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Penn Library Collections


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Collections in the Library

Strengths and size

The collections of the Penn Libraries are among the oldest academic collections in the nation, with historic strengths in the humanities, selected social sciences, and Assyriology, Egyptology, South Asia, and the health sciences. Current areas of concentration include classical studies, history, linguistics, literature, music, the history of science, criminology, communication and mass media studies, finance, social work and social welfare, religion, anthropology, and archaeology, with emphasis often on primary sources.

The Libraries also maintain strong collections in clinical medicine, veterinary medicine, dental medicine, nursing, engineering, mathematics, and the physical and life sciences. In recent years, our special collections have grown from their origins in American and British literature (especially Shakespeare) to include world-class collections in areas as varied as medieval European manuscripts, the US book trade, cookbooks, and comics.

The Penn Libraries hold more than 6.5 million printed volumes, 3.8 million items in microform, and provide access to almost 250,000 serials and 1,600 databases.


In the development of its collections, the Libraries' priority is to support Penn's teaching, research, and clinical needs with information in all applicable formats and media. Policies formed in consultation with faculty guide the selection of materials, and an ongoing liaison between librarians and academic departments ensures the alignment of collections with information needs in the academic programs of Penn's twelve schools.

While maintaining the great tradition of Penn's print collections, the Libraries lead in the development of digital resources. To provide faster, more convenient access to scholarship, we are focusing increased attention on the acquisition of full-text material online. Penn's digital collections, including Digital Penn ( and OPenn (, are recognized for their presentation of scholarly content. The Libraries also manage Penn's institutional repository, ScholarlyCommons@Penn.

The Libraries. print collections are growing by more than 100,000 volumes per year. New acquisitions are selected from scholarly and literary works published in North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and Africa. The Libraries are a depository for government publications of the U.S., the European Community, the United Nations, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In addition to electronic resources, printed books, and journals, the Libraries also acquire works in microform, photographic slides and digital images, sound recordings, videos, datasets, realia, and other media consistent with Penn's academic program needs.

Faculty and students are encouraged to recommend titles for purchase or linkage to the Library Web. Please contact the librarians and bibliographers, or use the purchase request form.