Skip to Main Content

Collection Development Policy

Geophysical Sciences

Geophysical Sciences
Andrea Twiss-Brooks / May 1, 2008

LC Class: QE

Other collection policy statements which overlap with geophysical sciences include biological sciences, chemistry, physics, geography and technology.

Brief overview of the collection

·         History:  Geophysical sciences have been a core research and teaching discipline at the University of Chicago since the early years of the institution.  The Department of Geophysical Sciences was formed in 1961 from two previously existing departments, Geology (founded in 1892) and Meteorology (founded in 1942).  Early research in geology at the university included glacial geology, regional geology (especially Illlinois geology), economic geology, and the origin and early history of the solar system (still an area of interest to researchers at the University).  From 1917-1941, research emphasis shifted to fundamental problems in geology, including equilibrium in mineral systems, sedimentary petrology, and petrologic analysis.  After World War II, new areas of study included experimental petrology, multivariate analysis of fossil assemblages, high-pressure and high-temperature geophysics, and statistical analysis of sediments and sediment transport.  Also starting in 1942, the Department of Meteorology was split off from the Department of Physics, and its meteorologists studied dynamic models of atmospheric circulation, models of tropical weather disturbances, severe weather studies (thunderstorms, tornadoes), and numerical weather forecasting.  Today, the Geophysical Sciences Department

“covers a wide range of disciplines related to the earth, its fluid envelopes, and its position in space. Concepts and methods in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology are applied to the problems of the atmosphere, the oceans, the solid earth, and the evolution of life. This combination leads inevitably to far-reaching studies of the origin of the earth and solar system. Through research on the composition of meteorites, for example, a link is made to cosmochemistry and the broader aspects of the space sciences.”[1]

The library collections which support research in the broad range of the geophysical sciences had their origins in a departmental library in Rosenwald Hall, built in 1915.  This library originally served both the Department of Geology and the Department of Geography until the collections were moved to Joseph Regenstein Library after 1975.  During the early years of the library, books, journals and maps were collected for primarily traditional geological sciences and geography disciplines.  After the creation of the Department of Geophysical Sciences in 1961, collecting was extended to include atmospheric sciences.  After the construction of the Joseph Regenstein Library in 1975, the maps collection was moved to the Regenstein Library, and a subject bibliographer responsible for geography and maps assumed collecting responsibility for those areas.  In 1982, with the merger of the John Crerar Library with the University of Chicago Library, the geophysical sciences collection was moved to the new science library building, the John Crerar Library, creating a centralized, comprehensive collection that supported most of the teaching and research in the geophysical sciences.

·         Broad subject areas emphasized or de-emphasized: All areas of geophysical sciences are eligible for selection, but particular emphasis is given to current and perceived future research and teaching needs of the geophysical sciences at the University of Chicago.  Broad areas of continuing interest include paleontology and evolution, climate and global change, atmospheric dynamics, geophysical fluid dynamics, high pressure geophysics, geochemistry, cosmochemistry, igneous and metamorphic petrology, and solid earth and planetary sciences.  Support of interdisciplinary areas, such as those emphasized in the affiliated university research centers and institutes, Climate Systems Center , Chicago Center for Cosmochemistry, and The Center for Integrating Statistical and Environmental Science is also emphasized.  Areas which are de-emphasized or where selection is restricted to specific specialized areas of research include petroleum and exploration geology, mining and metallurgy, oceanography, and forecast meteorology.

·         Description of academic program: [2]  The Department of Geophysical Sciences offers both B.S. and B.A. degrees, with the B.S. providing a more focused program of study for those intending to attend graduate school.  The B.A. provides a wide opportunity for pursuit of interdisciplinary studies, including environmental policy, geoscience education, and business.  The Ph.D. is offered in earth, planetary, geological and environmental disciplines of physical and chemical sciences, the mathematical and computational disciplines of informational science, and the paleoclimatological, paleoceanographic, paleontological and paleobiological disciplines of biological and historical sciences broadly conceived. Requirements for the Ph.D. include a course of study approved by the student’s advisory committee, a written preliminary examination, a formal admission to candidacy review, a dissertation based on independent research, and a final oral examination.  A M.S. degree, consisting of nine required courses and an essay, thesis or publication, and a seminar delivered to a general departmental audience is also offered.  The M.S. is not a requirement for the Ph.D.

