1. Purpose, scope and context of policy
The Library Development Policy is intended as a guide for the Committee for the Library and Scholarly Communication and the Librarian in establishing policies for the maintenance and development of the Chemistry Library with particular regard to priorities and selection criteria for acquisition of printed and electronic resources.
The object is to establish a basis for the future development of the collection, due attention being paid to the holdings of other Departmental Libraries, the University Library, the Central Science Library, the Betty and Gordon Moore Library and available electronic resources.
The Policy should also serve as a means of informing and advising the Head of Department, particularly with respect to the formulation of funding strategy. It should inform staff and students about the principles that guide acquisition policy and create awareness of the Library's aims and future plans.
Changes in the level and sources of library income, book and journal price inflation, course content and structure and research priorities need to be reviewed on a regular basis. The same is true for developments in electronic publishing.
2. Purpose of collection
The principal function of the Chemistry Library is to support the research and teaching needs of the Department of Chemistry. This includes the provision of advanced texts and a wide range of periodicals in support of research activity and the key texts required by the Part IA, IB, II and III chemistry courses. The core collection of books and journals covers the fields of inorganic, organic, physical and theoretical chemistry, which, at the research level overlap with physics, materials science, biochemistry, biology and medicine. Book selection panels, broadly organised by research interest group but with ad hoc teams for specialist or multi-disciplinary titles, review the research text recommendations of the Biological, Materials, Physical, Synthesis and Theory, Modelling and Informatics Research Interest Groups. The Teaching Committee advises on undergraduate provision.
The Library serves students reading chemistry at all levels of the Natural Sciences Tripos, access being granted according to the rules that are explained below.
Besides underpinning traditional undergraduate coursework, the library plays another key role in educating pre-doctoral students. Part III students are attached to research groups for about 16 weeks, divided between Michaelmas and Lent Terms, during which they carry out a research project, ultimately writing a 5000 word dissertation and giving an oral presentation of their work. This requires familiarity with the literature in their subject area.
The Chemistry Department is one of the largest in the UK in terms of teaching and research activity. At the research level, the library serves about 300 postgraduate students, 150 postdoctoral associates, around 25 visiting scientists and 60 academic staff.
3. Recommendations and selection
Since 2000 it has been our policy to purchase all texts recommended for all Part II & Part III courses and Part IB texts when funds permit. All members of the Department, including undergraduates, are encouraged to make recommendations for the purchase of books and journals. Recommendations are invited via the library wiki or e-mail communication with any member of the Committee for the Library and Scholarly Communication. Most of the suggestions received are for books and these are passed to one or more of the selection panels referred to above. Panel members review the books and recommend whether or not to purchase. In the case of very expensive items, or when opinion within a panel is divided, views are canvassed more widely and if necessary the Committee for the Library and Scholarly Communication makes the final decision. This committee consists of the librarian, deputy librarian, six academic staff members including the chair (academic librarian), a postdoctoral researcher, a graduate student, a Part III student and a Part II student. New acquisitions are advertised on the Chemistry Library web site and the books themselves are prominently displayed for a preliminary period before being shelved appropriately.
Purchasing decisions are taken in the light of currently available financial resources. In recent years the library has benefitted from direct corporate donations and funding of some resources by the Chemistry Department Corporate Associates Scheme.
The Committee for the Library and Scholarly Communication keeps journal subscriptions under continual review in recognition of changing research needs. The Journal Coordination Scheme is a new structure for journal provision across the university. Recommendations for new subscriptions are considered by the Journal Coordination Scheme Consultative Committees of the schools. Shortlisted titles are then referred to the Journal Coordination Steering Committee. It may be necessary to nominate journals for cancellation in order to fund new subscriptions. However, periodical subscription cancellations are recommended only after a comprehensive survey has been carried out throughout the Department.
4. Categories of material
The Library collects the following categories of material:
This includes undergraduate texts, research monographs and conference proceedings.
General Reference Stock
This includes dictionaries, encyclopaedia, data books, handbooks, safety manuals and Tripos examination papers.
Periodicals & serials
This collection includes more than 100 currently subscribed titles and a further 50 journals for which subscriptions have now ceased. Some of the latter consist of short runs.
The Library maintains a reference section, containing mainly dictionaries, encyclopaedia, data books, safety manuals and handbooks of relevance to chemistry and related subjects. The Library aims to maintain reasonably up-to-date editions of these reference works within the constraints of its budget. Many reference works are available in electronic format.
5. Retention, replacements, disposals and multiple copies
Most material acquired by the Library is retained indefinitely, with the following exceptions.
Books in poor condition for which repair is not feasible; superseded editions of pamphlets, brochures, catalogues etc.; magazines which contain dated material, e.g. job advertisements.
When necessary, very old or out of date items are disposed of upon the recommendation of the library staff. In the first instance, journals are offered to the University Library and then to the Departmental Libraries.
Books are usually considered for replacement only when they have been missing for at least two years. However, important undergraduate texts will be replaced more frequently. Additional copies of heavily-used undergraduate recommended texts are also acquired and new editions of other texts are bought as appropriate. Suggestions of titles for duplication are invited.
