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A Guide to Chemistry Resources

Please use this guide as a starting point for all Chemistry related resources.

Collection Development Policy

Washington University in St. Louis

Collection Development Policy

Library : Olin

Subject: Chemistry

Collection: General

Date revised: April 2014

Subject Librarian: Rob McFarland

1. General purpose:

Chemistry is referred to by many as the “core” or “central” science.  One cannot be a Biologist and not know Chemistry.  One cannot study Earth Sciences and not know Chemistry. One cannot study Medicine and not know Chemistry.  One cannot be a Chemical Engineering and not know Chemistry. The list goes on and on.  Chemistry related disciplines cut across virtually all other STEM disciplines and departments.  Faculty and students from all STEM departments and disciplines use, to one degree or another, most of the resources purchased for Chemistry.

This notion of Chemistry as a core or central science is often taken into account when purchasing Chemistry resources.

The purpose or goal of collection building as a means to support the teaching and research within the Chemistry Department is probably too localized and myopic.  Given the interdisciplinary dependence of virtually all other STEM departments and disciplines on Chemistry resources gives this view point too narrow of a focus.  Hence, as Chemistry related resources are purchased, serious consideration is given to not only the Chemistry Department, but many other STEM departments as well.

For Chemistry we are not really “collecting” anything.  Practically, all resources (Journals, Books, Databases) purchased for the Chemistry Department are initiated upon request by our faculty.   In other words, collection building is user driven and not collection policy driven.

When I say we are not “collecting,” I am referring back to the older days when librarians would hone specific book collections for specific subject areas.  As an example, I used to do this in the areas of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Mass Spectrometry because Wash U had, and still does have, large research groups within these areas.  However, I am no longer able to purchase resources driven strictly by policy.  There are a number of reasons forcing this change…but it is primarily driven by the high cost of the resources in these subject areas.

The resources in Chemistry and Engineering are extremely expensive relative to other disciplines.The annual cost of an average scholarly journal is $5-6,000, the average book cost is >$200/book, and the STEM databases range in cost from $15,000 to >$100,000 per year.The extremely high cost for these resources almost mandates that purchases of Chemistry/STEM resources be user driven.

The move toward, Patron Driven Book purchases has all but take the selection process out of the hands of the librarians.

2. Overview (please keep in mind that faculty and students across all STEM departments are heavily dependent upon the resources purchased across all major sub-disciplines in Chemistry):

  • Department of Chemistry:
    • Number of undergraduate majors:100
    • Number of graduate students:100
    • Number of post-docs: 15
    • Number of tenure track faculty: 27
    • Number of open faculty positions: 0

3. Subjects excluded:

None: Resources purchased cover virtually all sub-disciplines of Chemistry

4.Overlap with other collections or subjects:

See introduction.  All STEM departments and disciplines are heavily dependent to one degree or another on all chemistry resources

5. Languages included and excluded:

For the most part, only language included: English

6. Geographical limitations:


7. Chronological limits:


8. Retrospective acquisition:

Older materials in Chemistry are heavily used.  The journal literature from 100 years ago is just as relevant today.  This makes it difficult to discard the older journal literature. Older materials are not actively acquired except in special cases, for example, to replace important lost and missing items which are not available via MOBIUS.  

9. Types of material collected and excluded:

  • I do not make purchases based on undergraduate requests
  • I typically do not buy undergraduate text books.I have even had faculty ask that I purchase 20 copies of a text book for the students in his class!I may buy one copy of a text book to be placed or course reserve but that is it.
  • I will purchase books based upon recommendations of Ph.D. students and tenure track faculty.Again, these would have to be upper division or graduate level books.
  • I only purchase scholarly journals and databases upon written request by tenure track faculty.Even with this request, I ask why they need it, who will be the primary users, will other faculty either within or external to their department make use of the resource.
  • I typically do not make purchases requested by adjunct or temporary faculty appointments.
  • For all resources, I ask whether they want it in print or online.While most prefer the resource to be online there are still instances where they want it in print.
  • For online resources, Iinsist on the following”
  • Campus-wide IP access.This must include the Medical School campus as well
  • Multiple simultaneous users
  • In perpetuity access to volumes of content we already paid for (Scholarly journals)
  • Purchase of individual books through approval has diminished substantially with the initiation of Patron Driven Request of books.
  • Book purchases in Engineering and, to a lesser extent, in Chemistry, are primarily through vendor aggregators.For example, all Computer Science books come through an aggregator call Safari.Most Engineering Reference books come through an aggregator called Knovel.There are numerous other STEM ebooks acquired online through online aggregators.  The downside to the purchase of books through aggregators is that we “lease” the content as opposed to “own” the content.  If we cancel our subscription we lose access to all content.
  • Purchase of individual eBooks is still slow to take hold among faculty and students.For book requests from faculty they still, more often than not, prefer the print format.
  • Traditional books and scholarly journals still play a critical role in what the library purchases in the areas of Chemistry and Engineering.But, with increasing frequency, the requests from science faculty have move toward resources comprised of large datasets and databases comprised of specific types of information.Recent examples include databases of Spectroscopic information such as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance, Mass Spectrometry, InfraRed Spectroscopy to name just a few.Other databases recently purchased focus on chemical structure drawing programs, Electronic Laboratory Notebooks and programs that facilitate data analysis, archiving, storage, retrieval and reuse.
  • The long-term “collection” goals in the areas of Chemistry and Engineering are to purchase resources that can gradually be integrated with and within resources purchased by individual faculty or departments.  Two very expensive recently purchased datasets and databases by the library do exactly this….seamlessly integrate with existing Chemistry Department resources.

10. Summary:

Give the above, collection priorities have substantially shifted over the past several years.  The emphasis is no longer on individual book purchases.  Even the purchase of new scholarly journals has somewhat subsided.  Going forward, the focus is to purchase resources that can be integrated into either existing STEM department resources (such as the KnowItAll Spectra databases mentioned above) or with resources within individual research groups (the recently purchased ChemBioOfficeUltra). Through this integration process, the library will play an increasingly more important and prominent role in the daily research activities of our STEM faculty.  

11. Subjects and Collecting Levels:

  • Some Q’s
  • Some QC’s
  • All QD’s
  • A lot of QP’s
  • Some R- RK
  • Some T-TX