In 1864, the School of Mines of Columbia College opened its doors and after twelve years, its library already had 7,000 volumes. A century and a half later, Columbia University Libraries continues its mandate to support the educational and research efforts of what is now the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) by maintaining extensive collections covering the numerous fields of engineering. These collections include print monographs and journals located on campus or in our off-site storage facility as well as millions of articles, technical papers, standards, dissertations, patents, and reference works available through a variety of electronic platforms.  

Subject coverage is intended to support research and educational efforts of relevant topics of engineering, including (but not limited to) algorithms, automation, catalysis, coding, communications and information processing, computer aided design, computer science, construction engineering, corrosion, crystallography, digital systems, electricity and electromagnetism, electrochemistry, fluid mechanics and hydraulics, heat transfer, linear programming, machine learning and artificial intelligence, manufacturing systems, microelectronics, nanostructures, network flows, operations research, optimization, polymers, simulation, smart materials, soil mechanics, solid and experimental mechanics, solid state and integrated electronics, structural engineering, surface chemistry, telecommunications, ultrafast optics and photonics, unit operations, and very large-scale integration. The Libraries’ collections include print monographs located on campus or in the Libraries’ off-site storage facility (ReCAP) as well as millions of articles, dissertations, and reference works available through a variety of electronic platforms.  

This document outlines the Libraries’ general policy on collections 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 seventeen areas of study: applied physics and applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, civil engineering and engineering mechanics, computer engineering, computer science, earth and environmental engineering, electrical engineering, engineering mechanics, industrial engineering and operations research, materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering, operations research in engineering management systems, and operations research in financial engineering. These specializations are available to students as majors or minors, leading to a Bachelor of Science in Engineering.

b. Graduate and Professional Schools

The Libraries collects materials in support of twenty-two areas of study: applied mathematics, applied physics, biomedical engineering, business analytics, chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer engineering, computer science, construction engineering and management, data science, earth and environmental engineering, electrical engineering, engineering mechanics, financial engineering, industrial engineering, management science and engineering, materials science and engineering, mechanical engineering, medical physics, operations research, and solid state science and engineering.  Students may pursue a Master of Science or PhD in these areas. The collections also support the Journalism and Computer Science dual degree program.

c. Institutes, Interdisciplinary Programs, etc.

Materials collected by the Libraries supports the research and educational efforts of several interdisciplinary institutes, centers, and initiatives at the School of Engineering:

Center for Life Cycle Analysis

Center for Neuroengineering and Computation

Columbia Genome Center

Columbia Water Center

Columbia Nano Initiative

Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute

Columbia Precision Medicine Initiative

Earth Institute at Columbia University

Computational Optimization Research Center

Earth Engineering Center

Data Science Institute

Center for Financial Engineering

Lenfest Center for Sustainable Energy

Center for Computational Biology and Bioinformatics

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.  Print materials are largely held in the Libraries’ off-site storage facility, with the exception of volumes with frequent usage, which are in the stacks of the Science & Engineering Library. 

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). Due to their cost and generally restrictive use terms for electronic access, engineering standards from most issuing agencies are only purchased on a very limited, case-by-case basis.  

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

The collection is drawn primarily from English sources. Foreign-language materials may be collected if the subject coverage is of particular relevance and not otherwise available in English.

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 (+/- 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.

We have strong historical collections in the topic of mines and mining engineering. The Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) holds items of historical interest such as the papers of Edwin H. Armstrong, best known for developing FM radio technology, and Henry Krumb, the American mining engineer whose name adorned the School of Mines one century after its formation. Please see RBML’s ‘“What We Collect” page for further details on collection strengths and scope. 

a. Consortia and Collaborative Collecting with Other Institutions

The range of print materials focusing on the fields of Engineering 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

Academic Commons hosts a collection of digitized Columbia University Computer Science Technical Reports. Other materials may be treated for preservation issues as needed.

William B. Vanti

William B. Vanti

Science & Engineering Librarian

  • Science, Engineering, & Social Sciences Libraries

(212) 851-7138
Science & Engineering Library - 404 Northwest Corner Building
(212) 854-4712
Mathematics Library - 303 Mathematics
Amanda Bielskas

Amanda Bielskas


  • Science, Engineering, & Social Sciences Libraries

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