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Accordion List

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 100 students receive bachelor's degrees in biology each year. An additional 100+ graduate from the Neuroscience interdisciplinary program. 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.  

The Department of Biology offers programs from the undergraduate degree to the PhD. Undergraduate students graduate with a General Biology degree but can pursue a concentration in Neurobiology, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Molecular & Cell Biology, Computational Biology & Mathematical Biology, or Mechanisms of Disease. 

Graduate opportunities are available in: Ecology and Biodiversity; Evolution; Plant Biology; Microbiology; Neurobiology, Behavior & Physiology; Cell & Developmental Biology; Genetics, Epigenetics & Genomics; and Computational Biology. 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.

The Biology collection was established in 1980 with material transferred from the Biology Department Library. It is strong in the basic life sciences, particularly plant science, evolution, and molecular biology, and reflects the current research and teaching needs of the faculty and students. It also holds a nascent collection of bioinformatic databases and tools to support the library’s Bioinformatics service. The collection is utilized by other science and social science programs at the University, and supports the information needs of research centers on and off campus.    

Where possible, the collection aligns with the strategic mission and values of the library. For example, transformative open access journal agreements are sought that are both sustainable and equitable. Preference is given to Subscribe to Open agreements, but other models are reviewed to see if they benefit the university and the scholarly communication ecosystem as a whole. New and emerging formats are also collected, such as research workflow tools, datasets, and apps, when their licensing models permit access for all Penn authorized users, protect user privacy, support Fair Use, and align with our current authentication and authorization services.

1. Chronological

Current publications. 

2. Formats

The Biology journal collection is entirely electronic; the monograph collection is primarily electronic except for rare cases when the book is not available in digital format, or the electronic version is exorbitantly more expensive. Access via the publisher's website is preferred over access via an aggregator database. Textbooks are only collected if requested by faculty. Streaming media and apps are selectively purchased. Datasets are collected only when requested and must meet selection criteria. Microform, DVDs, and audiobooks are excluded. 

3. Geographical

Ecosystem-specific materials are collected only in support of department-related research and/or teaching. For example, the Libraries' 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. Missing volumes are selectively replaced. Digital archives are added when funding permits.   

Serials are purchased through EBSCO Subscription Services, journal aggregators, individual publishers, and through consortia agreements. The collection development librarian maintains a slip approval plan with GOBI Library Solutions and uses Rittenhouse Books for supplemental collecting. The monograph collection is acquired mainly in electronic format using various ebook vendors and publishers. The publisher platform is preferred; however, books are purchased on other platforms such as EbscoHost and Proquest. Frontfiles and subject packages also make up a large part of the electronic monograph collection. Approval plans, search alerts, and vendor communications are used to identify new material for the collection.  

The following criteria are used when 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
Perpetual Access 


Content level
Ease of use
Interlibrary Loan activity
User requests
Digital Rights Management
Perpetual Access 

Other Digital Resources (workflow tools, datasets, apps, databases)  

Ease of use
Quality and depth of material
Storage requirements
Digital Rights Management
Library Subject Expertise (support for the resource) 

The collection strives to be at a Library of Congress Research level 4, but there are some subjects where a Level 3 is adequate. 

Subject Call Number Level
Natural history (General) QH1-278.5 3
--General QH1-199.5 3
Microscopy QH201-278.5 3
Biology (General) QH301-705.5 4
Evolution QH359-425 4
Genetics QH426-470 4
Reproduction QH471-489 4
Life QH501-531 4
Ecology QH540-549.5 4
Cytology QH573-671 4
Botany QK1-989 3
--General QK1-474.5 3
Spermatophyta.  Phanerogams QK474.8-495 3
Angiosperms QK495 3
Cryptogams QK504-638 3
Plant anatomy QK640-707 4
Plant physiology QK710-899 4
Plant ecology QK900-989 4
Zoology  QL1-355 3
Invertebrates QL360-599.82 3
Chordates.  Vertebrates QL605-739.8 3
Animal behavior QL750-795 3
Morphology QL799-799.5 2
Anatomy QL801-950.9 3
Embryology QL951-991 3


Animal culture
Botanical gardens 
Economic biology 
Industrial microbiology
Plant lore
Plants, edible, medicinal 
Wildlife management
Purely descriptive works on animals, habitats, and plants are purchased in very limited numbers. 

Many Penn Libraries locations also hold biology-related materials in support of specific programs at the University. These include landscape architecture (Fine Arts Library); paleobiology and environmental studies (Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center); bioengineering and biophysics (Van Pelt); botany and horticulture (Morris Arboretum); and physical and medical anthropology (Penn Museum Library.) In addition, resources that support the Perelman School of Medicine and the Biomedical Graduate Studies program are also held at the Holman Biotech Commons and cover related fields such as biochemistry, genetics, and neuroscience.