Collection development policy

Biology bibliographer: Michael Newman

  1. Program information

    The collection development program in biology of the Stanford University Libraries supports instruction and research in the Department of Biology, the Plant Biology Department, and the Department of Global Ecology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and associated centers and programs. Primary faculty contacts are the Chair of the Biology Department, and other interested faculty. The collection development program also support the life science information needs of faculty, staff, and students in chemistry, physics, other science and engineering disciplines, and in other departments of Stanford University. The library cooperates with Lane Medical Library in collection development to optimally utilize Stanford’s resources to serve the basic life science needs of Stanford University Medical Center. While the library collects for the Stanford community, its collection is used by local unaffiliated walk-in visitors and, through the Interlibrary Loan program and cooperative agreements with research institutions, the international life science research community.

    The programs supported by the collection development activities in biological sciences are as follows:

    1. The collection development program supports the research needs of the Department of Biology. The department consists of approximately 50 research and teaching faculty, approximately 100 visiting scholars and postdoctoral scholars, and 150 graduate students. There are over 200 undergraduates whose declared major is Biological Sciences.

      The research emphasis of the Department of Biology is on basic research, with interests in two broad areas: molecular, cellular, developmental, genetic, and integrative biology; and organismal, ecological, and evolutionary biology. In the first category are faculty who study DNA repair mechanisms, biogenesis of cell membranes, developmental neurobiology, regulation of gene expression, and immunology. The organismal, ecological, and evolutionary biology group emphasizes population ecology, evolutionary genetics, physiology of adaptation, microbial ecology, and the global environment. The library collects in these areas at the research level.

      The department’s traditional strength in taxonomy and systematic biology has diminished. The teaching program in this area is supported by an agreement with the California Academy of Sciences. The library’s historic strength in this area has decreased to the basic or study level. Agriculture, forestry, veterinary biology, and other applied aspects of biology are not currently active areas of research in the department. However, agriculture and forestry are increasingly important in the study of global change and sustainability and these are areas of very active research at Stanford.

    2. In coordination with bibliographers at Green Library, the collection development program in biology supports the instruction and course reserves needs for undergraduate and graduate courses in biology. Reflecting the research interests of the faculty, courses cover a broad spectrum of the life sciences. An active undergraduate honors program contributes to the need for materials that support interdisciplinary research interests of young scientists.

    3. The collection development program supports the research needs of the Department of Plant Biology and the Department of Global Ecology of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Both departments are located on the Stanford Campus. Several faculty members have appointments at Stanford and the departments cooperate in recruiting faculty and students. The Plant Biology Department’s research emphasizes physiological ecology, plant development, and plant molecular biology. Research in the Department of Global Ecology focuses on both anthropogenic climate change and natural change. These areas are collected at the research level.

    4. The library supports the research interests of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. The Woods Institute, with approximately 150 researchers, is working toward a future in which societies meet people’s needs for water, food, health and other vital services while protecting and nurturing the planet. As the university's hub of interdisciplinary environment and sustainability research, the Stanford Woods Institute encourages Stanford faculty, researchers, and students to collaborate on environmental research.

    5. The collection development program supports the programs of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Jasper Ridge serves as a research facility for Stanford. Through its docent program, the Preserve is also active in environmental education. The library maintains a collection of papers of the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve.

    6. The library collects for the research needs of the faculty and students in the Biophysics Program. The Biophysics Program offers instruction and research opportunities leading to a Ph.D. in Biophysics. Students admitted to the program may perform their graduate research in any appropriate department. Faculty represent departments in the schools of Humanities and Sciences and Medicine.

    7. The library collects literature used in research and instruction in the Biosphere Track of the Earth Systems Program, an interdisciplinary program with over 30 faculty from the School of Engineering, the School of Earth Sciences, and the School of Humanities and Sciences contributing.

    8. In coordination with Green Library, the collection development program meets the instructional needs of the Human Biology Program. The Program in Human Biology is an interdepartmental undergraduate major. It provides an interdisciplinary perspective on the relationship between the biological and social aspects of humanity’s origin, development, and prospects.

