Chemistry Collection Development Policy

Bobst Library, New York University
Kara Whatley, Head, Coles Science Reference Center


Chemistry is the central natural science; it links mathematics and physics to the biological sciences. A knowledge of chemistry has always been fundamental to the investigation of the physical world as well as to a true understanding of living systems.

The collection's primary function is to support research and teaching programs in the Department of Chemistry. Materials are also collected to support the science pedagogy program in the School of Education, and applications of chemistry to other disciplines such as biology, physics, neural science, environmental science, nutrition and food science, nursing and the allied health sciences, and fine art conservation. A selection of popular works is maintained for the non-scientist, a historical collection is maintained for those pursuing research in the history and philosophy of science.

Chemistry at New York University has a long and distinguished tradition. In 1876 the American Chemical Society was founded in the original University building at Washington Square, and the head of the chemistry department at that time, John W. Draper, served as its first president. Professor Draper was an early pioneer in the development of photography, working with Samuel F. B. Morse. Robert Morrison and Robert Boyd, who both taught in the department, co-authored a textbook of organic chemistry that trained a whole generation of chemists. Research and graduate training focus on a few selected areas of modern chemistry.

Many faculty members of the department are deeply involved in research on structural and synthetic aspects of the chemistry of life processes. A second focal research area covers theoretical and computational chemistry and biomolecular modeling. The faculty in this area do research on the quantum spectroscopy and photofragmentation dynamics of small molecules and clusters, quantum reaction dynamics in the gas phase and on surfaces, as well as molecular dynamics simulations of proteins and nucleic acids. A third focus is in the area of organic and inorganic chemistry. Researchers in this group are advancing synthetic and mechanistic chemistry so as to provide new tools and understanding on the molecular and supramolecular levels. All three groups contain members whose work is directly related to the development of new materials. The department prepares Ph.D. students for positions in academic departments, as well as in industries involving biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, materials, and most other aspects of chemical research and development.

Academic Programs


The department offers the major in chemistry and in biochemistry (see the College of Arts and Science Bulletin. The department also offers a number of courses for the nonscience student, and service courses for students in the other schools. The programs of study in chemistry prepare students for graduate work toward the master's degree or the doctorate, for careers in research, development, teaching, or for further study in areas such as medicine, dentistry, basic medical sciences, or allied health careers. For highly motivated students there are special honors courses for the first two years that cover the basic chemistry required for medical school and form a core for either the chemistry or the biochemistry major. The Department also participates in a joint B.S./B.E. program with Stevens Institute of Technology. Students who complete this program receive a B.S. degree in Chemistry from NYU and a B.E. degree in either Chemical Engineering, Environmental Engineering, or Materials Engineering from Stevens. Qualified students are encouraged to participate as early as the sophomore year in the research conducted by the Department's faculty in such areas as Theoretical and Experimental Physical Chemistry, Photochemistry, and Bioorganic and Biophysical Chemistry. Research laboratories are devoted to the study of DNA, bioorganic chemistry, and the structure and folding of proteins. During the academic year students pursue research for credit in the Department as well as at the NYU School of Medicine, Rockefeller University, and other institutions.

Morse Academic Progam (MAP) The prominence of science and technology in the modern world necessitates that individuals have solid skills in quantitative and scientific reasoning and an informed appreciation of how science is done. Some students achieve this by majoring in a natural science, by enrolling in the prehealth or engineering program, or by taking or placing out of calculus and some majors-level science courses. The three-course Foundations of Scientific Inquiry sequence [Quantitative Reasoning, Natural Science I (An Introduction to the Physical Universe), and Natural Science II (Our Place in the Biological Realm)] was created for the other students, those who are not planning to be directly engaged in scientific or technical endeavors.

Graduate Program

The department carries out research and offers graduate programs in the general areas of physical, biomolecular, theoretical, organic, and inorganic chemistry. Students select a research supervisor early in their graduate careers. The department has 30 faculty members directing research, approximately 100 graduate students, and a substantial number of postdoctoral fellows and affiliated scientists.

The above section is composed largely of extracts from the various WWW pages cited.


  1. Language

    English has become the universal medium of scientific communication. The historical collection contains extensive periodicals holdings, reference works, and selected monographs in other languages, especially German, but materials are rarely collected in these languages now, except for dictionaries, selected items on the history of chemistry, and a small collection of textbooks in languages for English as a second language students.

  2. Geographical Areas

    There are no geographical limits associated with chemistry per se, but emphasis is placed on collecting to support strong area studies graduate level programs at the university.

  3. Chronological Periods

    Current publications are emphasized, including materials on the history of chemistry from all periods, and the collection is strong in periodical literature from the 19th century. The library also houses a partial set of the microformat Landmarks of Science series, a collection of writings by and about scientists from the 3rd century B.C. to the 17th century.

