Earth and Environmental Sciences

Columbia University Libraries collects materials in support of the research and teaching efforts of the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (formerly called the geology department). In 1912, the Department of Geology brought together several faculty collections to form the Geology Library. The library’s early collections included the departmental and personal collections of faculty including Kemp, Berkey, Graham, Newberry, and Johnson. Over time, the geology collections expanded from 13,000 volumes in 1913 to close to 42,000 volumes by 1952.  Materials included road logs, monographs, journals, and a large map collection. Nineteen forty-nine to 1950 saw the establishment of a separate Geoscience Library at the Lamont Geological Observatory (now Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory [LDEO]) in Palisades, New York. Over time, the geology map collection was moved from the Geology Library on the main Columbia University campus to the Geoscience Library at LDEO. When the Geoscience Library at LDEO then closed in 2015, the cataloged map collection was sent to Columbia’s shared off-site storage facility (ReCAP) and the remaining uncataloged maps were sent to Lehman Social Sciences Library. The campus Geology Library Reading Room closed in 2018 and the Geology Library stacks collection is now accessible through a paging service until it is processed for ReCAP. The high-use materials and reserves collections have been integrated into the Science & Engineering Library; the rest of the collection has been or will be sent to ReCAP. 

The Libraries supports research and instruction in all aspects of the earth sciences in the broad sense, including (but not limited to) seismology, tectonophysics, marine geology, terrestrial geology, geophysics, paleomagnetics, physical oceanography, stratigraphy, climatology, climate change, sustainability, geochemistry, paleontology, plant ecology, ecosystem ecology, remote sensing, soil science, and dendrochronology.

This document outlines the Libraries’ general policy on collections for earth and environmental sciences, 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 the undergraduate degrees in environmental science or earth sciences and for the concentrations available within other majors. There is also an undergraduate major and special concentration in sustainable development. 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 master’s and PhD programs offered by the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, as well as related courses in other schools such as the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). In addition, the Libraries continues to develop its relationship with the Columbia Earth Institute. The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences currently offers a PhD degree in earth and environmental sciences and a Master’s degree program in climate and society. There is also a dual Master’s in earth and environmental science journalism occasionally offered. SIPA and the Earth Institute also offer the following degrees that rely upon the earth and environmental sciences collections: 

MA in Climate and Society    

MPA in Development Practice    

MPA in Environmental Science and Policy  

PhD in Sustainable Development     

MS in Sustainability Management    

MS in Sustainability Science

c. Institutes, Interdisciplinary Programs, etc.

In addition to the programs listed above, the Libraries’ collection also supports the work of the following organizations:

The Earth Institute and its affiliated Centers: 

Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity     

Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR)     

The Earth Institute Center for Environmental Sustainability (EICES)     

Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN)    

Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD)     

Center for Sustainable Development (CSD)     

Columbia Climate Center     

Columbia Water Center     

International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)   

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)     

Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy (LCSE)     

National Center for Disaster Preparedness     

Sustainable Engineering Lab

Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED)     

Cooperative Institute for Climate Applications and Research (CICAR)    

Sabin Center for Climate Change 

Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment

Additional organizations: 

Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development (CGSD)

Black Rock Forest

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS)

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. Subject coverage is intended to support research and educational efforts of relevant topics of interest to earth and environmental sciences faculty and students, including (but not limited to) seismology, tectonophysics, marine geology, terrestrial geology, geophysics, paleomagnetics, physical oceanography, stratigraphy, climatology, climate change, sustainability, geochemistry, paleontology, plant ecology, ecosystem ecology, remote sensing, soil science, and dendrochronology.

b. Digital Collections

Columbia University Libraries offers a robust variety of electronic resources. The earth and environmental sciences collection strives to offer the full array of available databases relevant to the field. The number of e-book titles acquired has been increasing over the last several years. E-books may be acquired outright or may be part of a subscription services as appropriate, based on availability. Electronic items with reduced barriers to access are preferred, such as DRM-free e-books or multi-user licenses. There are numerous electronic journal subscriptions available as well. 

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. The geology subject area has strong collections from geological surveys from around the world, we collect selectively in all languages in this area. The geosciences subject areas are largely English only. 

e. Chronological Focus

We collect materials focusing on current research topics and 20th-century topics extensively and 19th-century topics selectively.

f. Geographical Focus

We collect United States imprints extensively and materials published in Great Britain, Western Europe, Canada, and Latin America selectively. The historical Geology subject area has strong collections from geological surveys from around the world.

g. Imprint Dates Collected

The main focus of collecting is current and recent (+/- three years) imprints. When antiquarian acquisitions are offered via gift or purchase, no specific chronological ranges are established in advance; rare or unique materials from any period may be considered.  

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) has a strong collection in the history of science and mathematics and holds the papers and archives of prominent Columbia University faculty. The University Archives holds administrative files and publications associated with Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Department of Geology as well as information on prominent Columbia University faculty. Please see RBML’s “What We Collect” page for further details on collection strengths and scope. 

From 1995-1997, the University conducted an oral history project and interviewed about fifty scientists for the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Oral History Collection, the transcripts and recordings of which are held in the RBML Oral History Archive. 

The Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences maintains its own records and history of the department (formerly the geology department).  

The Libraries holds a collection of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Technical Reports that were printed and published by the Observatory from 1949-2003. 

a. Consortia and Collaborative Collecting with Other Institutions

The range of print materials focusing on the fields of Earth & Environmental Sciences 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 whether 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.

Amanda Bielskas

Amanda Bielskas


  • Science, Engineering, & Social Sciences Libraries

(212) 854-6767
Science & Engineering Library - 403 Northwest Corner Building

Last updated: March 2019