    9. The collection development program supports the life sciences information needs, for both instruction and research, of other departments at Stanford. The collections are used by members of the Department of Chemistry for biochemistry information, of Applied Physics for physics of biological systems, of Anthropology for population genetics, ethnobotany, and ecology, and of Psychology for neurobiology and ethology. Faculty, staff, and students in the Medical Center are among the most frequent users of life sciences information collected by the library, and bioengineering is an area of particular interest.

  2. Coordination and cooperation

    Close cooperation is maintained with other collection development programs at Stanford that collect in related subject areas. Cooperation ensures comprehensive coverage while minimizing nonessential duplication. There are several subject areas in which collection development is coordinated.
    Agriculture, forestry, and animal care

    Beyond a small core collection of monographs, journals, and electronic resources, the libraries at Stanford depend on document delivery programs for most needs for literature in agriculture and forestry. However, some material in these areas is purchased when requested for teaching and research needs. Agricultural economics, forestry economics, and social and cultural studies of the exploitation of biological resources are outside the scope of the library and are most likely to be found at Green. However, the library collects in these areas as they relate to life sciences aspects of sustainable development.

    In general, studies of animal care in agricultural or zoological garden settings are not collected at Stanford. However, the library does collect studies related to the reintroduction of endangered species. The growing literature of laboratory animal care is also of interest at Stanford. The largest animal care facility at Stanford is located in the Medical Center and Lane Medical Library assumes primary responsibility for collecting the literature to support this facility. However, because the care of laboratory animals is of great importance in biological laboratories, the collection development program in biology also collects in this area.


    While the collection development program in biology has the primary responsibility for biochemistry for Stanford University Libraries (SUL), some biochemistry materials are also acquired through the collection development program in chemistry and chemical engineering. Studies of the physical and chemical aspects of biomolecules are more likely to be acquired by chemistry while research on the biological roles of biochemical substances is acquired for biology.

    Historically, there was a large amount of duplication in biochemistry between the collection development programs in biology and at Lane Medical Library. Lane supports Ph.D. programs in biochemistry, genetics, structural biology, and related basic biomedical sciences. However, in the digital era this duplication is attenuated. In general, biochemical literature with a clinical emphasis is left to Lane. Lane is responsible for the biochemistry of humans and of animal models for studying the human system. The emphasis of the collection development program in biology is on biological chemistry at the cellular and subcellular levels and on the biochemistry of plants and other nonhuman organisms. Unnecessary duplication is avoided through frequent communication with Lane regarding individual items.

    Biotechnology, bioengineering and genetic and biochemical engineering

    In the past, the collection development program in biology has not collected extensively in bioengineering, although researchers in that area often use basic life sciences literature. Bioengineering literature is collected in chemistry and chemical engineering, in the collection development program in engineering, and Lane Medical Library.

    Biochemical engineering is collected through the collection development program in chemistry and chemical engineering. The basic sciences literature in biochemistry and microbiology collected in the collection development program in biology is relevant for researchers in biochemical engineering. Literature emphasizing engineering processes that use microorganisms, including fermentation, bioremediation, and the manufacture of biochemicals, is of more interest in engineering, chemistry, and chemical engineering than in biology.

    In genetic engineering, the collection development program in biology has collected non-clinical studies while Lane has emphasized human and clinical research. Studies that emphasize the application of genetic modification in agriculture, drug production, and other industries are more likely to be collected in engineering and in chemistry and chemical engineering than in biology. Literature that emphasizes the ecological impacts of genetically modified organisms in agriculture is within the scope of the collection development program in biology.

    Bioinformatics, biocomputing, and biostatistics

    Bioinformatics is a rapidly growing area and there is some overlap between biology and mathematics and statistics in bioinformatics, biostatistics, and computer modeling. In general, the collection development program in biology focuses on applications of computers, mathematics, and statistics in molecular biology and in population biology, neural modeling, and other aspects of theoretical biology. When the major emphasis of a work on biomathematics is on its intrinsic mathematical significance, it is more likely to be in the scope of the collection development program in mathematics and statistics.

