Physics and Astronomy Collection Development Policy

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


Physics is the most fundamental and highly developed of the natural sciences. It embraces the quest for understanding the basic nature and interactions of matter from the smallest sizes imaginable to the universe itself. The principal ideas of Physics, such as relativity and the quantum theory, are major features of the intellectual landscape of the modern world, and the applications of Physics are among the main driving forces of new technology. Physics comprises many distinct subfields, from atomic physics and cosmology to neuromagnetism and biomechanics, all of which share a common approach to understanding the fundamental aspects of nature. Physics underlies many other sciences, has important relations to engineering and technology, and plays a key role in many interdisciplinary fields.

The collection supports the instructional and research programs of the Department of Physics and the work of other science departments such as Chemistry and Biology. Materials on pedagogy are collected to support the program in the School of Education. The collection also includes popularizations for the non-scientist. The historical collection is maintained to support research and teaching in the history and philosophy of science.

The faculty of the Department of Physics at NYU carries out research programs in the major subfields of Physics. Current fields of active research include: astrophysics (interstellar medium, planetary nebulae, larger scale structure of the universe), atomic physics (atomic beam interferometry, excitation of atoms, hyperfine structure, scattering theory), condensed matter physics (spin polarized electron emission spectroscopy, scanning tunneling microscopy, transport theory), elementary particle physics (D¿ detector, W-Boson, TOP Quark, MILAGRO cosmic rays experiment; radiative corrections to elementary particle, renormalized field theories, string theory), neuromagnetism (magnetic inverse problem, mapping of brain functions, magnetic source imaging), nonlinear dynamics (chaos, turbulence, stochastic webs, anomalous transport), statistical physics (Monte Carlo methods, self-avoiding walks, statistical mechanics of physical, chemical and biological systems).

Academic Programs


There is a B.A. major in Physics; the B.S. designates a greater concentration in physical and computer science courses. The Department also participates in the College's engineering program that leads to the B.S. degree in Physics and the B.E. in one of several engineering options (Electrical, Civil, Materials, or Mechanical Engineering or Engineering Physics). The requirements for these majors are set forth in the College of Arts and Science Bulletin.

Morse Academic Program (MAP)
For students not planning to be directly engaged in scientific or technical endeavors the three-course Foundations of Scientific Inquiry sequence was created: Quantitative Reasoning, Natural Science I (An Introduction to the Physical Universe), and Natural Science II (Our Place in the Biological Realm).


The primary objective of the graduate program is to prepare students for independent research in experimental or theoretical physics. Students pursue courses of study and research leading to the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. For most students, the education goal is the doctorate; in addition to being a research degree signifying preparation for a career in teaching and research at the university level or in research in industrial and government laboratories, it also serves as a step toward a career in an applied or interdisciplinary field.

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 core collection of textbooks for English as a second language students.

  2. Geographical Areas

    There are no geographical limits associated with the subject 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 the subject from all periods, and the collection is strong in periodical literature from the 19th century and the history of physics in the 20th century. The Bobst 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

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  5. Weeding

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  6. Selection Criteria

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Types of Materials

  1. Circulating Collection


    Monographs, textbooks, laboratory manuals, conference proceedings, reprints, facsimiles, microforms, cdrom's, access to electronic texts, data collections.


    Ephemera, pamphlets, paper preprints, offprints, technical reports, newsletters, manuscripts, juvenile materials, problem sets, dissertations and theses (except for NYU).

  2. Reference Collection


    Encyclopedias, dictionaries, directories, manuals, handbooks, data collections, instructional support materials, abstracts and indexes and remote access to abstracts and indexes.


    Equipment catalogs, examination files, problem sets, specialized bibliographies or compilations of citations that could be derived from online databases or broader indexes and abstracts in the collection.

Strengths & Weaknesses of the Collection

The collection includes the major reference works, notably Landoldt-Bornstein, an impressive historical collection of periodicals, including translation journals, and access through the library WWW pages to the major physics electronic archives and databases. Services include WWW-based interlibrary loan document delivery and tables of contents. The biggest challenge is to effect a successful transition from paper-based to electronic information resources.

The collection suffers from a lack of space. Insufficient resources mean that inventories are infrequent, dependence being placed on reader requests and circulation to bring missing and damaged books to the Library's attention. The astronomy collection lacks the depth and breadth of the physics collection, largely because of the lack of degree programs in astronomy. The collection also lacks historical National Bureau of Standards publications of data.

V. Other Resources

  1. Related Collections within NYU Libraries

    The library of the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences is strong in mathematical physics, applied mechanics, fluid dynamics, and other areas of physics collected to support interdisciplinary programs in applied mathematics and computer science such as meterology and climatology.

    The Ehrman Medical Center collects radiation and health physics.

  2. Other Collections in New York City

    The Niels Bohr Library of the American Institute of Physics has a rich collection of manuscripts, oral histories, archives, and books on the history of twentieth century physics and astrophysics.

    The Science Industry and Business Library (SIBL) of the New York Public Library has a basic collection in physics and astronomy.

    Readers with valid NYU identification have access to the Physics/Astronomy Library at Columbia University

Subjects & Collecting Levels

LC Class Subject ECS CCI DCS Notes
QB1-139 General C C B
QB1 Periodicals C B B
QB6 Star Catalogs B B B
QB151-237 Practical and Spherical Astronomy C C C
QB85-139 Astronomical Instruments A A A
QB275-345 Geodesy C B B
QB351-480 Theoretical and Celestial Mechanics C C C
QB460 Astrophysics C D D
QB463-465 Nuclear Astrophysics C D D
QB500-999 Descriptive Astronomy C B B
QB520-595 Solar and Lunar Studies C D D
QB600-701 Planetary Studies C C C
QB800-903 Stellar Studies C C C D for Interstellar Medium
QB860 Quasar C C C
QB871-903 Stellar Spectroscopy A C C
QB981-991 Cosmogony, Cosmology C C D
QC71-75 Physics, General D D D
QC1 Periodicals D D D
QC9-29 Mathematical Physics D D D D level collection at Courant Institute
QC120-168 Experimental Mechanics C D C
QC170-187 Atomic Physics, Properties of Matter, Quantum Theory, Solid State D D D
QC174-175 Statistical Physics C D D
QC221-246 Acoustics C C C
QC251-338 Heat, Thermodynamics C D D
QC350-467 Optics, Light, Spectroscopy D D D
QC471-496 Radiation Physics D C C
QC501-766 Electricity and Magnetism D D D
QC770-798 Nuclear Physics, Particle and Plasma Physics D D D
QC801-809 Geophysics B B B
QC881-899 Meteorology, Climatology B B B
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