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Biological Sciences

Bibliographer: Melanie Cedrone, 215-898-1862,

I. Program Information

The Biology program at the University of Pennsylvania comprises a number of disciplinary and interdisciplinary courses of study on both the undergraduate and graduate levels and is centered in the Department of Biology of the School of Arts and Sciences (SAS). Over one hundred students receive bachelor degrees in Biology each year. An additional 100+ graduate with a major in Biological Basis of Behavior. Resources in biological sciences are utilized by many other science and social science programs at the University for both teaching and research. The Biology collection also supports the information needs of the many research centers on campus. These include in the Penn Genomics Institute, Penn Center for Bioinformatics, and the Center of Excellence in Biomedical Computing.

The Department of Biology offers programs from the undergraduate degree to the PhD. Undergraduate students graduate with a General Biology degree but can specialize in Neuroscience, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Molecular Biology or Mathematical Biology. Research opportunities are available for graduate students in Ecology and Evolution, Computational Biology, the Molecular Basis of Behavior, Microbial Biology, Cell Biology, Molecular Biology and Plant Science. The Department of Biology, while part of SAS, is also affiliated with Biomedical Graduate Studies (BGS), which combines resources and faculty from the Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, Veterinary Medicine, and Engineering and Applied Science.

II. Collection Description

This document focuses on the collection maintained by the Biomedical Library, which supports the Biology program. Reserve materials for all undergraduate classes are held at the Biomedical Library. Many other libraries on campus also hold biology-related materials in support of specific programs at the University. These include landscape architecture (materials held at the Fine Arts Library); paleobiology and environmental studies (Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; materials held at Van Pelt Library); bioengineering and biophysics (Engineering Library); botany and horticulture (Morris Arboretum) and physical and medical anthropology (Museum Library.)

The Biomedical Library's biology collection began in 1980 with materials transferred from the Biology Department Library. New materials are selected in support of the current teaching and research programs of the Biology Department. The current focus of the collection is on primary journal material. Approximately 11% of the library's 3100 periodical and serial subscriptions cover such fields as genomics, cell biology, and plant science and directly support the Biology Program. In addition, journals for BGS and Medicine, which are also held at the Biomedical Library, cover related fields such as biochemistry, genetics, and pharmacology, and complement the Biology titles. The library system subscribes to electronic, networked versions of the BIOSIS Previews, MEDLINE and ISI Citation Indexes databases.

III. Guidelines for Collection Development

  1. Chronological

    Current publications in support of current research

  2. Formats

    The core book collection is in print. There are a few additional texts available in electronic format; primarily those texts are part of the PubMed Bookshelf. The journal collection is in both print and electronic format. To support of the current Biomedical Library initiative of an increasingly electronic journal collection, major consideration is given to the electronic format when new journals are purchased. Other formats include comprehensive databases, full-text resources and links to useful Penn and non-Penn web sites. All resources are accessible from the Health Sciences Libraries web site. Electronic publications on CD-ROM or requiring site-specific web access are not normally purchased. Audio-visual material, examination reviews, handbooks, laboratory manuals, loose-leaf services, programmed texts, and workbooks are purchased selectively. Microforms are excluded.

  3. Geographical

    Ecosystem-specific materials are collected only in support of department-related research and/or teaching. For example, the library's collection houses a number of materials on rainforest ecology due to a faculty member's active research in that area.

  4. Language


  5. Publication Dates

    Publications issued within the previous three years. Older materials are purchased to fill in gaps due to lost copies, in support of new programs, or at the specific request of faculty members.

IV. Principal Sources of Supply and major Selection Tools

Monographs are purchased for the Biomedical Library through Majors Scientific Books. Serials and periodicals are purchased through Majors, Rittenhouse and EBSCO. Librarians scan book reviews, publication lists and other sources to identify new materials for the collection. In addition, the following criteria are often helpful in making collection decisions:

Tools for Selection:

Serials and Periodicals
Inclusion in a major indexing source such as BIOSIS Previews or MEDLINE
Faculty requests
ISI Impact Factor
Interlibrary Loan activity
Cost/potential audience
User requests, including Interlibrary Loan
Search interface design
Network/remote access

V. Subjects Collected and Levels of Collecting

Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting
Anatomy 4/4
Animal Behavior and psychology 3/3
Bacteria/Bacteriology 3/3
Biochemistry 4/4
Bioengineering 2/3
Biodiversity 2/3
Bioinformatics 3/3
Biomathematics/Computational Biology 3/3
Biophysics 3/3
Biotechnology 2/3/4
Conservation Biology 2/3
Developmental Biology 3/3/4
Ecology 3/3
Embryology 4/4
Environmental Sciences 3/3 (with Engineering Library)
Evolution 3/3
Genetics 4/4
Genomics 3/4
Immunology 4/4
Invertebrate Zoology 3/2
Medical Botany 2/2
Microbiology 4/4
Microscopy 2/2
Molecular and Cellular Biology 4/4
Mycology 2/2
Neurophysiology & Neuropsychology 3/3/4
Physiology 4/4
Plant Anatomy & Physiology 3/3/4
Plant Genetics 3/3/4
Plant Ecology 3/3
Population Biology 2/3
Vertebrate Zoology 3/2
Virology 4/4/4

VI. Subjects Excluded

Animal culture
Economic biology
Industrial Microbiology
Wildlife management

Purely descriptive works on animals, habitats and plants are purchased in very limited numbers.

VII. Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

  • The Chemistry Library also collects in biochemistry.
  • The Fisher Fine Arts Library collects materials on landscaping.
  • The Morris Arboretum Library collects materials on floristic botany, garden and landscape history, conservation biology, and horticulture.
  • The Museum Library has materials on physical and medical anthropology.
  • The C.J. Marshall Memorial Library collects material on wildlife management and wildlife health.
  • The Van Pelt Library collects in history and sociology of science, science policy, paleobiology, environmental sciences and evolution.
  • The engineering library (Towne/Moore) also collect in bioengineering.
  • The Math/Physics/Astronomy Library also collects in biophysics.