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Collections Development Policies


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Bibliographer: Melanie Cedrone, 215-898-1862,

I. Program Information

This policy governs the collecting activity in Medicine. The Medicine collection primarily supports the teaching, research and clinical needs of the Perelman School of Medicine, the Biomedical Graduate Groups, and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP). The clinical collection also supports the educational and research needs of the Nursing program. The basic science material supports the programs in Veterinary and Dental Medicine. For a more complete review of the Nursing, Dental, and Veterinary Medicine collections, see their individual collection policies.

There are 45 departments, divisions and centers in the Perelman School of Medicine. The School has a full-time faculty of 1,406 and 1,094 residents and fellows. There are 725 medical students and 745 postdoctoral fellows and researchers. The University ranks second in the country for NIH grants among academic medical centers.

The Library serves the four hospitals owned by the University Health System. Altogether, Penn Medicine has 15,351 employees.

II. Collection Description

The Perelman School of Medicine was founded in 1765. For nearly 150 years, the physicians and students relied on the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. In 1931, the rotunda of the Medical Laboratories Building (now the Morgan Building) was set aside for a Medical School Library. (The name was later changed to Biomedical Library.) The collection was formed by the merger of several departmental libraries and the personal collections of several faculty members. Acquisitions for the Medical Library focused on the basic sciences and research needs of the Penn medical community. It was understood that the clinical information needs of the staff were handled by the HUP departmental libraries and, from 1952, by the consolidated HUP Library. In 1987, the HUP library was closed and its unique holdings were transferred to the Biomedical Library. As a consequence, the Biomedical Library was charged with providing a clinical as well as a research collection. Since the early '90's emphasis in the Health System has been placed on expanding its already extensive clinical programs.

The focus of the Medical collection is on current, primary journal literature. In fiscal year 2003 approximately 92% of the budget was spent on journals. Electronic resources accounted for 22% of the total expenditures. While clinical materials are being acquired at an increasing rate, basic science and research material still dominate the collection and the distribution of expenditures. The collection has expanded slowly in response to the demands placed on it by the expanding Health System. The Biomedical Library continues to be a heavy net borrower in the Interlibrary Loan network.

The most dynamic portion of the Biomedical collection is located via the Penn Libraries website. Electronic access is now considered essential for current medical practice and research. The Library is in a transition period moving from a print to an electronic collection. New journals are electronic, only, whenever possible. Established titles are being dropped in print when the electronic versions are available at an affordable cost. The library subscribes to more than 3,100 unique health science journals of which 1,900 are electronic. It is committed to increasing the number of electronic titles as conditions permit. In addition, the Library has purchased approximately 75 electronic books. It is anticipated that the electronic book collection will be the next area of expansion. The print collection resides in the Biomedical Library. Older material is being shifted to LIBRA to make room for more congenial and productive user space. The maximum capacity of the Library is about 185,000 volumes.

III. Guidelines for Collection Development

  1. Chronological

    Current publications in support of education, research, and patient care.

  2. Formats

    The preferred format is electronic with access via the web. CD-ROM and single site access are not acceptable. When there is an option, access via the publisher's website is preferred to access through an aggregator database. Handbooks, laboratory manuals and loose-leaf services are rarely purchased in print. They are given greater consideration when available online. Programmed texts, workbooks and examination reviews are purchased selectively. Microforms are excluded.

  3. Geographical

    Clinical materials are predominately from the United States. Research material may be from anywhere in the world, if written in English.

  4. Language


  5. Publication Dates

    Publications issued within the previous three years. Older materials are purchased in support of new programs, or at the specific request of faculty members. Missing volumes are selectively replaced. Digital archives are being added as finances permit. Backfiles do not take precedence over currently published material.

IV. Principal Sources of Supply

Serials are purchased through EBSCO Subscription Services, Majors Scientific Books, Rittenhouse Books, journal aggregators, individual publishers, and through consortial agreements. The Biomedical Library maintains an approval plan with Majors Scientific Books. In addition, the following criteria are often helpful in making collection decisions:

Serials and Periodicals
Inclusion in a major indexing source such as Medline
Interlibrary Loan activity
ISI impact factor
Potential audience
User requests

Ease of use
Interlibrary Loan activity
User requests

Clinical Practice Resources
Ease of use
Quality and depth of material

V. Subjects Collected and Levels of Collecting

Basic Science and Research:


The following subjects among the basic are maintained at a research level 4/4:

Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting
Biochemistry 4/4
Microbiology 4/4
Molecular and Cellular Biology 4/4
Pathology 4/4
Physiology 4/4

The following subjects would be collected at a higher level if funds were available:

Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting
Genetics 3/3/4
Medical Education 3/3/4
Medical Informatics 2/2/3
Neurosciences 3/3/4
Virology 3/3/4

Clinical/Patient Care:


If funds were available, the following subjects would be collected at a level 3/3/4:

Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting
Allergy and Immunology 3/3/4
Cardiology 3/3/4
Diabetes 3/3/4
Endocrinology 3/3/4
Epidemiology 3/3/4
Geriatrics 3/3/4
Internal Medicine 3/3/4
Neoplasms 3/3/4
Nephrology 3/3/4
Obstetrics 3/3/4
Pulmonary Disease 3/3/4
Transportation 3/3/4
Urology 3/3/4
Vascular Diseases 3/3/4

The following subjects are maintained at minimal or basic levels:

Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting
Allied Health 2/2
Alternative or Complementary Health 2/2
Consumer Health 1/1
Forensic Medicine 2/2
Homeopathy 2/2
Pharmacy 1/1
Tropical Medicine 1/1

VI. Subjects Excluded

Aerospace medicine
Medical Photography
Military Medicine

VII. Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

Purchases for the Biomed Library collection are coordinated with the purchases for the Dental and Veterinary Libraries. Duplication of resources is kept to a minimum.

University of Pennsylvania:

  • The Biddle Law Library collects in medical jurisprudence.
  • The Chemistry Library collects in all areas of chemistry
  • The C.J. Marshall Memorial Library collects in parasitology.
  • The Lippincott Library collects in health care economics, health care management, and medical practice management.
  • The Pennsylvania Hospital Library has a substantial print collection in psychiatry.
  • The Van Pelt /Dietrich Library collects in the history of science and medicine, social, environmental, ethical, legal, philosophical, political, public policy and religious issues related to medicine and health care.
  • The Engineering Library collects in bioengineering.
  • The Children's Hospital Library collects print material in pediatrics.
  • The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Library has History of Medicine and foreign language material.

The Biomedical Library is a resource library in the National Network of Libraries sponsored by the National Library of Medicine.