    There is a growing body of literature in both artificial and biological neural networks. Works on artificial neural networks are considered to be within the scope of mathematics and statistics, but works on biological neural networks are within the scope of biology. Works on the theory of neural networks may be purchased by either.

    Biological education

    In general, studies of biological education are more likely to be purchased by the collection program in education. Biology does collect some works designed to assist life science faculty and graduate students in improving teaching skills and other works that are of more use to biologists than to researchers in education.

    Biological illustration

    The library collects works on biological illustration if they are designed for use by biologists. Works that focus primarily on medical illustration are generally not collected and would be in Lane’s scope. Works that emphasize the aesthetic and artistic aspects of biological illustration, including works that consist primarily of illustrations, are the responsibility of the Art and Architecture Library.

    Clinical medicine and health care

    Biology does not collect clinical medicine or health care. Those areas are the primary responsibility of Lane Medical Library. Green Library collects some literature on health policy and medical sociology, while Crown Law Library collects works on medical legislation and jurisprudence and the Business Library collects literature on the business of health care.

    Communication in life sciences and history and sociology of science

    Social sciences, studies of communication in life sciences, and the sociology of biology are selected by the social sciences bibliographer, usually for Green Library. However, Biology does collect practical manuals designed to assist biologists and students of biology with written, oral, graphical, or electronic communication.

    Green Library and Lane Medical Library both collect in the history of life sciences. Lane’s emphasis is on the medical sciences but the history of the basic life sciences is also of interest at Lane. The collection development program in biology rarely acquires literature of this nature unless it is clearly of more interest to the practicing scientist, in either teaching or research, than to a historian of science. To support the teaching program in particular, Biology acquires some works of history and historical biography in life sciences.

    Environmental studies and toxicology

    The interdisciplinary nature of the literature of environmental science causes difficulties for bibliographers as they attempt to identify responsibility for collecting individual works in environmental studies. The collection development program in biology acquires works that emphasize interactions between the physical environment and ecosystems, nonhuman populations, or individual nonhuman organisms. Works that discuss climate, pollution, or other abiotic aspects of the environment without emphasizing interactions with living organisms are not collected for biology. Studies of climate are collected primarily by earth sciences. Similarly, studies of soil are collected by earth sciences unless the work emphasizes biological aspects of the topic.

    Works that discuss interactions between the environment and human populations or individuals are also not generally within scope. These studies may be divided broadly into three categories. Works that emphasize the impact of human activities on the environment are collected at Green Library, and by the collection development programs in earth sciences and engineering. Works that emphasize the impact of environmental change on humans are collected mainly by Green Library. Works that emphasize environmental management or the control and remediation of pollution and other human impacts are collected for engineering.

    Biology acquires environmental literature when it has a clear scientific significance for population ecology. The library also has a serious interest in substantive studies of nature conservation, especially in research on extinct or endangered species, and in behavior and reproduction of endangered animal species held in captivity. Social and political aspects of environmental studies are more likely to be acquired by Green Library.

    Environmental health and toxicology are generally closely related to public health and are considered out of scope. However, Biology does collect practical works in environmental health and toxicology when they are designed to assist life sciences researchers in managing the laboratory environment. Biology also collects some literature on the toxicology of nonhuman species, as this is generally not within Lane’s scope.

    Genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, developmental biology

    Literature in genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, and developmental biology is collected at a high level by both the collection development program in biology and at Lane Medical Library. Lane alone is responsible for clinical aspects of these fields. For non-clinical aspects, the emphasis at Lane is on human and animal model systems. Biology emphasizes non-human animal systems and plants.

    Horticulture and landscape architecture

    Horticulture is not an area of active research at Stanford. The library collects a few reference works in this area to support the needs of the Stanford community. Landscape architecture is outside the scope of Biology and this literature is most likely to be found in the Art and Architecture Library.

