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Guidelines for Selection of Free Web-Based Reference Resources

Selection Policy

Selection of electronic resources should follow the general guidelines developed for all electronic resources. However, recognizing that Web-based, free resources of potential value abound, suggested criteria for selection of these materials are provided here. Free, Web-based resources often lack print counterparts or established track records requiring the exercise of careful judgement by selectors.


  • Electronic resources selected as reference resources either for the general reference pages or for subject-specific pages should meet the same selection criteria as resources that are purchased. Selection should be based on the site's ability to support and enhance the research and teaching activities of the University of Maryland. They should be of a scholarly nature or likely to assist in advancing scholarly research or university education programs. Relevance to campus teaching and research needs should be the primary selection criterion.
  • The quality and content of the electronic resource are likewise of great importance.
    • Quality indicators can include peer review of the site, review of the site by other librarians, an authoritative sponsor or producer, and evidence of ongoing support (creation of archives, mirror sites, etc.).
    • The amount of content provided should be significant.
    • In subject areas where similar sites exists, emphasis should be placed on creating a selective collection that highlights key resources rather than a comprehensive listing of all known resources.
  • Ease of use is also a relevant selection factor for electronic resources. Selected resources should be self-explanatory with regard to their use and offer effective support for browsing or searching.
  • Reliability and stability can also influence selection. Resources known to be frequently unavailable should not be selected.
  • If registration and/or licensing are required, licenses must be submitted for approval through the Libraries' license review process. Resources may be rejected if licensing terms are unacceptable.
  • Fee-based resources that are available on a free-trial basis for a limited period of time are not appropriate for selection.