University of Southern California

Collection Development Policies

A. Definition of Collecting Levels

Collecting levels in specific subject areas are defined in approximate accordance with the levels established by the Research Libraries Group. Levels used at Norris include:

Level 4: Research Level. Includes most English-language books, periodicals, and reference tools. Collection support is adequate for in-depth research and graduate-level course work.

Level 3: Study Level. Provides overview of current knowledge on the subject. Includes major reference works, standard textbooks, and selected journals.

Level 2: Basic Level. Highly selective collection which serves to introduce and define the subject and to provide pointers to information available elsewhere.


B. General Principles of Selection and Retention

The library will select resources in direct support of USC health sciences goals, and organize and disseminate them for efficient use and easy navigation.

Most subjects relating to medicine, pharmacy, nursing, and occupational and physical therapy are collected at the research level (RLG Level 4), although the only language collected is English, and non U.S. imprints are generally not selected in the clinical disciplines. Two important biomedical programs that are not primarily supported by the Health Sciences Library System are biomedical engineering and public health administration, both of which are primarily supported by University Park libraries.

Symposium proceedings are generally excluded except those issued as part of high-quality series such as the Cold Spring Harbor or Novartis Foundation symposia and other important society sponsored symposia.

Also, unlike the RLG Level 4 standard, older materials are generally not retained indefinitely for purposes of historical research. For works in multiple editions, the library generally keeps only the two latest editions. Books are routinely reviewed for deselection when they are 25 years old, at which point only recognized classics, works with enduring scientific value, statistical and epidemiological works, works associated with significant sociopolitical events and movements (e.g. medical studies on Hiroshima victims, 1960s works on recreational drug use), early works representing medical advances (e.g., early works on anorexia nervosa, sudden infant death syndrome, Legionnaire's disease, and important new drugs), and works associated with historically important authors are retained. Journal volumes are retained indefinitely.


C. Subjects Collected

I. Level 4 Subjects: Research Level Collections

Research Medicine

Anatomy and Embryology -- emphasis on human, but selectively includes comparative aspects; special interest in craniofacial development. (Most non-human anatomy is at USC Science Library.)

Biochemistry -- emphasis on protein and peptide biochemistry.

Chemistry, Medicinal -- highly specialized monographs on aspects of pharmaceutical research and development are generally not purchased. (Some related material on applied chemistry is at USC Science Library)

Molecular and Cell Biology -- especially as it relates to human gene therapy and mechanisms of neoplasia. Also work going on in School of Pharmacy on cell motility. (Additional material on cell biology is at USC Science Library)

Oncology -- especially viral aspects, oncogenes, lymphoma, molecular aspects

Microbiology -- especially virology. Generally excludes agricultural and industrial microbiology

Neurology -- high levels of research activity in almost all areas. (Also at USC Science Library for comparative neuroscience and cognition)

Immunology -- including transplantation immunology

Pathology -- especially relating to blood, infectious disease, and neoplasia

Pharmacology -- includes an extensive collection in the area of ethno-pharmacology

Physiology -- especially epithelial physiology, kidney physiology, mechanisms of diabetes, and ion transport

Toxicology -- toxicity of free radicals is a major research interest

Clinical Specialties


Anesthesiology -- excludes highly specific and/or technical works (Also at LAC+USC General Hospital Library)

Cardiology -- special emphasis on preventive aspects, atherosclerosis; vascular surgery, heart transplantation

Communication Disorders -- purchases are somewhat selective in this area; excludes technical aspects of audiology and most clinical speech therapy, but aphasia is an important research area

Critical Care Medicine


Emergency Medicine -- supports an exceptionally busy service and large house staff at General Hospital (Also at LAC+USC General Hospital Library)

Endocrinology -- active service in diabetes

Family Medicine -- increasing emphasis in School of Medicine curriculum

Forensic Medicine -- great interest in psychiatric aspects of legal medicine

Gastroenterology -- an area of high interest, especially esophagus, active liver service, etc.

Geriatrics -- emphasis on medical care; level 3 coverage of psychological and counseling aspects (Also at USC Gerontology Library)

Gynecology and Obstetrics -- emphasis on clinical practice. Research aspects on fertility, andrology, etc. have been covered in greater depth at Women's Hospital -- situation in flux with closing of Women's Hospital Library, and move of some materials to LAC+USC General Hospital Library)

Hematology -- area of high interest, both clinical and research aspects, especially hematologic pathology and thrombosis

Infectious Disease -- high interest in viral infections, AIDS, tuberculosis, tropical diseases

Metabolic Disease

Nephrology -- area of high interest, especially end stage kidney disease, transplantation, biochemistry, and physiology

Neurology, Clinical -- especially Alzheimer's, brain injury, neurosurgery, stroke, epilepsy, neuromuscular disease, balance disorders, AIDS-related neuropathy

Occupational Medicine -- especially occupational hazards of airline and electrical power industry; also air pollution effects

Oncology, Clinical -- area of high interest, especially urologic aspects, leukemia, lymphoma, epidemiology, chemotherapy

Ophthalmology -- area of high interest, especially retina, cornea, glaucoma (also at Doheny Eye Hospital Library)

Orthopedics -- many orthopedists and house staff on campus, especially at County, especially orthopedic surgery and trauma aspects. Also of interest to physical therapy group. But some USC orthopedists work out of Orthopedic Hospital and Good Samaritan

Otorhinolaryngology -- including oral medicine; not much on otology, since much of this work is done at House Ear Institute. Dental Library collects more comprehensively on mouth disorders.

Pediatrics -- somewhat selective in this area, given the large volume of publication and the fact that most USC pediatric research is done at Children's Hospital.

Psychiatry -- emphasis on clinical psychiatry and psychotherapy, less on psychological counseling. Special interest in substance abuse, sexuality, and forensic psychiatry. Neuropsychology, developmental psychology, and psychological aspects of aging are also research areas. Speculative monographs in the area of psychotherapy or monographs reflecting the techniques of a single therapist are generally not purchased without a faculty recommendation.

Radiology/Imaging -- due to the large number and high cost of books in this area, purchasing is selective. (Also at LAC+USC General Hospital Library)

Respiratory Medicine -- especially asthma, tuberculosis, fungal infections, lung transplantation

Rheumatology -- also an area of interest for physical therapists

Sports Medicine -- emphasis on sports injuries (rather than athletic conditioning), rehabilitation, and physical therapy. (Athletic aspects at USC Doheny Library)

Surgery -- due to the large number and high cost of books in this area, purchasing is somewhat selective. Works on highly specific surgical procedures are generally excluded except with faculty recommendation. Oral and craniofacial surgery is mainly at Dental and at LAC+USC General Hospital Libraries.

Tropical Medicine -- area of significant interest at LAC+USC Medical Center because of immigrant patient population.

Urology -- area of significant research and clinical activity, including reconstructive surgery, erectile dysfunction, urologic cancer

Other Level 4 Areas

Biomedical Ethics (Also at USC Law, Doheny, Applied Social Sciences Library [formerly Von Kleinsmid])

Clinical Chemistry

Education, Health Science

Health Care Policy and Services -- standard texts and journals are added (Norris depends on USC Applied Social Sciences Library, Law Library, and the Government Documents collection for specialized materials). Coverage is almost exclusively U.S.

Preventive Medicine and Public Health -- emphasis on U.S. Includes epidemiology and biostatistics. High research interest in cancer prevention, smoking cessation, prevention of occupational injury, atherosclerosis, health effects of air pollution, substance abuse prevention. (Also at USC Applied Social Sciences Library)

Occupational Therapy -- many other fields overlap with OT and these are purchased very selectively, e.g. social work, special education, sociology, etc. Occupational therapy is better established in many British Commonwealth countries, so a fair number of non U.S. books and journals are purchased. Interest in play therapy, delinquency, primate studies, stroke rehabilitation, and hand therapy. (Also at USC Doheny)

Pharmacy -- emphasis on pharmacy practice and clinical pharmacy; somewhat selective in the area of pharmaceutical chemistry and manufacturing technology; School of Pharmacy includes a major research institute for toxicology research; and doctoral program in pharmaceutical economics. Marketing studies issued by consulting firms are not purchased, due to their extremely high price.

Physical Therapy -- book purchasing routinely includes British and other Commonwealth publications. Includes gait analysis, electrical and thermal therapeutics, kinesiology, and orthotics. Selective purchasing in biomechanics (supplemented by materials at USC Science Library).

Professional Practice Issues: e.g. practice patterns, economics, malpractice, social roles, provider patient relations, etc. (supplemented by materials at USC Applied Social Sciences Library and Law Library). Selective purchase of healthcare provider autobiographies and patient illness narratives.

II. Level 3 Areas: Study Level Collections

Allied Health Personnel -- emphasis on radiologic technicians, respiratory therapy. (Also at LAC+USC General Hospital Library)

Analytical Chemistry -- emphasis on gas and liquid chromatography, electrophoresis, immunohistochemistry, DNA methods. (Mainly at USC Science Library)

Biomedical Engineering (Mainly at USC Science Library)

Comparative Anatomy -- emphasis on primates and research animals. Dissection atlases for dog, cat, rabbit, and rat are heavily used. (Mainly at USC Science Library)

Developmental Biology -- emphasis on primates and research animals; the journal collection is Level 4. Craniofacial development is Level 4. (Also at USC Science Library)

History of the Health Sciences -- emphasis on U.S. history and major international figures and events. Excludes highly specialized monographs and most serials. Level 4 for American frontier medicine. Materials on history of infectious diseases are heavily used.

Hospital Administration -- most material on health administration is in University Park campus libraries; Norris collection emphasizes practical issues of hospital administration and management. (Also at LAC+USC General Hospital Library and USC Applied Social Sciences Library)

Nursing -- excludes practical nursing. With the discontinuation of the School of Nursing, collecting is mainly restricted to clinical texts, with a limited number of works in nursing theory and nursing as a profession. (Also at LAC Nursing)

Nutrition and Dietetics -- (Also at USC Doheny and Science Libraries)

Psychology -- emphasis on issues relevant to abnormal psychology, psychological testing, preventive medicine, clinical counseling, and occupational therapy. (Mainly at USC Doheny Library)

III. Level 2 Areas: Basic Level Collections

Computers and Information Science -- Mainly at USC Doheny and Science Libraries, but medical informatics is Level 4.

General Biology (Mainly at USC Science Library)

Nontraditional Medicine -- only as it affects delivery of traditional healthcare to special groups. American Indian Ethnopharmacology is collected for Webb Collection. Some works on "holistic" approaches are collected, especially in support of Nursing and Occupational Therapy. Also selective purchasing in areas of acupuncture and osteopathic medicine.

Organic Chemistry (Mainly at USC Science Library)


Sociology -- U.S. only, and only as it relates to health, e.g. poverty, homicide, child abuse, attitudes to death, etc. (Mainly at USC Doheny Library)

Veterinary Medicine -- laboratory animals only

IV. Out of Scope

Patient Education (except for a few general reference works)


D. Other Selection Restrictions

Audience Levels

Generally only works aimed at the level of professional or graduate level education are purchased. A limited number of undergraduate level works in such basic subjects such as anatomy, biochemistry, immunology, and physiology are purchased. Works aimed at the lay public are excluded, except for selected general family health care encyclopedias.

Authorship restrictions

Non U.S. authors are generally not purchased in Level 3 areas, and purchased selectively in Level 4 areas. Multi authored works for which the majority of the authors are non U.S. are generally not purchased except in specialized areas of high research interest.


Bibliographies are generally excluded because of their low usage and because they are so quickly out of date.

Conference/Symposium Proceedings

A limited number of proceedings series are received on a standing order basis through serials. Other proceedings are generally not purchased.


Excluded formats are workbooks, pocket sized editions, spiral bound titles (except for Brandon List titles), and outlines (but expanded outline review books are selectively purchased).


Indexes to and digests of the journal literature are added only if they provide substantially different coverage than MEDLINE and other available databases.


Emphasis is on English-language titles indexed in MEDLINE. Priority is given to titles that report new research findings, and journals in which USC authors routinely publish. Journals that consist largely of review articles are added selectively. New titles are added in online versions only if publisher offers reasonable archival access.

Multiple copies

We try to purchase TWO copies of Brandon List First Purchases selections priced at under $80 annually. All other works are purchased in single copies, with the exception of selected commonly consulted reference works. The two copy limit also applies to books being placed on reserve. In rare instances, and only if usage warrants, three copies may be purchased for reserve use.


Newsletters are generally restricted to those issued by highly-regarded health professional organizations. Commercial newsletters that provide digests of current literature are added very selectively in areas of high research interest (e.g., AIDS, health care policy reform).

Publisher Reputation

Works issued by publishers without an established reputation for scientific and editorial rigor are generally not selected. This is especially true of "vanity" publishers and self- published works.


Books consisting of reprinted articles are generally not purchased.

Workbooks and Practice Exams

Workbooks and commercially produced practice exams are generally not added.

Revised 11/20/08


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