    Marine biology, limnology, and oceanography

    The Harold A. Miller Library at Hopkins Marine Station has primary responsibility at Stanford for all aspects of Marine Biology. However, because the biology of marine organisms is studied by a diverse group of researchers on the main campus, some material is collected by Biology. Duplication is minimized through communication with the marine biology bibliographer but it is sometimes necessary if a license for access cannot include both locations. The collection development program in biology has primary responsibility at Stanford for the literature of freshwater biology. Because there is a close relationship between freshwater and marine systems, some duplication of freshwater at Hopkins is necessary.

    Biology does not collect oceanographic literature. This literature is collected by earth sciences and at Hopkins Marine Station.


    Neurosciences literature is collected by Biology, Lane Medical Library, and Hopkins Marine Station. Lane collects intensively to support a Ph.D. program in the Medical Center in neurosciences. Hopkins supports the teaching and research activities of resident neurophysiologists who work 90 miles from the main campus. Collection development in biology supports the longstanding neurobiology research interests of the Department of Biology. These interests include the neurophysiology of stress, developmental neuroscience, and circadian neurobiology. Biology also supports research on the neural basis of motor behavior being pursued in the Department of Psychology. As in other areas of the collection, communication with Lane and the marine biology bibliographer regarding individual acquisitions minimizes unnecessary duplication.

    Paleobiology and palynology

    Traditionally the collection development program in earth sciences has had primary responsibility for collecting the literature of paleontology, paleobiology, paleoecology, and related disciplines.

    The collection development program in biology collects at a high level in evolutionary biology. Items that discuss evolutionary theory or the phylogeny of recent groups are more likely to be collected for biology, while items that emphasize the fossil record are more likely to be collected by earth sciences. Similarly, in palynological research, Biology collects studies of recent organisms while Earth Sciences is responsible for fossil organisms.


    For organismal biology, both Lane Medical Library and Biology maintain substantial collections, although the emphases differ. Plant physiology is almost exclusively collected by Biology. One exception is research on plants that are used medicinally. This area is collected at Lane and by Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. In vertebrate physiology, Biology has particular interest in thermoregulation, biological rhythms, and neurophysiology. Lane collects more broadly in organismal physiology and anatomy, as these fields are central to basic biomedical sciences. Organismal biology of marine organisms is collected at the Harold A. Miller Library at Hopkins Marine Station.

    Because most works on vertebrate endocrinology, cardiovascular and pulmonary physiology and anatomy, hepatology, nephrology, digestive system physiology, and vision emphasize the application of these studies in human medicine, these works are usually considered to be within Lane’s scope. This is particularly true of works that discuss physiological systems in both healthy and diseased states. Works that emphasize the physiology of these systems in species that are not generally considered models for the human system are of less interest at Lane and are acquired by Biology. When duplication is necessary, Biology collects at a very low level in the physiological disciplines covered by Lane, acquiring selected general textbooks, for example. Because Lane’s collection is very strong in cardiovascular physiology, Biology is particularly selective in this area.

    Lane also collects at a very high level in vertebrate immunology. However, because the Department of Biology includes a research program in the murine immune system, the collection development program in biology collects at a higher level in immunology than in the other systems listed above. Communication with Lane minimizes unnecessary duplication.

    Psychology and anthropology

    Bibliographers who collect primarily for Green Library have primary responsibility at Stanford for collecting the literature of anthropology and psychology. In psychology, the collection development program in biology emphasizes ethology and physiological psychology. In anthropology, the collection in biology emphasizes human evolution, ethnobotany, and population genetics.

  3. Subject and language modifiers


    In systematics, biogeography, ecology, and evolution, studies of western North America, Hawaii, and the neotropics are of particular interest. Because of the high level of activity in ecology and evolutionary studies at Stanford, geographic criteria are very loosely applied in these disciplines, and most areas of the world are well-represented in the collection. In contrast, field guides, floras, and checklists of species are collected in much less depth than ecological studies. For these, the geographic emphasis is on the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and western North America with only a few guides collected for other regions. Outside the areas of emphasis, works that cover larger regions are preferred to ones that cover small areas.

