Home  |   Contact Us  |   About Us

California Institute of Technology
Caltech Library
Collection Development Policy

The collections of the Caltech Libraries provide resources to support the research, study, and instruction needs of the faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students in their fields as well as reference works to meet the needs of the Caltech community at large. The subject specialist librarians prepare these collection development policies to aid communication between librarians and the Caltech community regarding collections.

Bibliographers collect to support current research activities, and thus research materials are the primary focus of the collection. However, basic materials in a subject area are collected for undergraduate use and in support of Institute-wide interdisciplinary interests so the Caltech community can stay informed and have ready access to core works in a wide range of subjects.

The Library purchases textbooks adopted for course reserves. No attempt is made to systematically purchase other textbooks.

As this is not a historical collection, archival materials are not collected, except by the Institute Archives. Some disciplines, such as Chemistry, Geology, Mathematics and Physics, however, have sound reasons for retaining older classic materials.

The primary language of the collection is English. Materials in other languages are acquired as appropriate. Translations are preferred, except when materials in their original language are deemed important, or if English versions are not available. No item is excluded from the collection solely because of language.

Collection policies are tailored to research currently underway at Caltech. Subject emphases are re-evaluated when a faculty member arrives or leaves, or when research interests evolve.

Database and journal selection (and subscription renewal) is based on use, and closely monitored. We favor electronic periodicals and indexes, and expect to favor electronic books in the future. Conference proceedings and collected works of individuals are purchased selectively. As a general rule, the Library does not acquire technical reports or dissertations.

Collection decisions are based, in part, on publisher and publication quality. Individual bibliographers are familiar with the major publishers in their fields, and depend on that for screening a large portion of the published literature.

Purchasing is based on a three-tiered approach: (1) The Library uses a subject-based approval plan to acquire research level material as soon as it is published. (2) A slip notification plan for less-obvious materials leads to firm orders; and (3) orders are also triggered by reviews in the scientific and library literature, which bibliographers regularly review.

Besides Librarians, requests for library materials are initiated by faculty, students and staff. Priority of acquisition is accorded to faculty or graduate student requests for immediate research and teaching. Serious consideration is given to requests for works of scholarship and of special interest to the Caltech community requested by anyone within that community.

Gifts can be an important tool for collection development, and are covered in the Library's Donation Policy.

Division of Biology

CLS collects material on structural, molecular, and cell biology; developmental and regulatory biology; and molecular, cellular, and integrative neuroscience.

In support of the Division's cross-disciplinary research, we collect material in areas such as biochemistry, bioengineering, computation & neural systems, human emotions, cognition, consciousness, perception, and attention.

We collect books only selectively in support of these emphases, for which journals generally are used to a greater extent than are books.

While we collect selectively in genetics of plant development, we do not collect botany per se.

Division of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering

CLS collects material on chemical synthesis & catalysis, molecular dynamics and reaction mechanisms; physical, theoretical and computational chemistry; inorganic and organic chemistry; biochemistry (including bio-inorganic and bio-organic), biophysical chemistry, and materials chemistry (including nanomaterials).

In support of the Division's cross-disciplinary research, we selectively collect material in areas such as analytical chemistry, nanoscience, history/philosophy of chemistry, and materials science.

Special emphasis is placed on books on laboratory techniques (e.g. NMR, IR, mass spectrometry, chromatography, crystallography, etc.).

We collect books published by the major publishers fairly exhaustively, and from minor publishers selectively.

The library meets the American Chemical Society's Committee on Professional Training's Library Requirements for ACS-Approved Programs, and subscribes to all journals listed as Highly Recommended and virtually all journals listed as Recommended.

Division of Engineering and Applied Science

CLS collects materials in support of the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, and its educational Options, and the centers of excellence on campus.

Due to the cross-disciplinary nature of research at Caltech, we collect applied mathematics and computing books to support all divisions. We do not generally collect computer application manuals.

Areas of special interest include: global change science; atmospheric chemistry and physics; atmospheric and climate modeling; optofluidics; MEMS & NEMS; jet and rocket propulsion; combustion and detonation; fracture mechanics; fuel cells; vitreous alloys; metal hydrides; turbulence and vorticity; liquid crystals; polymer and small molecule physics ; nanoelectronics; coding and information theory; complex systems; DNA computing; zeolite synthesis and characterization; computer graphics; image and signal processing; semiconductor doping and processing.

Non-obvious areas which are collected because of their interdisciplinary use include environmental microbiology and biogeochemistry; plasma physics, including stellar plasma; nonlinear optical phenomena; systems biology; locomotion of terrestrial, aerial, and aquatic animals, insects, and microorganisms; gene shuffling; noncanonical amino acids; tissue engineering; nanoparticle pharmaceutical delivery systems; and gene therapy.

Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences

CLS collects materials on stratigraphy, petrology, tectonics, sedimentology and geomorphology; geochemistry and mineralogy; seismology, geodynamics, high-pressure mineral physics, geodesy and marine geophysics; planetary surfaces, planetary astronomy, and planetary atmospheres; paleomagnetism and astrobiology; atmospheric chemistry, molecular microbial ecology, isotope biogeochemistry, global weather and climate, oceanography, geophysical fluid dynamics, atmospheric science and large-scale atmosphere dynamics.

CLS collects areal geology for the western US, but not for other areas; we collect geologic maps at the local scale for California, but at smaller scale for the rest of the US, and even smaller scale for the other countries.

We do not collect paleontology or in quaternary studies except as it specifically relates to other areas we do collect.

Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences

CLS collects high quality monographs selectively, according to specific faculty research and teaching needs. Subject areas include anthropology, economics, finance, law, political science, psychology; philosophy (especially of the natural and social sciences, scientific inference, moral and political philosophy, and philosophy of mind), psychology and the neurosciences, philosophical logic, moral psychology, and the history of philosophy, as well as the history of science and scientists, with a sharp eye to enduring quality and need.

We purchase new fiction based on study of reviews and/or faculty requests; there is no attempt to collect comprehensively in fiction or to build a popular reading collection in the Divisional library. The library has standing orders for important annual prize books.

Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy

CLS collects in current research areas in the Mathematics department, which include: group theory, geometry (with a concentration on algebraic geometry), topology, number theory, combinatorics, logic and set theory, representation theory, integrable systems, and harmonic analysis. We collect journals and books that support these areas, noting that there is a concentration on algebra, geometry and topology.

We do not collect books on research in statistical methods, but materials regarding the practical use of statistics are collected for general use by the community. Monographs continue to be very important to mathematics, and are an integral part of the collection.

CLS collects in current research areas in the physics and astronomy departments, which include: gravitational physics, nuclear physics, quantum optics & quantum information theory, atomic and molecular optics, non-linear optics, elementary particle physics, condensed matter, nanophysics, biophysics, cosmology, including dark matter and dark energy, the interstellar and intergalactic medium, galactic evolution, stellar evolution, large scale structure in the universe, the cosmic background radiation and planetary formation.

We do not collect exhaustively in all areas of physics or astronomy. Some subjects that are not collected include solar physics and astronomy (collected under applied physics), planetary science (which is collected for Geological and Planetary Sciences) or statistical physics.

Revised April 21, 2011