In the past, illegal removal of texts was a very serious problem to which no satisfactory solution had been found. The Library is now housed in the Centre for Molecular Informatics and benefits from an electronic security system. This has greatly reduced theft, though no security system can be 100% effective against determined thieves.
6. Relationship to the holdings of other libraries in Cambridge
Modern chemistry is a very broad discipline, which at its boundaries merges with physics, materials science, chemical engineering, biochemistry biology and medicine. Inevitably, there are close connections between holdings in Chemistry and those in other Departmental Libraries. Given the very high level of world-leading research activity in the Chemistry Department, it is considered an absolute priority that insofar as possible the collection serves the needs of this research activity in as much depth and breadth as the budget allows. Therefore duplication of some books in key interdisciplinary areas is considered necessary and desirable.
In recognition of the overlap of interest between subject areas, the Chemistry Library permits borrowing by members of other departments. An arrangement can be made for borrowing via the automated Voyager circulation system. The security system helps to guard against abuse of this privilege.
There are connections between the Chemistry Library and the college libraries, especially in the area of recommended undergraduate texts. The recommended reading lists in chemistry are sent to all the colleges. Duplication of texts between the Chemistry Library and college libraries is not merely desirable - it is also necessary. Space constraints dictate the following rules: Part IA (about 500 in number) students may not use the Chemistry Library; Part IB, Part II and Part III students studying chemistry may read and borrow.
There are also connections between the Chemistry Library, the University Library, the Central Science Library and the Betty and Gordon Moore Library. The Central Science Library holds the collections in biological, chemical, earth and environmental sciences. The Betty and Gordon Moore Library holds collections in pure and applied mathematics, physics, astronomy, computer science, materials science, and engineering.
Over recent years duplication of journals in print format has been largely eliminated in order to make most cost-effective use of funding. This has been possible due to site-wide access to increased electronic content. Coordinated journal subscription and cancellation is managed by the Journal Coordination Scheme which is informed by the Journal Coordination Consultative Committees of the schools of the university.
Journals are recommended for subscription according to the following criteria: their relevance to the current research of the department, their breadth of coverage (review versus specialist), their international standing and impact factor, their availability elsewhere in Cambridge and their cost. The mechanisms and criteria used for introducing new subscriptions or cancelling existing subscriptions in response to changed research needs and financial constraints are described above. Despite the rapidly inflating cost of journal subscriptions, the strength of the chemistry-related periodicals portfolio has been maintained and improved largely due to the work of the Journal Coordination Scheme and the flexibility of electronic subscriptions.
8. Electronic media
24 terminals (a mix of PCs and Macs) on the Managed Cluster Service (formerly known as the PWF network) provide access to all University of Cambridge electronic resources which include e-journals, e-books and electronic databases. Site-wide desktop access is also available to all subscribed resources both on and off-site. Wireless networks available in the library include Lapwing, Eduroam and an open-access internet connection for visitors.
The trend to electronic resource provision has gathered pace and some publishers' pricing models have shifted in emphasis from print to electronic format. New titles are sometimes appearing in electronic format only. Although journal backfiles are increasingly being digitised full-text access to these represents a very large cost and in the medium term the printed journal archive in the library remains of great importance. The Chemistry Library website http://www-library.ch.cam.ac.uk has links to over 700 chemistry and chemistry-related journals. Many of these provide access to full-text if a university subscription is in place or they are open-access publications.
Chemistry Library supports the electronic books scheme initiated by the Cambridge College Libraries' Forum and has made financial contributions since 2007. Originally introduced to acquire texts for undergraduates this service is developing to meet research needs as well. In August 2011 ebook administration transferred to the University Library. Chemistry Library monitors developments in this area and makes recommendations for purchase or subscription.
The University Library funds site-wide access to electronic databases across all subject areas. Provision of relatively specialist subject databases can be challenging for departments if they can not be funded centrally. In order to compete with other chemistry departments it is essential the major chemical databases are available to Cambridge researchers. For this reason the Committee for the Library and Scholarly Communication supports continuing the subscription to SciFinder chemical database.
Suggestions for subscription are invited from all members of the department and the library maintains a list of recommended resources. Suggestions may be added to the library wiki, emailed to email@example.com or made to a Committee for the Library and Scholarly Communication member.
The proliferation of electronic resources has changed user training needs. In addition to traditional guidance on printed resources library induction includes an introduction to electronic resources in Cambridge, recommended routes for access and navigation help.
9. Chemistry Library website
A significant change in recent years has been the development of the Chemistry Library website which provides a first reference point for all library-related queries; an introduction to available information resources for new members of staff; quick access to the most-used electronic databases and links to e-journals and e-books. New information is communicated to library users on the library home page. The library wiki is the forum for discussion of all library-related matters and all members of the University are invited to contribute. The website is continually under review and suggestions for inclusion are welcome.
In summary, since moving to the Centre for Molecular Informatics in 2001 the Chemistry Library service has developed in response to the changing requirements of research and teaching. In recent years the emphasis has expanded from curation of print materials only to information service provision and support for e-based resources. Increased availability of electronic format has provided access to many resources previously unavailable. However, use of printed resources also continues and the library is highly regarded as a quiet space for scholarly work.
Content updated January 2012.
Amended February 2016 to reflect the change in name from 'Library Committee' to 'Committee for the Library and Scholarly Communication'.