·         Audience/Purpose:  Geophysical sciences 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 associate research.  Faculty, research staff and students in the Department of Geophysical Sciences 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., Field Museum of Natural History), 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 most areas of geology, geochemistry and geophysics is at research level.  Particular emphasis is given to regional descriptive geology and all branches of paleontology (vertebrate and invertebrate paleontology, paleobotany, ichnology, micropaleontology), with selection striving for comprehensive coverage.  For most areas of applied geosciences (e.g., petroleum and exploration geology, mining and metallurgy) the collection level is instructional support or basic information level.  Environmental geosciences is collected primarily at the level for instructional support, although some specific topics approach research levels.

·         Type of materials included & excluded: Very few types of materials are excluded altogether, although undergraduate textbooks, textbook problem solutions manuals, and laboratory 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.  Reports, bulletins, occasional papers, and other publications in series produced by geological organizations, national/regional/state geological surveys, and professional societies in the geosciences are priorities for selection.  Professional handbooks, laboratory manuals, and popular works are generally not collected or collected very selectively.  Geological atlases are collected, as are maps which accompany explanations or monographs of more than 50 pages.  Geological maps without explanatory booklets, or with booklets of fewer than 50 pages are generally referred to the maps bibliographer.  Some maps may be selected by the geophysical sciences bibliographer for purchase, but located in the Maps Collection, rather than in the John Crerar Library stacks, due to their specialized storage needs (i.e., storage flat in map cases is preferred over folded storage on open bookstacks shelving).

·         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, dense mathematical formulae, or maps/charts 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 geophysical sciences subject areas, such as many areas of applied geosciences (like exploration geophysics),  journals available as electronic resources with current issues embargoes (up to one year) or selected as 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 deemed acceptable for these peripheral materials.  Indexing and abstracting resources and reference works 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 strong emphasis on acquisition of most recent editions and materials.  For periodicals, current access to most recent issues/articles of core geophysical sciences research journals is highest priority.   Retrospective purchasing is done if funding allows, with acquisition of content backfiles for geophysical sciences journals and monographic series being a priority.  Retrospective purchasing of geophysical sciences monograph titles is selective, and generally is the responsibility of the selector for history of science (see History of Science, Medicine and Technology collection policy statement).

·         Languages:  Materials are selected in any language, but with an emphasis on English language materials for the majority of texts and subjects.  In regional geology and paleontology, materials are selected primarily on the basis of the content and region covered, with any language being acceptable.

·         Geographical range:  There is no limitations on geographical range, but emphasis on selection at any given time may be guided by the particular research interests of faculty, research staff and graduate students.  Materials from a region where a class or departmental field trip or study is planned are given some additional emphasis. 

·         Chronological span:  There is no limitation on chronological span.  Particular geological eras that are of current research interest may be given special emphasis at any time.  While historically a period of less emphasis, recent interest in near past time periods (e.g., Holocene) are receiving more attention, due to the interest in global climate change, impact of weather and climate on human development and civilizations, and understanding global biogeochemical cycles both past and present. 


Areas of distinction

The collections of the University of Chicago are particularly strong in paleontology and evolution, and are complemented by the collections of the Field Museum of Natural History.  Regional geology and ecology of the Illinois region is well represented. 


Related University of Chicago collections

  • Ecology and Evolution
  • Physics
  • Chemistry


Cooperative arrangements and related collections

  • Field Musuem of Natural History
  • Adler Planetarium
  •  Museum of Science & Industry
  • Argonne National Laboratory

[1] Department website: