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Collection Development Policy Guidelines
Guidelines for writing collection development policies for specific subject areas, to be followed by all selectors.

  1. General Scope

    The collection primarily supports the instructional and research needs of the undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty who concentrate on astronomy within the Physics and Astronomy Department.  In addition, the collection is used by students taking the astronomy courses that fulfill the science and interdisciplinary distributive requirements, and by the Dartmouth and general community for recreational and avocational purposes.  The collection is also used by the many visiting scholars from other institutions who collaborate with the Dartmouth astronomy faculty.

    The astronomy program exists within the Department of Physics and Astronomy; there is no separate Astronomy Department.  Until recently, a separated major wasn't available.  A strong background in physics and mathematics, and familiarity with high-end computing is necessary for the study of astronomy.  On the graduate level, a Ph.D. degree in physics with an astronomy specialization is offered.

    The major consists of at least eight courses in physics and astronomy, including the five required (Astronomy 15, Astronomy 25, Astronomy 61, Physics 19, and Physics 24) and three electives.  Special topics courses that include observing time at Kitt Peak are offered to advanced undergraduates and graduate students.  Undergraduates participate in astronomical observations using telescopes at the Michigan-Dartmouth-MIT (MDM) Observatory on Kitt Peak, Arizona, and study special topics arranged through the astronomy faculty.  The Shattuck Observatory on the Dartmouth campus is used for some undergraduate classes, and is open to the public at certain times.

    The graduate program, which has existed since the early 1900's, focuses on observational astronomy, theoretical astrophysics, and cosmology.  Courses and seminars include radiative processes, observational cosmology, galactic systems, astrophysics, the interstellar medium and observational cosmology.  Graduate research is also carried out at the MDM Observatory on Kitt Peak.

    1. Audience

      Programs leading to undergraduate, masters and Ph.D. degrees are offered.  Research is completed at all levels.

      The research programs in astronomy is primarily astrophysics (cosmology and the large-scale structure of the universe, general relativity, field theory, and phase transitions in the early universe, but research is often comingled with plasma and space physics, and condensed matter physics.

    2. Boundaries

      Astronomy classes mostly in QB in the Library of Congress classification scheme and 520-529 of the Dewey system.  All Dewey-classed material is housed in the Storage Facility, and the major portion of the QB material is housed in Kresge Physical Sciences Library.  Some QB material is housed in other libraries, based on imprint date (Special Collections), popular treatment (Baker), or subject emphasis such as mathematical astronomy (Cook).  The astronomy collection emphasizes the areas of cosmology (particularly large scale structure of the universe), observational astronomy, and descriptive astronomy.  Space physics, including study of the ionosphere and magnetosphere, classes in QC and is covered in the Physics Collection Development Policy.  Materials covering astronautics, space travel, and related instrumentation class in TL787-TL4050, and are housed primarily in Feldberg Library.

    3. Partnerships

      The Library seeks opportunities to build partnerships in building the astronomy collection through strategies for shared print collections retention projects and shared evidence-based electronic book collections.

  2. Specific Delimitations to collecting in this subject area

    1. Languages

      English is the predominant language, but no language is excluded.

    2. Geographical Areas (if applicable)

      There are no geographical limitations to the acquisition of astronomy materials.

    3. Types of Materials Collected

      Monographs, conference proceedings, and journals are important to astronomy researchers.  Special types of material in astronomy include astronomical almanacs, observatory publications, star catalogues, sky atlases, society publications, and observers' handbooks.  Many of these resources are used by faculty, students and experienced amateur astronomers.  The Palomar Sky Survey photographic plates are purchased through the library but not housed in the library.  Both bibliographic and numeric indexes are important resources which are primarily accessed online.

      The records of the Shattuck Observatory, completed in 1854 and still used, are in Special Collections.  Also in Special Collections are the papers of at least two noted astronomers.  Charles Augustus Young was a Dartmouth graduate and professor who specialized in photographic astronomy.  The Stefansson Collection includes some papers of Russell W. Porter, the founder of the Springfield Telescope Makers and the Stellafane Observatory in Springfield, Vermont, which is still a major gathering place for amateur astronomers.

    4. Format of Materials Collected

      No format is excluded, however print and electronic are preferred.  Journals, bibliographic indexes and abstracts, numeric indexes, star catalogs, lists of catalogs of celestial objects, and sky atlases are published in print, on microfiche, and on CD-ROM, and the library has them in all these formats.  Some of the material, particularly large datasets and indexes, are now available on online.  When core reference sources are available on the Web, links are made from the library web pages to this material.  For example, see the page describing the SIMBAD Astronomical Database (Set of Identifications, Measurements, and Bibliography for Astronomical Data).  Researchers and students in astronomy use high-end, UNIX-based computers and networks, so electronic datasets and search systems are designed for that platform.  Online versions of journals are preferred where they meet criteria for stable and perpetual access, and relevant license requirements.  Indexes and abstracts are licensed as online bibliographic databases.  Reference works and book series are increasingly purchased as online editions.  Individual monographs are predominantly purchased in print format, although ebook collections and individual titles are increasingly purchased on stable, and user-friendly platforms. 

      Research in astronomy requires access to large datasets.  The World Wide Web is an excellent source for datasets and indexes, since the astronomy research community freely shares this kind of material, and online data access has been well-supported by NASA and other institutions.  An example is the NASA's National Space Science Data Center web site, which provides access and links to numerous types of data. 

    5. Collective Collections

      The Library's resource sharing services (DartDoc and BorrowDirect) provide access to materials not collected in astronomy.

  3. Revision History
    • September 2016, updated by Lora Leligdon
    • 2012, updated by Shirley Zhao
    • 1997, updated by Barbara DeFelice
    • 1991, updated by Susan C. George

    Current Bibliographer: Lora Leligdon (

Last Updated: 9/29/16