  4. Sources used to Develop the Collection

    [Section to be completed]

  5. Weeding

    The reference collection is developed to occupy a limited amount of shelf space and requires ongoing collection maintenance: outdated and superseded items are withdrawn and items tangential to research interests of the department are excluded. Items of historical interest may be transferred to the stacks or offered to special collections.

  6. Selection Criteria

    [Section to be completed]


Types of Materials

  1. Included

    Circulating Collection

    Scholarly periodicals, monographs, monographic series, textbooks, laboratory manuals, conference proceedings, handbooks, reprints, facsimiles, microforms, cdroms, remote access to electronic texts, collections of data

    Reference Collection

    Handbooks, directories, encyclopedias, dictionaries, chemical supply catalogs, collections of spectral and other data, classic textbooks, instructional support materials

  2. Excluded

    Circulating Collection

    Ephemera, pamphlets, preprints, offprints, technical reports, newsletters, manuscripts, juvenile works, K-12 textbooks. Microform is avoided due to problems with reproducing illustrations, figures and chemical notation.

    Reference Collection

    Equipment catalogs, printed specialized bibliographies or compilations of citations that could be derived from online databases. Microform is avoided.

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Collection

The paper reference collection is quite strong, with complete runs of the major handbooks and reference sets in areas of departmental research concentration, although several sources were canceled in favor of electronic access to this information, or to fund other expensive information resources such as electronic journals. Microformat holdings of some Sadtler Standard Spectra. Access to networkable information resources needs to be improved. One challenge facing all the science collections at NYU is to make a successful transition from print to electronic information resources. Another is to manage the collections well, given limited space, the poor condition of the collection, and limited staff to conduct inventories. A successful transition to electronic format may help greatly.

The collection to support undergraduate chemistry education, including materials on how to use standard chemistry sources of information, has not been well maintained. The collection on pre-college level teaching of chemistry, which might include selected textbooks, is not strong.

Other Resources

  1. Related Collections within NYU Libraries

    Biological Sciences-- Plant Biochemistry (QK) and Animal biochemistry (QP)
    Applied Science and Technology -- Chemical Technology (TP)
    Food and Nutrition -- Chemistry of Foods (TX)

    Business and Social Sciences/Documents Center
    Statistical data related to the chemical industry. The documents collection lacks a historical collection of data published by the National Bureau of Standards -- Technical Notes and Special Publications series. Remote access to the most current versions of this information in electronic form needs to be implemented.

    Courant Institute for Mathematical Sciences
    Research-level collection mathematics and computer science -- computer modeling.

  2. Other Collections in New York City

    NYU Medical Library
    Environmental chemistry, biochemistry, conservation chemistry and toxicology.

    Cooper Union
    Chemical Engineering, Chemical Technology. Its patrons rely on access to NYU's Chemical Abstracts collection.

Subject & Collecting Levels

LC Class Subject ECS CCI DCS
QD1-69 General Chemistry C C C
Periodicals C D D
Chemical Societies Publications D D D
Computers and Chemistry B D D
QD71-145 Analytical Chemistry D D D
Includes Quantitative, Qualitative and Spectrochemical Analysis
Special Analysis and Water Analysis B B B
QD146-196 Inorganic Chemistry C D D
Laboratory Manuals A B B
Special Elements: Carbon, Fluorine, Phosphorus D D D
QD241-262 Organic Chemistry, General C D D
Organic Synthesis D D D
QD271-291 Organic Analysis D D D
Electrochemistry of Organic Compunds B B B
QD300-305 Alliphatic Compounds C C C
QD320-327 Carbohydrates C C C
QD330-341 Aromatic Compounds C C C
QD380-388 Polymers, Macromolecules B B B
QD390 Condensed Benzine Rings C C C
QD399-405 Heterocyclic Compounds C C C
QD410-412 Organometallic Compounds C C C
QD415 Biological Chemistry, General C C C
QD416-433 Natural Products, including Terpenes, Alkaloids, Steroids, Proteins, Peptides, and Amino Acids B C C
QD450-461 Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, General B C C
General Works, 1971-
Atomic and Molecular Theory and Structure, and Excited States C C C
QD462-481 Quantum Chemistry D D D
Includes Structural Chemistry (polymers) and Thermodynamics, Catalysis, Kinetics, Physical Inorganic Chemistry, and Stereochemistry B B B
QD506-508 Surface Chemistry C C C
QD510-536 Thermochemistry B B B
QD540-549 Theory of Solutions C C C
QD551-571 Electrochemistry, Electrolysis C C C
Electrolytes, Electrode Phenomena and Magnetochemistry B B B
QD601-655 Radiochemistry C C C
Radiochemical Analysis A A A
QD701-731 Photochemistry B B B
QD901-999 Crystallography D D D
Crystal Structure and Growth, Liquid Crystals C C C
Geometrical and Mathematical Crystallography, Physical Properties of Crystals, X-Ray Crystallography, Chemical Crystallography B B B
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