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Collections Development Policies


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Bibliographer: Judith Currano, (215) 898-2177,

I. Program Information

The Library's collections in chemistry serve the research and teaching needs of the Department of Chemistry as well as the needs of chemical researchers in the Medical, Dental and Veterinary Medicine Schools, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Department of Physics and research groups at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

The Chemistry Department itself has 40 faculty members, almost 100 post-doctoral researchers and more than 200 graduate students. Approximately 1000 undergraduate students take a chemistry course each year, and roughly 150 students graduate each year with a major in chemistry or biochemistry. The Department does research in four main areas of chemistry: organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, and biological chemistry. Organic chemistry research includes organic synthesis , natural products, bioorganic chemistry, organometallic chemistry, photochemistry and physical organic chemistry. Inorganic chemistry research emphasizes synthetic, spectroscopic, structural, mechanistic, and theoretical research involving new molecular, polymeric, and solid-state compounds and materials such as main group compounds, transition metal organometallics and bioinorganic compounds. Physical chemistry research focuses on theoretical and experimental studies of the physical, chemical and biological properties of molecular systems with emphasis on the theory and computer simulation of biophysical systems, novel materials, small molecule interactions, and condensed phase processes. Biological chemistry programs include work on the structure of proteins and nucleic acids, enzyme mechanisms, and biomolecular modeling. Several instrumentation facilities are based in the department including the Regional Laser and Biotechnology Laboratory, biological and analytical NMR, x-ray diffraction, and mass spectrometry. Penn is a center of expertise for the applications of lasers to chemical and biological problems.

II. Collection Description

The University's core collection in chemistry is the Chemistry Library, which consists of 32,700 volumes and is housed on the fifth floor of the chemistry building at 3301 Spruce Street. The collection maintains about 135 current journal subscriptions and has full runs of most of the English-language core journals in chemistry. The monographs provide a good working collection for the Chemistry Department's primary research interests, especially organic synthesis and natural product chemistry. The print collection is complemented by several chemistry-related electronic databases, including Beilstein and Gmelin CrossFire, Chemical Abstracts (STN and SciFinder Scholar), and Physics Abstracts (INSPEC). The library also provides access to over 700 electronic versions of chemical science journals, as well as several major reference works online, including the Cambridge Structural Database, the Electronic Encyclopedia of Reagents for Organic Synthesis (e-EROS), and the Knovel Engineering and Scientific Reference Books Online.

Materials which support the study of chemistry can also be found in other university libraries as will be outlined below.

III. Guidelines for Collection Development

Materials which support ongoing research in the Chemistry Department and in the graduate groups have first priority in collection development. The collection goal, university wide, is to purchase all relevant English-language research level monographs in inorganic, organic, physical and biological chemistry. In practice, acquisitions are occasionally limited by budgetary restrictions to works from major publishers and works recommended by faculty. The collection goal for the Chemistry Library itself is to focus on the research needs of the Department; however, the Library collects selectively in physical chemistry, materials chemistry and nanoscience, and biochemistry because other university libraries also collect in these fields. Acquisitions in analytical chemistry and other subdisciplines are limited to basic reference works and items which support ongoing research. The Library collects all course reserve material as requested and expensive compilations selectively as funds are available. The Library does not collect textbooks used in undergraduate courses except in response to a faculty request.

The science, engineering and biomedical librarians discuss areas of overlap and consult on the appropriate collection for a particular item. They make every effort to avoid unnecessary duplication.

  1. Chronological

    Emphasis is on current research. Historical material on the subjects collected is acquired by the Van Pelt library.

  2. Formats

    All formats compatible with the library's infrastructure are collected. The bulk of the collection is print. However materials in electronic format are increasingly being acquired (primarily electronic journals and databases).

  3. Geographical


  4. Language

    Largely English, although the collection contains some monographs and journals in German and French where translations are not available.

  5. Publication Dates

    Current materials. Older materials purchased upon faculty recommendation.

IV. Principal Sources of Supply and major Selection Tools

The Chemistry Library has standing orders for or electronic editions of most monographic series and multi-volume works that support chemical science research in the aforementioned fields. The University of Pennsylvania participates in an approval plan for university press and domestic trade publications, and most important monographs are included in the plan.

The bibliographer also selects from publishers catalogs and pre-publication announcements and welcomes faculty and student recommendations.

