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Collection Development Policy

Biological Sciences

Biological Sciences
Christa M. Modschiedler, Biomedical Bibliographer
June, 2010//revised October, 2010


Library of Congress Classes: QH, QK, QL, QM, QP, QR

 Brief overview of the collection

History: Prior to 1984, the University of Chicago Library’s biomedical collection was split and housed in several different locations:  Biology Library (in Culver Hall until 1969, 1970-1984 in the Joseph Regenstein Library B-level), Billings Library (Billings Hospital, 1935 to 1984), and in Harper Storage.  Since the merger of the University of Chicago science libraries with the John Crerar Library in September 1984, the John Crerar Library at the University of Chicago is considered the central location for the biological sciences collections.  Rare materials, manuscripts, and archives are housed in the Special Collections Research Center.  The biological sciences collection includes scientific research and scholarly publications in the basic biological sciences.  Print and digital collections of journals, books, and other information resources are developed to support faculty, students, and staff of the University of Chicago Biological Sciences Division (BSD), the Pritzker School of Medicine, and the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCHC).  The Library provides a growing number of electronic journals as well as other electronic resources and Internet-based clinical information services developed by biomedical publishers, professional societies, and various vendors.

Broad subject areas emphasized or de-emphasized: The subject areas that are being emphasized support research, teaching in the BSD biological sciences departments, research centers, and academic committees.  The following list provides the framework for the biological sciences subjects that are currently being emphasized and collected at the research level:

  • Anatomy/Human Anatomy
  • Aquatic Sciences
  • Biochemistry
  • Bioethics
  • Bioinformatics
  • Biometry/Biomathematics
  • Biophysics
  • Biotechnology
  • Botany
  • Cell Biology
  • Computational Biology
  • Conservation Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • Embryology
  • Endocrinology
  • Entomology
  • Environmental Biology
  • Ethology
  • Evolutionary Biology
  • Freshwater Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genomics
  • Herpetology
  • Ichthyology
  • Immunology
  • Limnology
  • Marine Biology
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Morphology
  • Mycology
  • Neurobiology
  • Neuropsychology
  • Neuroscience
  • Nutrition
  • Organismal Biology
  • Ornithology
  • Pharmacology
  • Phycology
  • Phylogeny
  • Physiology
  • Plant Sciences
  • Population Biology
  • Reproductive Biology
  • Systems Biology
  • Research Methods
  • Structural Biology
  • Taxonomy
  • Toxicology
  • Xenobiology
  • Virology
  • Zoology

In addition to the subject areas that are being collected because of the existence of the various BSD departments and programs on campus, there are subjects that receive more attention in recent years, mainly because of new trends and developments in the biological sciences and in biomedical research and practice, and because of changes in various BSD research programs.

  • Biomedical Nanotechnology
  • Biosafety
  • Biostatistics
  • Botany/Medical Botany
  • Computer Applications
  • Emerging Diseases: Study of anthrax, botulism, tularemia, hemorrhagic fever viruses, and plague
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Stem Cell Research

No subject areas are entirely excluded, but the level of selection may by necessity only be at a basic level for certain areas. 

Description of academic program: The biomedical collection serves faculty, students, and staff of the University of Chicago Biological Sciences Division (BSD).  It supports graduate programs from the graduate levels through the Ph.D. degree and Biomedical Sciences Cluster and increasingly undergraduate programs.

Audience/Purpose: There are several distinct BSD user groups with very different information needs that need to be kept in mind when making selection decisions concerning print and online information resources.  The biological sciences and medical collections are managed primarily to meet the needs of the current University of Chicago faculty, students, and staff.  Collections support undergraduate and graduate instructions, faculty research, and graduate research through the Ph.D. level.  Faculty, students, and staff are the primary users of the collection.  Occasional users include University of Chicago students from disciplines other than the BSD, Crerar corporate members, as well as unaffiliated users.

Collecting guidelines

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

Collecting in the biosciences is generally at the research level.  The overall goal is to build a collection to serve the varied needs of the biomedical user groups and to provide information resources that support the research and teaching activities in the BSD basic sciences and biomedical sciences departments.  A further goal is to keep abreast of the continually expanding scholarly literature in the biological sciences and collecting and selecting materials that result in a relatively comprehensive and balanced collection of relevant resources for current users and also to possibly anticipate future needs.  Considering the large number of titles published in the biological sciences and available biological sciences collection funding, selection of journals and books has always been and will remain rather selective.  Present collecting emphasizes the current and authoritative biological sciences literature (e.g., peer-reviewed serials/journals, monographs, electronic resources, and selected non-print media) of research in the biological/life sciences that deal with the subjects as outlined above, with broad general coverage of these areas, and various related subject areas.

