Chemistry collection development policy

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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 science researchers in the Medical, Dental, and Veterinary Medicine Schools; the School of Engineering and Applied Science; the Department of Physics; the Museum; and the University of Pennsylvania Hospital.

The Chemistry Department itself has 42 faculty members, 37 of whom have primary appointments in Chemistry.  At any given time, it hosts about 60 post-doctoral researchers and trains about 175 graduate students. The Department does research in four main areas of chemistry: organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, physical chemistry, and biological chemistry. Organic chemistry research includes total synthesis, natural products research, bioorganic chemistry, organometallic chemistry, 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, as well as energy research. 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, biomolecular modeling, and proteomics. Several instrumentation facilities are based in the department including the UPenn/Merck High Throughput Experimentation 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 and is home to the Vagelos Institute of Energy Science.

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 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 Chemistry Library collects selectively in physical chemistry, materials chemistry and nanoscience, and biochemistry because other Penn Libraries units also collect in these fields. Acquisitions in analytical chemistry and other subdisciplines are limited to basic reference works and items that support ongoing research. The Library collects all course reserve material as requested, and expensive compilations are purchased selectively as funds are available. The Library collects a single copy of textbooks used in undergraduate courses, which is placed on reserve in the library.

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 according to the following general guidelines. 

  • Journals are collected in electronic-only format, although print duplicates will be archived for titles where stable electronic archiving is lacking. 
  • Reference works are collected in e-preferred format.
  • The bulk of the monograph collection is print; however, e-books are collected when requested by an individual, when a print book is not readily available, and when the content of the book lends itself more to the digital format than the printed format.

3. Geographical


4. Language

Almost exclusively English, although the collection retains some monographs and journals in German and French where translations are not available.

5. Publication dates

Current materials. Older materials purchased upon faculty recommendation.

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 publisher catalogs and pre-publication announcements and welcomes faculty and student recommendations.

  • Subjects collected and levels of collecting

    Subjects Collected Levels of Collecting Notes
    Analytical Chemistry 2E
    Spectroscopy 3F/3E/4E with Biomedical
    Biochemistry & Bio-organic Chemistry 3F/3E 4E with Biomedical
    Biopolymers 3F/3E 4E with Biomedical, Engineering
    Protein Structure 4E 4E with Biomedical
    Colloid & Surface Chemistry 3F/3E/4E with Engineering
    Crystallography 3E/3E/4E
    Combinatorial Chemistry 2E/2E/3E
    Computational Chemistry 2E/2E/3E
    Electrochemsitry 2F/3E
    Inorganic Chemistry 2F/4E
    Bioinorganic Chemistry 3F/4E
    Main Group Chemistry 3F/4E
    Boron Chemistry 2F/3E
    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 3F/4E
    Photochemistry 2F/2E
    Physical & Theoretical Chemistry 3F/4E
    Modelling-Chemical Structures 3F/4E
    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 Engineering, Math/Phys
    Women in science 2E with Science - Van Pelt Library
    Careers in science 2E with Science - Van Pelt Library
  • Subjects collected and levels of collecting

    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.

    ENERGY RESEARCH (also collected by the Engineering Collection and Math/Physics/Astronomy Library)

    The Chemistry Department conducts research in areas related to energy, including energy storage, hydrogen generation and storage, fuel cells, etc. However, research projects in energy science frequently involve researchers from several departments and schools, and acquisitions in this area are closely coordinated by the Engineering, Math/Physics/Astronomy, and Chemistry librarians to ensure that researchers' needs in this highly interdisciplinary area are met. The Chemistry Library collects works relating to synthesis, characterization, and modeling of chemicals and materials.


    MATERIALS RESEARCH (also collected by the Engineering Collection and Math/Physics/Astronomy Library)

    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 Engineering Collection and Math/Physics/Astronomy Library)

    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 Engineering Collection)

    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.

Subjects excluded

The Chemistry Library does not collect in chemical engineering except in response to faculty request; materials already in the Engineering Collection will not be duplicated. The Library does not acquire historical and biographical materials, except as relate to famous alumni of the Department.

Cooperative arrangements

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 Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation) at 315 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia houses the Othmer Library of Chemical History.

Related subject collections