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Collection Development Policy

Scandinavian Languages and Literatures

Scandinavian Languages and Literatures
Sem C. Sutter
May 2009


Brief overview of the collection


The Scandinavian tradition at the University of Chicago dates to one of its predecessors, the Baptist Union Theological Seminary, which had Dano-Norwegian and Swedish departments.  These continued as the Scandinavian Seminaries within the Divinity School until 1912.  The University hosted the founding meeting in 1911 of the Society of the Advancement of Scandinavian Study, an organization in which the faculty and the library director played early leadership roles. Historically the Library’s collection was strongest in Swedish. With the establishment in 1975 of the Andrew E. and G. Norman Wigeland professorship in Norwegian studies, followed in 1978 by the Wigeland Endowed Book Fund, both the University and the Library have focused more strongly on Norwegian within a broader Scandinavian context.

Broad subject areas emphasized or de-emphasized:

Current collecting efforts center primarily on Norwegian literary and linguistic studies with secondary emphasis on Swedish literature. Historical holdings for Swedish, Danish, Icelandic and Old Norse are stronger than current collecting levels.

 Description of academic program:

The Department of Germanic Studies offers elementary and intermediate Norwegian language courses. Other course offerings typically include nineteenth- and twentieth-century as well as contemporary Scandinavian literature (with a Norwegian emphasis), gender studies, Jewish studies, and religious studies.


The collection supports the research and teaching needs of its primary audience, faculty and students in the Department of Germanic Studies, as well as those of readers in other programs, especially Comparative Literature, Linguistics, Music, Art History, History, Philosophy, and the Divinity School. Secondarily, the literature collection supplies material for the recreational reading interests of the university community as a whole. Thirty years of strong prospective and retrospective development of the Norwegian literature collection have built a research resource that frequently serves scholars at other institutions via interlibrary loan.


Collecting guidelines

Levels of selection: Comprehensive, research, instructional support, basic information; for a description of these levels, see the general policy statement.

The Library of Congress classifies Scandinavian languages in the subclass PD (Germanic and North Germanic) and Scandinavian literature in subclass PT.

Scandinavian Languages—General  (PD1501-2199): instructional support level

Old Norse Language  (PD2201-2393): basic information level

Modern Icelandic Language  (PD2401-2446): basic information level

Norwegian Language  (PD2501-2999): instructional support level

Danish Language  (PD3001-3929): basic information level

Swedish Language  (PD5001-5929): instructional support level

Scandinavian Literature—General  (PT7001-7099): instructional support level

Old Norse Literature  (PT7101-7338): research level

Modern Icelandic Literature  (PT7351-7550): basic information level

Danish Literature  (PT7601-8260): instructional support level

Norwegian Literature  (PT8301-9155): research level

Swedish Literature  (PT9201-9999): instructional support level

 Type of materials included & excluded:  

The Library actively acquires literary works, criticism, dictionaries, reference works and grammars. These include journals, monographs, and series, either in print or online. 

Introductory textbooks, anthologies of previously published material, and unrevised dissertations are generally not acquired.

Physical formats included & excluded:

All formats are included, but acquisition of microforms and CD-ROMs is very highly selective. An increasing percentage of the journal collection is available online rather than in print.

Publication dates collected:

While primary focus is on currently-published material, endowment funding levels also support an active, systematic, ongoing effort to acquire older and out-of-print titles—particularly in Norwegian—to continue building the collection’s depth, filling gaps and meeting new research and teaching needs.


The Library collects materials primarily in the Scandinavian languages, German, and English, selectively acquiring monographs in other Western European languages, especially French.  Works of criticism in Slavic and Asian languages are not normally considered in scope, but such titles occasionally enter the collection incidentally through area studies exchange programs.

The Library actively collects translations into English.  Translations into other languages are generally out of scope but are accepted as gifts with great selectivity.

Geographical range:

Emphasis is on materials published in Western Europe and North America.

Chronological span:

Comprehensive, from materials focusing on the medieval period to the present.


Cooperative arrangements and related collections

Cooperation with other libraries in the region has usually been implicit rather than formally defined, but knowledge of the holdings and acquisitions policies of neighboring institutions does influence selection priorities. We rely on the Center for Research Libraries for newspapers, foreign dissertations, and some large microform sets.  Researchers planning extensive research in Swedish or Danish are referred to the stronger collections at the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin.