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Collection Development Policy


Andrea Twiss-Brooks
May 1, 2008
LC Classes: QD, TP 


Other collection policy statements which overlap with chemistry include physics (chemical physics), biochemistry, geophysical sciences (atmospheric chemistry, crystallography), and technology (chemical engineering, chemical technology)    

Brief overview of the collection

·         History: Chemistry is one of the oldest programs at the University of Chicago.  Kent Chemical Laboratory was constructed in 1894 and in addition to providing laboratory research and teaching facilities, it was home to a chemistry reading room housing a small collection of books and journals.  When George Herbert Jones Laboratory was constructed in 1929, a dedicated library space was included.  Materials from the old Kent reading room were moved into Jones sometime before 1934 (the date of the first annual report from the Chemistry Librarian).  The Chemistry Library remained (more or less) in this location through 2005, when the collections were completely merged with those of the John Crerar Library.  A Chemistry Librarian managed the collections from at least 1934 to present.   From 1934 until 1984, the collections in the Chemistry Library focused primarily on pure and theoretical subject areas, with a lesser emphasis on applied chemistry and chemical technology.  Specific subject areas of particular emphasis prior to 1984 included nuclear and radiochemistry, organic synthesis, theoretical chemistry, and chemical physics.  Books to support course reserves were also collected, and reserve readings for chemistry courses were housed in the Chemistry Library until the mid 1980’s.  With the merger in 1984 of the John Crerar Library with the University of Chicago Library, the collection emphasis for chemistry was broadened somewhat to include areas of applied chemistry, reflecting the historical collection strength of the John Crerar Library in applied sciences and technology.  The applied chemistry collections were primarily housed with the merged science collections in the newly constructed John Crerar Library building on campus.  Reserve selections were also centralized into a single science course reserves section that was primarily managed by the Science Librarian.  In the early 2000’s, due to the increased web availability of many core journals and research databases (like Web of Science, Beilstein/Gmelin CrossFire, and SciFinder Scholar) and the increasingly interdisciplinary nature of research at the University, the Chemistry Library in George Herbert Jones Laboratory was gradually decommissioned and the remaining print collections were integrated into the John Crerar Library.  

·         Broad subject areas emphasized or de-emphasized: All areas of chemistry and related chemical sciences are eligible for selection, but particular emphasis is given to current and perceived future areas of research and teaching at the University of Chicago.  Organic synthesis, physical chemistry, theoretical chemistry, chemical physics, inorganic and organometallic chemistry, atmospheric and environmental chemistry, and the interface of chemical and biological sciences are areas that are currently emphasized.  Analytical chemistry, though not historically an area of strength in the collection, has received more attention in recent years, particularly with respect to topics like spectroscopic methods related to materials and surface characterization, as well as in applications to biochemical research (fluorescence probes) and medical applications.  Historically important collection areas that are today de-emphasized include radiochemistry and nuclear chemistry (except for current biomedical applications areas).

·         Description of academic program:   The Department of Chemistry (which is part of the Physical Sciences Division of the University) offers an undergraduate major in Chemistry for both B.A. and B.S. degree programs.  In conjunction with the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the Division of Biological Sciences, a B.S degree in Biological Chemistry is also offered.  Undergraduate research is strongly encouraged for all students majoring in either Chemistry or Biological Chemistry.  Graduate students in the Department of Chemistry pursue a Ph.D. degree which is structured to provide a great deal of flexibility, with few course requirements and opportunities to fashion highly individualized programs study and research. There are neither cumulative examinations nor a required written major examination for the Ph.D. program.  A Master of Science degree is also possible, but is not financially supported by the Department of Chemistry. [1] ·          

·         Audience/Purpose: Chemistry collections are managed primarily to meet the needs of current University of Chicago faculty, staff and students.  Collections support undergraduate and graduate instruction, graduate research through the Ph.D. Level, and faculty research.  Faculty and students in the Department of Chemistry are the primary users of the collection, but faculty and students from other departments in the Biological Sciences Division and Physical Sciences Division rely on the collection for support of their research and teaching, particularly in areas of interdisciplinary interest.  Other more occasional users of the collection include unaffiliated or independent researchers, Crerar Corporate members, researchers from affiliated laboratories and institutes (e.g., Argonne National Laboratory), as well as University faculty, staff and students from departments outside the Biological Sciences Division and Physical Sciences Division.    

Collecting guidelines

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

Collecting in areas of pure chemistry (organic, inorganic, physical, theoretical) is at research level.  Research level collecting also takes place in environmental chemistry, atmospheric chemistry, and cosmochemistry areas.  In selected sub-disciplines (chemical physics, organic synthesis) the collection approaches comprehensive levels, at least for English language publications.  For most areas of applied chemical sciences (e.g., chemical engineering, food and agricultural chemistry) the collection level is instructional support or basic information level.  Analytical chemistry is collected at the level of basic information, but specific titles are purchased on demand to support research level interests, or in areas of interface between chemistry and biological sciences.

·         Type of materials included & excluded:   Very few types of materials are excluded altogether, although undergraduate textbooks and textbook problem solutions manuals are collected very selectively.  Purchases of textbooks and solutions manuals are usually those used in particular courses currently taught at the University.  Anthologies of previously published materials are generally not collected, unless the collection contains a reasonable quantity of previously unpublished material, or extensive editorial additions, such as annotations, essays, comprehensive bibliographic compilations, or significant prefatory material.  Conference proceedings are collected very selectively, often at the request of a University researcher.  Professional handbooks, laboratory manuals, and popular works in chemistry are generally not collected or collected very selectively.   

·         Physical formats included & excluded:   No formats entirely excluded, although some formats present significant access and preservation challenges and are avoided when possible.  Web access is strongly preferred over physical electronic media (e.g., CD-ROMs).  Video and audio formats are acquired very selectively, with preference given to the most current accessible technology available (e.g., currently DVD preferred to VHS formats).  Microform formats are assessed for readability issues prior to selection, particularly in the case where original print works contained color or grayscale images, or dense mathematical or chemical formulae, which do not reproduce well in microform.  For journals and reference works, web-based electronic format is preferred over print formats.  Except in extremely rare cases, a new journal title will be selected in electronic format without any print equivalent.  For more peripheral chemical sciences subject areas, such as many areas of applied chemistry,  journals available as electronic resources with current issues embargoes (up to one year) or selected in print only subscriptions may be acceptable.  Journals in subject areas where no current research or teaching is taking place are lowest priority, and access through interlibrary loan services is acceptable for these peripheral materials.  Indexing and abstracting resources, reference works, and chemical and physical data resources online are almost exclusively preferred over print versions, due to the enhanced functionality and usability.  Monographs may be selected in either print or electronic format.  Criteria for format selection for monographs are fully searchable text, availability on established platform already in use by University of Chicago users (e.g., Wiley Interscience), persistent URLs and/or availability of MARC records for access and discovery, options for purchase and lease of monograph titles, and one-time purchase option.    

·         Publication dates collected: There is a heavy emphasis on acquisition of most recent editions and materials.  With few exceptions, only the most recent edition of chemistry monographs will be selected.  For periodicals, current access to most recent issues/articles of core pure chemistry research journals is highest priority.   Retrospective purchasing is done if funding allows, with acquisition of content backfiles for chemistry journals being a priority.  Retrospective purchasing of chemistry monograph titles is very selective, and generally is the responsibility of the selector for history of science (see History of Science, Medicine and Technology collection policy statement).    

·         Languages: Current materials are primarily in English which is widely accepted as the lingua franca of chemical sciences.  Exceptions are rare; titles are only very selectively acquired in non-English languages. 

·         Geographical range:  Geographical regions are neither specifically included nor excluded, since very few works in chemistry include aspects of specific geographical importance.    

·         Chronological span:   Chronological periods are not usually aspects of chemical works, and so are not systematically considered.  History of chemistry, which does include reference to chronological periods is covered in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine collection policy statement.              

Areas of distinction

 Historical collections in areas of applied chemical sciences, including brewing science and technology, color and dye industries, and others are particularly strong, in large part due to the merger of the John Crerar Library and the University of Chicago Library collections.  Other historical collections of distinction include holdings in the area of radiochemistry.   Current collecting in physical and theoretical chemistry is very strong, and complements the historical collections as well.    

Related University of Chicago collections  

The Chemistry collection is complemented by collections in physics (solid state physics, atomic and molecular theory), mathematics, biochemistry, applied sciences/technology (materials science and engineering, environmental science) and medicine (pharmacology, toxicology). 

Cooperative arrangements and related collections

  • Argonne National Laboratory
  • University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Northwestern University  


Subject Specialist

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Andrea Twiss-Brooks
Director, Humanities and Area Studies
Chemistry and
Geophysical Sciences

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