Collection Development - Astronomy and Astrophysics


Collections Librarian: Ian Graham Interim (x2127)

The collection development policy for Astronomy and Astrophysics guides the development and management of the astronomy collection. This policy is for the use of the Science Librarian for Collections and the Science Library's users. The policy will be updated as needed. Faculty and students are encouraged to provide recommendations for library materials.

The astronomy and astrophysics collection supports the undergraduate astronomy and astrophysics curriculum offered at Wellesley College. To a limited extent, the collection supports departmental research in specific areas of interest. The collection is used primarily by astronomy and astrophysics majors, by students in physics and math courses, and by students fulfilling course distribution requirements in the sciences. The overall collecting policy supports the Astronomy Department's dual goals of providing an understanding of modern astronomy and preparing students for graduate study and careers in astronomy in the future.

Material is acquired covering subjects such as planetary geology, relativity, astrophysics, archaeoastronomy, multiwavelength astronomy, cosmology and observational techniques. Selected specific departmental research interests encompass areas such as mass loss from red giants and supergiants, planetary ring systems, quasar host galaxies, and planet formation around young stars. Published material from the major astronomy and astrophysical societies is favored and selectively purchased to support courses currently being taught. All astronomy materials, both general and reference collections, are housed in the Whitin Observatory, except for pre-1985 runs of selected journal titles which are housed (and are retrievable by request) at an off-site facility.

The Astronomy Department offers two programs of study. The Astronomy major is for students interested in studying astronomy in college but not interested in proceeding onward to graduate study. A second major, the interdepartmental Astrophysics major is offered jointly with the Physics Department. This major applies physics and mathematics to the study of the universe and prepares students for continued graduate study and future careers in astronomy. The department generally offers at least one course that meets the Quantitative Reasoning overlay course requirements

Types of Materials: Materials are purchased in all formats, with emphasis on the journal literature. Electronic access is the preferred format for journal literature. Conference proceedings, laboratory manuals and protocols are selectively acquired when their topics support curricular offerings. Single copies of textbooks are purchased selectively when their content provides a foundation of knowledge in a new or advanced area of science or when a text is so important to a field that its use and acceptance go beyond supporting introductory curriculum. Materials created for individual use such as lab notebooks, workbooks and problem/answer sets are not purchased for the collection.

Readership Level: Material is bought at the college level, with emphasis on upper undergraduate/early graduate works since a major goal of the astronomy department is to provide a strong foundation for students who wish to continue their education in high-quality graduate astronomy and astrophysics programs. Entry level material is acquired selectively for courses supporting distribution requirements.

Languages Collected: The primary language of the collection is English. Foreign language works, if selected, are purchased in English translation, although historically, the astronomy department often collected foreign observatories' reports in the language of origin.

Geographical Areas Covered (intellectual content or publication source): Materials are routinely purchased from all areas of the world with no exclusions.

Chronological Periods Covered (intellectual content): There are no restrictions on intellectual content of the collection. Current history of science material is bought selectively to support current course offerings. Typically, primary astronomy works of historical significance are not purchased although referrals are sometimes made to the Selector for Special Collections for the history of science collection housed there.

Chronological Period Covered (publication dates): Current materials are the focus of almost all purchasing, but a retrospective collection, especially in the journal literature, is maintained. Selective retrospective titles are acquired rarely to fill gaps or to enhance archival coverage in our journal collection.

Shelving Locations: Paper copies of books and journals are housed in the Whitin Observatory Building (with the exception of most pre-1985 journal literature). Electronic access to many databases and online full-text documents is provided through the college website.

Reference: Reference material for astronomy is purchased by the Science Librarian for Research and Instruction and follows the general subject parameters of the astronomy collections policy. The scope includes, but is not limited to, the following types of material: biographies, dictionaries/thesauri/nomenclature aids, encyclopedias, style and/or literature guides, and occasional electronic search aids and directories which support curricular or related professional programs.

Subjects Collected Selectively: NASA material, manned space-flight, popular astronomy, space telescope and observatory materials, and engineering materials applicable to astronomy are purchased selectively to support specific curricular needs or to provide general background to the collection.


Science and Society materials are selected by the Social Sciences selector.

Calculus and other Mathematics materials supporting astronomy courses are purchased by the Mathematics selector.

Quantum MechanicsVibrationsWaves, and Optics materials which support the astronomy curriculum are purchased by the Physics selector.