This policy governs the collecting activity in Medicine.

Established in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school, the Perelman School of Medicine is now over 250 years old and is consistently ranked as one the nation’s top medical schools. There are 47 departments, divisions, and centers in the Perelman School of Medicine. The school has a full-time faculty of 2,914; over 750 medical students; 1,490 residents and fellows; and 782 postdoctoral fellows.

After the founding of the medical school, the physicians and students relied on the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia for nearly 150 years. In 1931, the rotunda of the Medical Laboratories Building, now the Morgan Building, was set aside for a Medical School 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 Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (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. In 2022, the Biomedical Library was renamed the Holman Biotech Commons after an extensive renovation.

The Medicine collection primarily supports the clinical education and research needs of the Perelman School of Medicine (PSOM), the Biomedical Graduate Groups, and the University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) which includes the following owned hospitals: Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), Penn-Presbyterian Medical Center (PPMC), and Pennsylvania Hospital (PAH). The collection also indirectly supports the Nursing, Dental, and Veterinary programs. For a more complete review of the Nursing, Dental, and Veterinary Medicine collections, see their individual collection policies.

The collection is almost entirely electronic and consists of journals, books, clinical resources, point of care products, and databases. Additional resources include USMLE test banks, anatomy products, systematic review tools, and drug reference tools. 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. 

The collection also works in collaboration with the Biomedical Research collection, and both serve as the main drivers of what is to be considered the Holman Biotech Commons collection. 

1. Chronological

Current publications.

2. Formats

 The preferred format for all resource types is electronic. Access via the publisher's website is preferred over access via an aggregator database. Textbooks are collected only in support of coursework. Handbooks, laboratory manuals, and loose-leaf services are rarely purchased in print and are given greater consideration when available online. Programmed texts, workbooks, and examination reviews are purchased selectively. Streaming media and apps are selectively purchased. Datasets are collected only when requested and must meet selection criteria.  Microforms are excluded, as is individual membership access. 

3. Geographical

Material may be from anywhere in the world if written in English. The undergraduate medical education collection does have an emphasis on North America and Western medicine, as that more closely aligns with the curriculum, however, research about healthcare and medicine in other countries is acquired on a limited basis. 

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 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 and uses Rittenhouse Books for supplemental collecting. The monograph collection is acquired mainly in electronic format using various e-book vendors and publishers. The publisher platform is preferred; however, books are purchased on other platforms such as EbscoHost and Proquest. Frontfiles and subject packages 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 

Clinical Education Resources

Ease of use
Quality and depth of material
Storage requirements
Digital rights management
Library subject expertise (support for the resource) 

Aerospace medicine
Biographical material 
Consumer Health
Forensic Medicine
Medical Photography 
Military Medicine 
Undergraduate Allied Health
Popular or non-academic content level 

The library does not purchase resources or tools whose primary utility is for clinical use in the health system.  

Subject LC class range Level
Human Anatomy QM1-695 4
Physiology QP1-495 4
Animal Biochemistry QP501-899 3
Medicine, General R5-920 4
Public Health RA1-790 4
Medical Geography & Climatology RA791-954 2
Medical Centers, Hospitals, Clinics RA960-1000 2
Forensic Medicine RA1001-1171 1
Toxicology RA1190-1270  
Pathology RB1-214 4
Internal Medicine, General RC1-108 4
Infectious & Parasitic Disease RC109-229 4
Constitutional Diseases (General) RC251 4
Neoplasms, Tumors, Oncology RC254-299 4
Tuberculosis RC306-320 3
Neurosciences, Neurology RC321-434 4
Psychiatry RC435-577 4
Congenital Disorders RC578-580 4
Immunologic, Nutritional & Metabolic Diseases RC581-632 4
Diseases of Organs, Glands, Systems RC633-935 4
Diseases of Regions of the Body RC936-951 4
Special Situations & Conditions RC952-1499 4
Surgery RD1-811 4
Ophthalmology RE1-994 4
Otorhinolaryngology RF1-547 4
Gynecology & Obstetrics RG1-991 4
Pediatrics RJ1-570 4
Dermatology RL1-803 4
Therapeutics, Pharmacology RM1-950 3
Pharmacy & Materia Medica RS1-441 3
Botanic, Thomsonian, Eclectic Medicine RV1-431 1
Homeopathy RX1-681 1
Other Systems of Medicine RZ201-999 0


Purchases for the Holman Biotech Commons collection are coordinated, when warranted, with the bibliographers for Biology, Dental, Veterinary, and Nursing. Duplication of resources is kept to a minimum. 

Related subject collections: 

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 Bioengineering collection is also held at Van Pelt.