The biomedical collection contains a selection of significant research, scholarship, and professional literature.  It is not possible nor is it desirable to achieve the same level of comprehensiveness in all categories of publications.

Type of materials included & excluded: The biological sciences collection contains mainly research journals, monographs, and reference materials.  Included is a collection of significant scientific and scholarly research journals in all the major biological sciences subjects.  The Crerar Library maintains a research collection of monographic literature in the biological sciences which includes significant monographic works that contain original thought and research, biographical materials (see also History of Science, Medicine, and Technology collection policy statement), and a selection of major graduate-level textbooks.  Undergraduate textbooks and examination review guides are usually only purchased in support of specific courses. The collection also includes, for example, most National Academy Press publications and government publications received via the Federal Depository Library Program.  Reference materials include abstracts, indexes, subject & personal bibliographies; dictionaries, encyclopedias that support biomedical and health research and scholarship, etc.  Highly selectively acquired are the following types of materials:  annual reports; atlases; separately published conference, congresses, and symposia proceedings; directories; laboratory manuals; lectures; reprints and facsimile editions.  Very few types of materials are excluded altogether.  Even though some exceptions are made on occasion, the following types of materials are generally excluded:  Doctoral dissertations from institutions other than the University of Chicago, Habilitationsschriften, teachers’ guides, juvenile literature, loose-leaf publications, patents, separately published maps, marketing reports, graphs, and posters, print copies of newsletters, newspapers, pocket-size books, programmed or self-instructional texts, most spiral-bound publications, syllabi, and various workbooks.

Physical formats included & excluded: Biological Sciences information is published in a variety of formats.  Furthermore, the same content might be available in multiple formats.  The number of relevant biological sciences resources published in electronic format is steadily increasing and selection of e-journals, electronic backfiles of journals, and e-books is considered a high priority for this collection.  Increasingly, journals are being received in electronic format only and virtually no new print subscriptions are being initiated.  For journals, indexing & abstracting resources, and reference works, web-based electronic format is preferred over print format.  Monographs may be selected in either print or electronic format.  Criteria for format selection for monographs are fully searchable text, availability on established platform, persistent URLs and/or availability of MARC records for access and discovery.  Digital web-based information resources have gained in importance in recent years and are given preference.  Materials in other formats (CD-ROM, DVD, or other audiovisual materials) may be selected on occasion, but usually only by request to support a curricular need.  Cost is always a consideration.  No formats are entirely excluded, although some formats present significant access and preservation challenges and are avoided when possible.  Web access is preferred over physical electronic media (e.g., CD-ROM).  Video and audio formats are acquired very selectively, with preference given to the most accessible technology available (e.g., currently DVD preferred to VHS formats).  Microforms are assessed for readability issues prior to selection.

Publication dates collected: Emphasis is given to the selection and acquisition of current materials.  Recently published materials are given top priority, and consideration is given to monographs published during the last three to five years.  Older monographs are acquired more selectively as funds allow.

Languages: The major emphasis is on selection and acquisition of English-language materials, although some long-standing foreign-language serial subscriptions continue to play a role.  Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Russian are the most common languages found within the biomedical collection.  Selections made by the area studies bibliographers may add materials in other foreign languages.  Very few new foreign-language journal subscriptions are presently initiated and only very few foreign-language monographs are being acquired, and only if they are determined to be of significant importance to the biological sciences literature or specifically requested by users.  Translations from foreign languages into English are selected, but not translations from one foreign language into another, unless there are valid reasons.

Geographical range: United States, United Kingdom; Europe. However, no areas are specifically excluded if important to the collection.

Chronological span: From 1914 to the present.  See also History of Science, Medicine, and Technology collection policy statement.   .

Areas of distinction

Biological sciences materials located in the University of Chicago Library Special Collections Research Center.

Related University of Chicago collections

The interdisciplinary nature of many of the academic programs and subject areas makes collaboration between the biomedical bibliographer and other University of Chicago Library selectors desirable and often necessary.  Choices that benefit the biological sciences collection are also made by bibliographers in other disciplines.  Related subjects areas include:  

    Cooperative Arrangements and Related Collections

     Selection is influenced to some extent by what is known about the resources of other Chicago libraries, particularly the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), the Field Museum Library, and science collection at other Chicago-area libraries. There are, however, no formal agreements concerning collection policy.