are complementary to the U.S. National Interlibrary Loan Code, 1980. No charges are levied for interlibrary loan and the Library assumes reciprocity.

For information about circulation policies, contact Loan Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540-4670. Telephone: (202) 707-5444, Fax (202) 707-5986.


1Nutrition and Diet Therapy Reference Dictionary. Rosalinda T. Lagua and Virginia S. Claudio. New York: Chapman & Hall, 1995.

2Joint collection development policy statements of the National Agricultural Library, National Library of Medicine and the Library of Congress are available at the following World Wide Web sites: and

Last reviewed: 07 May 2009
Last updated: 07 May 2009
First published: 27 February 1998
Metadata| Permanence level: Permanent: Stable Content