V. Subjects Collected and Levels of Collecting

Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting Comments
Analytical Chemistry 2F/2E  
Spectroscopy 3F/3E/4E with Biomedical
Biochemistry & Bio-organic Chemistry 3F/3E 4E with Biomedical
Biopolymers 3E/3E 4E with Biomedical, SEAS
Protein Structure 3E/3E 4E with Biomedical
Colloid & Surface Chemistry 3F/3E/4E with SEAS
Crystallography 3E/3E/4E  
Combinatorial Chemistry 2E/2E/3E  
Computational Chemistry 2E/2E/3E  
Electrochemsitry 2F/2E 3E with SEAS
Inorganic Chemistry 2F/3E  
Bioinorganic Chemistry 2E/3E  
Main Group Chemistry 2F/3E  
Boron Chemistry 3E/4E  
Organic Chemistry
General 3F/3E  
Heterocyclic Compounds 3F/4E  
Natural Products 3F/4E  
Organic Analysis 2F/3E  
Organic Synthesis 3F/4E  
Organometallic Chemistry 3E/4E  
Materials Chemistry 2E/3E 4E with SEAS
Photochemistry 3E/3E  
Physical & Theoretical Chemistry 3F/3E  
Modelling-Chemical Structures 3E/3E  
Quantum Chemistry 3F/3E  
Conditions & Laws of Chemical Reactions 3F/4E  
Ultrafast Chemical Dynamics (Laser Studies) 3F/4E  
Simulation-Fluids, Biomolecular Materials 3E/3E with Math/Physics
Surface Chemistry 3E/3E with Math/Physics
Polymerization Reactions 2E/2E/3E  
Polymers, Conducting 4E/3E 4E with SEAS, MPA

Several campus libraries have some responsibility for the following subjects: biochemistry, materials research, optics/spectroscopy/lasers, physical chemistry and polymer chemistry. These areas of overlap are:

BIOCHEMISTRY (also collected by the Biomedical Library)

The Chemistry Department collaborates with researchers from the Medical, Veterinary and Dental Schools and the Biology Department in such fields as crystallography, NMR spectroscopy, X-ray and neutron diffraction, laser and synchrotron radiation, and recombinant and synthetic DNA approaches; and the Chemistry Library collects and occasionally duplicates items in other libraries in areas such as the structure of proteins and nucleic acids, enzyme mechanisms, and neurochemistry.

MATERIALS RESEARCH (also collected by the SEAS and Math/Physics/Astronomy Libraries)

The Chemistry Department conducts research in materials chemistry, including liquid crystal chemistry, boron cage compounds, fullerenes, and nanoparticles. However, research projects in materials chemistry frequently involve researchers from several departments and schools, and acquisitions in materials chemistry are closely coordinated by the SEAS, Math/Physics/Astronomy, and Chemistry librarians to ensure that researchers' needs in this highly interdisciplinary area are met. The Chemistry Library collects works on the synthesis and chemical modification of materials, the methods of measuring chemical properties, and structure elucidation. Core monographs and reference works on materials research and properties will be collected.

OPTICS/SPECTROSCOPY/LASERS (also collected by the SEAS and Math/Physics/Astronomy Libraries)

The Chemistry Department has several research areas which involve nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, and spectroscopy is part of the curriculum of several undergraduate and graduate courses. The Chemistry Library collects materials on the use of these techniques in the identification or structure determination of chemical compounds or in the study of chemical processes. Basic works on theory and design of optical and spectral systems are also acquired, occasionally duplicating holdings in another University library.

PHYSICAL CHEMISTRY (also collected by the Math/Physics/Astronomy Library)

The Chemistry Library duplicates core materials relating to physical chemistry, such as statistical mechanics, quantum theory and thermodynamics. The Library collects and occasionally duplicates materials in areas of ongoing departmental research including disordered systems/chaos, surface interfaces, excited states and atomic and molecular structure.

POLYMER CHEMISTRY (also collected by the SEAS library)

The Chemistry Department conducts research in polymers including conducting organic polymers, NMR of biopolymers and polymerization reactions, and the Chemistry Library collects materials on the synthesis, chemical modification, and reaction dynamics of polymers. The SEAS Library collects materials on the mechanical, electrical, structural properties and applications of polymer systems (e.g. batteries and plastics). Works on polymer analysis will be housed in the collection most appropriate for the particular technique or polymer involved. The SEAS Library collects materials on colloids and films; the Chemistry Library purchases only basic works in the area.

VI. Subjects Excluded

The Chemistry Library does not collect in chemical engineering except in response to faculty request; materials already in the SEAS Library will not be duplicated. The Library does not acquire historical and biographical materials.

VII. Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

Van Pelt Library collects in the history and sociology of science, including chemistry, and Rare Books and Manuscripts maintains the E. F. Smith Collection in the history of chemistry. The Chemical Heritage Foundation at 315 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia houses the Othmer Library of Chemical History of more than 50,000 books and journals.