Columbia University Libraries collects materials in support of research and teaching in the Department of Chemistry and related interdepartmental research centers. The collection includes material on all aspects of chemistry including organic, inorganic, experimental physical, materials, and theoretical chemistry. Subject coverage is intended to support research and educational efforts of relevant topics of interest to the Department of Chemistry including but not limited to computational biology, synthetic biology, biophysics, ultrafast spectroscopy, biophotonics, single-molecular conductance, solid-state NMR, catalysis, inorganic materials chemistry, biomaterials, materials synthesis, single-molecule electronics, total synthesis, physical organic chemistry, polymer chemistry, bioorganic chemistry, quantum and molecular dynamics, quantum and classical Monte Carlo simulations, and density functional theory.

The chemistry collection began in the late 1800s when 1,830 volumes were transferred from the general library to the Department of Chemistry in 1898 for a departmental library. Until 1926, the collection was housed in a room in Havemeyer Hall. In 1926, the collection, which now included 14,000 volumes, moved into a proper library space on the fourth floor of Chandler Laboratories. The Chemistry Library was closed in 2009 and the collection was moved to either the Science & Engineering Library, which opened in 2011, or to the Libraries’ shared off-site storage facility (ReCAP).

This document outlines the Libraries’ general policy on collections for  chemistry, but it is not intended to be a rigid set of rules; collection suggestions from students and faculty are welcome. (See contact information below.)

a. Undergraduate

The Libraries collects materials in support of undergraduate degrees in chemistry, biochemistry, chemical physics, and environmental chemistry as well as a concentration in chemistry. The Libraries also supports undergraduate students from Barnard College (BC) in their research.

b. Graduate and Professional Schools

The Libraries collects materials in support of MA, MPhil, and PhD degrees in chemistry or chemical physics.

c. Institutes, Interdisciplinary Programs, etc.

In addition to the programs listed above, the Libraries collects materials in support of the following interdepartmental centers:

Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics (C2B2)
Columbia Genome Center
Columbia Nano Initiative (CNI)
Columbia Integrated Science and Engineering Center (CISE)
Precision Assembly of Superstratic and Superatomic Solids (PAS3)
Energy Frontiers Research Center (EFRC)
MURI: New Materials Approaches for Future Graphene-Based Devices
Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC)
Ancient Ink Laboratory

d. Course Reserves

Selection for course reserves is up to individual faculty members. The Librarian will do whatever is possible to secure specific materials absent from the collection. Course reserves for the department are housed in the Science & Engineering Library.

a. Print

Print materials collected include serials and periodical publications, reference sources, technical reports, and monographs. In general, print items will not be acquired if the content is available in electronic formats, unless cost or licensing considerations render the electronic version impractical. The majority of new print acquisitions are sent to ReCAP.

b. Digital Collections

Electronic materials will be preferentially collected whenever possible in a variety of resource types: serials and periodical publications, reference sources, indexes and abstracts, specialist databases, technical reports, and monographs. These may be acquired outright or may be part of subscription services as appropriate, based on availability. Electronic items with reduced barriers to access are preferred (e.g. DRM-free e-books or multi-user licenses).

c. Media

Audiovisual materials and electronic tools are collected selectively, but may be present as part of broader electronic collections or acquired upon specific request.

d. Languages Collected

We collect English-language materials extensively, Western European languages very selectively, and non-Western languages are collected rarely.

e. Chronological Focus

We collect materials focusing on contemporary and active research topics extensively.

f. Geographical Focus

We collect North American and Western European materials extensively. All other areas are collected selectively.

g. Imprint Dates Collected

The main focus of collecting is current and recent (within the past three years) imprints. When possible or appropriate, we may acquire collections of older materials (such as archives of chemistry journals). Rare or unique materials from any period may be considered.

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) collects archival collections and materials related to the history of science. Notable chemistry collections include the Edward Epstean Collection on the history and science of photography, which is particularly rich in the more specialized fields of photochemical processes, the Charles Frederick Chandler Papers 1847--1937 [bulk dates: 1864--1925], the Louis Planck Hammett Papers 1921--1986, and the oral history archive of Harold Clayton Urey. Information about the Department of Chemistry and the people associated with it can also be in the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Records, 1939--2006 [bulk dates: 1956--2003], the Central Files, 1890--1984 [bulk dates: 1890--1983] (Office of the President Records), and in the Historical Subject Files, 1870s--2017 [bulk dates: 1968--1972].

a. Consortia and Collaborative Collecting with Other Institutions

The range of print materials focusing on the fields of chemistry are greatly enhanced by Columbia’s participation in Borrow Direct, OCLC’s SHARES network of international academic libraries, and the Manhattan Research Library Initiative (MaRLI), a partnership with New York University and The New York Public Library. MaRLI also enables Columbia to expand its electronic access to electronic journals and books through cooperative subscription and purchase agreements. 

b. Location Decisions and Selection for ReCAP

When acquired, physical items will primarily be sent to off-site storage unless acquired specifically for course reserves or by patron request. Duplication of titles is generally limited to works identified by faculty as being central to a specific course. In these cases, no more than a few copies are obtained, at least one of which should be placed by the faculty member on reserve. Deduplication generally only takes place when a title has been identified for relocation to ReCAP and a copy already exists on shelf at that facility.  Even in this instance, the Librarian will inspect the copy that could potentially be withdrawn for any unique features or unusual provenance before assenting to deduplication.

c. Deaccessioning

Titles are deaccessioned only in cases where the physical copy is disintegrating and no longer serviceable in print format. In these instances, the Librarian will evaluate whether to make a preservation photocopy, to create or acquire a digital surrogate, and/or to replace the physical copy with another. Resources on obsolete formats are reviewed by librarians on a case-by-case basis; in instances where the original format has artifactual value, it will be retained even after it has been digitized or otherwise reformatted. Distinctive collections held in RBML, the C.V. Starr East Asian Library, Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, and the Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary are not deaccessioned.

d. Digitization and Preservation

Materials may be treated for preservation issues as needed.

Katherine Brooks

Katherine Brooks

Collection Analysis Librarian

  • Science, Engineering, & Social Sciences Libraries

(212) 854-4119
Science & Engineering Library - 401A Northwest Corner Building

Last updated: March 2019