    In physiological ecology, Mediterranean climates and extreme environments are emphasized. In population biology, islands have special advantages for study and these advantages are reflected in the literature on the subject. Hawaii is of particular interest in studies of island biogeography. In most other biological subdisciplines, geography is not relevant.


    Emphasis is on acquiring current literature. As available shelf space diminishes, certain classes of older, rarely used materials are moved to storage locations remote from the library. Older materials that are duplicated in other libraries or other formats may be withdrawn. In serials, backfiles are acquired as funds permit, particularly for titles that are heavily used.


    Literature in English is preferred. Materials in other languages is usually acquired in response to requests by library users and when the materials meet other collection development requirements. Literature in Spanish related to the biology of the neotropics is collected when no substitute in English is found. When available, English translations are generally preferred to publications in the original language.

  4. Description of materials collected

  5. Types of materials and format

    There is a distinct emphasis on conventionally published, peer-reviewed scientific journals and monographs. Popular literature is very sparingly collected, generally when requested to support teaching or research needs. Textbooks designed for use in undergraduate and graduate courses are collected selectively.

    Stanford dissertations are available in electronic format. When users need dissertations from other institutions, they are directed to interlibrary borrowing, to electronic resources, or to commercial services that supply dissertations.

    A solid collection of indexes to the life sciences literature is acquired. Historically, these were received in print, on CD-ROM, and on magnetic tape, but currently most are available electronically through various commercial, not-for-profit, and government suppliers.

    Ephemeral newsletters, newspapers, unpublished manuscripts, booklets handed out at scientific meetings, and photographs are very rarely accepted into the collection. Exceptions are made for a few newsletters that include significant scientific content and for newsletters of major scientific societies whose activities are of interest to a wide scientific audience. Journals that contain mostly papers of authors associated with a single institution, suggesting that peer review has not been rigorously applied, are avoided unless specifically requested by library users. Collections of papers that have been previously published elsewhere are avoided unless the collection has significant added value beyond that of the individual papers. Reprints are not collected.

    Motion pictures, video recordings, audio recordings, and other audiovisual media are acquired primarily in response to requests by library users and only when they meet all other collection development criteria. Microforms are collected only when no other format is available.

    Print and electronic resources

    For all types of literature, digital format is preferred. Print may be acquired if no electronic version is available, if the electronic version is judged to be poorly presented or unstable or if its content is incomplete, or if price or license terms of the electronic version are prohibitive. Both print and electronic versions may be acquired if the print version is needed by a user.

    Software and data

    Computer software is not actively collected except when associated with a traditional printed monograph or when needed to use printed or electronic information resources in the library’s collection.

    Data resources are acquired selectively. Data resources for molecular biology are evaluated and acquired as needed, generally in cooperation with Lane Medical Library and the Computational Services and Bioinformatics Facility.

  6. Special considerations

    The Bibliographer for Biology selects additions to and withdrawals from the collections of life sciences information resources in Stanford University Libraries. Approval plans and form ordering plans are utilized to ensure timely receipt of relevant monographs. Collections of materials (for example, the front list for the current year from a given publisher) may be purchased. Advertisements, reviews in relevant life science journals, and lists of materials received by other libraries are scanned. Suggestions and advice from library users are solicited and suggestions for purchase are welcome. Library users are consulted when large changes in the collection, including cancellation or addition of several serial titles or withdrawal or transfer to storage of a large number of monographs, are proposed.

    Document delivery is an important source of the literature needed by library users. Currently, document delivery services rely on the Interlibrary Borrowing Department, and on the University of California at Berkeley, to deliver monographs and copies of journal articles to the Stanford community for teaching and research needs. Individuals who are affiliated with Stanford University Medical Center are directed to Lane Medical Library, which offers a full range of document delivery services to its users. Fast and efficient document delivery decreases the need to purchase infrequently used materials. Records of past document delivery requests are used as a tool in collection development.