Economics


1. History and Overview of the Collection

Early in Columbia history, the Montgomery Library of Accountancy maintained the financial collection containing approximately 25,000 volumes. Many of these volumes are rare items, including the earliest printed work that dates to 1494. The Montgomery Library also contained 15,000 business manuscripts and account books dating from the years 1332 to 1900. The reference collection was important as well as the American and foreign periodicals, business services, government releases, directories, and statistical sources. The Reserved Book Rooms contained some 8,000 volumes on reserve for approximately 300 courses in business and economics. 

A second home of the Business Library was formerly the main floor of Butler Library, located in the front wing of the building. It contained an actively-used collection of some 87,000 volumes, rich in business and economic materials, for use in research projects and course reading. 

In April 1962, President Grayson Kirk announced the establishment of the Thomas J. Watson Library of Business & Economics in a new building, Uris Hall. According to the president, “The unique feature of the library is the support of and identification with individual library collections by corporations in fields of their major interest.” 

The library has a basic collection of over 330,000 volumes and 296,000 microforms on business and economics, over 3,000 American and foreign periodicals, trade and association journals, and extensive files of current government releases, labor union periodicals, and pamphlets. In addition, the Marvyn Scudder Financial Collection, a large special collection of research materials, contains documentary material pertaining to the financial histories of thousands of corporations from 1821 to date. This remarkable research collection is one of the largest of its kind and affords an excellent opportunity for the study of business history, investments, security markets, industry analyses, and corporate finance. 

The library collection increased heavily in print format until computer technology took over. Starting in 1992, the library has been adding more materials in electronic format. To facilitate and increase seating capacity, the library removed 29,000 volumes from on site to the Libraries’ shared off-site storage facility (ReCAP), namely publications from 1984 and earlier. Over the years, various architectural modifications have resulted in an increased number of items being moved to ReCAP. The library now sends about 5,000 volumes per year to ReCAP and purchases fewer print volumes and more electronic books and journals.  

Currently, the library has 23,500 books and monographs, published from 2013 to the present, a limited reference collection, and approximately thirty current periodical titles in Watson Library. The microfilm collection has been moved to ReCAP. 

The library collection focuses on the topics of: accounting, decision and risk analysis, corporate and international finance, management, marketing, security analysis, media, entertainment, and communications, and social enterprise. The library's collection reflects the Columbia Business School curriculum emphasis on teaching and research needs. A curriculum review resulting in greater emphasis on teaching international business led the library to add more resources on international business, companies, and industries.

2. Academic Departments and Programs Supported

a. Undergraduate 

The Department of Economics offers a general economics major in addition to five interdisciplinary majors. The library collects materials in support of economics, financial economics, and joint majors with math, philosophy, political science, and statistics.

b. Graduate and Professional School  

The Department of Economics has many areas of study in which students may earn a MA or PhD degree. The Libraries support their programs in the fields of: 

Applied Economics

Applied Econometrics

Economics of Uncertainty and Information

Urban Economics

Economics of New York City

Historical Foundations of Modern Economics

Industrial Organization

Market Design

Corporate Finance

Economic Growth and Development

Economic Organization and Development of Japan

Political Economy

Labor Economics

Econometrics of Time Series and Forecasting

Public Economics

Gender and Applied Economics

International Trade

Globalization and Financial Crisis

Law and Economics

Economics of the Environment

Financial Crises

Behavioral Economics

Globalization and its Risks

Behavioral Finance

Seminar in Macroeconomics and Formation of Expectations

c. Institutes, Interdisciplinary Programs  

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

Program for Economic Research (PER)

Center on Japanese Economy and Business (CJEB)

Cognitive and Behavioral Economics Initiative

Microeconomic Theory Initiative

Market Design Initiative 

Industrial Organization Initiative

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 Business & Economics Library.

3. Selection Guidelines

a. Print 

Overall, the Libraries’ existing collection and current acquisitions commitment, based upon available resources supporting the academic and research needs of the economics department and affiliates. Despite the increased shift from print collections to electronic collections in the last ten years, the library is still adding a limited amount of print collections.

The library collects annuals and monographs extensively and periodicals, newspapers, reference tools, scholarly series, and textbooks selectively. We also collect more country reports or country profile with unique content and not available in digital format.

b. Digital Collections 

Columbia University Libraries offers a robust variety of electronic resources. The library 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 purchased 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. The Libraries also license data sets that are of use to the research interests of users. 

c. Media 

Audiovisual materials are excluded from selection, but archival collections may be present as part of broader electronic collections. Other tools, such as microfilm, are collected selectively upon specific request. 

d. Languages Collected 

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

e. Chronological Focus 

We collect current publications extensively and earlier 20th-century materials selectively. Older materials are not generally collected unless they are needed on specific request. 

f. Geographical Focus 

We collect materials published in North America and Western Europe extensively and other countries selectively. However, the database collection has a more international focus, specifically on GDP or trade in India, China, and Europe. 

g. Imprint Dates Collected 

We collect materials focusing on current and recent (+/-three years) research topics extensively and earlier 20th-century topics, 19th-century topics, and earlier topics selectively. 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. 

4. Distinctive and Special Collections

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) holds roughly 25,000 volumes of  historical books, pamphlets, broadsides, and manuscripts related to economic and business history that were collected by E. R. A. Seligman, a professor in the economics department.

5. Collection Strategies

a. Consortia and Collaborative Collecting with Other Institutions 

Development of the Business & Economics Library’s collection takes into consideration the collections of other Columbia libraries to minimize unnecessary duplication and to ensure that necessary materials are not overlooked. These are primarily the collections in Lehman Social Sciences Library, Butler Library, the Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, Science & Engineering Library, and Teachers College and Barnard College libraries. The collection is greatly enhanced by Columbia’s participation 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 access to electronic journals and books through cooperative subscription and purchase agreements.

b. Selection for ReCAP 

Due to multiple renovations to add seating in the Business & Economics Library, shelving space was reduced. All monographs published prior to 2010 have already been sent to ReCAP. The library continues to send about 5,000 volumes per year to ReCAP so there is enough space for future growth. 

c. Deaccessioning 

Titles are deaccessioned only in cases where the physical copy is disintegrating and no longer serviceable in print format.  In these instances, either a preservation photocopy is made, or a digital surrogate created or obtained. Books located in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library are not deaccessioned. 

d. Deduplication

Deduplication 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 local copy for any unique features/unusual provenance before assenting to deduplication. 

e. Digitization and Preservation 

Materials may be treated for preservation issues as needed. 

contact information


YASMIN SAIRA

Research Support & Collection Development Librarian
  • Science, Engineering, & Social Sciences Libraries
(212) 854-3547
Business & Economics Library - 130 Uris Hall

AMANDA BIELSKAS

Head, Collection Management for the Science, Engineering, & Social Science Libraries
  • Science, Engineering, & Social Sciences Libraries
(212) 854-6767
Science & Engineering Library - 403 Northwest Corner Building

Related subject policies and references:

Gifts-In-Kind Policy

Columbia University Libraries Preservation Policy

Last updated: January 2019