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Collection Area


General Purpose

The biology collection in the Dana Biomedical Library primarily supports the teaching and research needs of the Department of Biological Sciences' faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate majors. In addition, the biology collection contributes substantially to the teaching and research work of the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, the Environmental Studies Program, the Computational Biology Program, and the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.  Biology is consistently one of the most popular undergraduate majors.  In addition, many undergraduates take at least one biology class to meet College science requirements and first-year seminars often center on topics in the life sciences.

Collecting efforts are aimed at maintaining a well-rounded biology collection, with special strengths in areas of present research interest at Dartmouth, but which provides materials for the undergraduate in all areas of the biological sciences, and which will in the future provide an adequate basic collection as research and curricular interests change.


The study of the natural sciences at Dartmouth began at the associated Chandler School in 1857. Science courses were first offered as part of the College curriculum in 1879. The Chandler School was fully incorporated into Dartmouth as the Chandler Department in 1892.  The Chandler Department then divided into the departments of Zoology, Botany, and Geology, and the Chandler name faded over time.  In 1960, a combined major in biology replaced botany and zoology majors and the Botany and Zoology departments merged into the Department of Biological Sciences.  See for more.

Prior to the establishment of the Dana Biomedical Library in 1963, the collection of medicine and biology was housed in Baker Library. On October 11, 1963, the Dana Biomedical Library, funded by Charles A. Dana, President, and Eleanor Naylor Dana, Trustee, of the Dana Foundation, was dedicated.

The initial collection for Dana numbered approximately 65,000 volumes and was comprised principally of transfers from the Baker Library. Nearly 900 subscriptions were also transferred. Presently, the Biomedical Libraries' combined collections in the Dana Biomedical Library and the Matthews-Fuller Health Sciences Library have grown to contain approximately 300,000 volumes; 2,000 serials are currently subscribed to or licensed, with access to additional titles through publisher packages and consortial agreements.  The Biomedical Libraries website,, presents more about available facilities, services, and resources.

Dartmouth College Program

The College offers the Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology. After completing prerequisites, the biology major must take three of five foundation courses and then six additional courses in an area of concentration.  Areas of concentration are not preset but are determined by the student in consultation with faculty mentors.  See for more.

The Department of Biological Sciences collaborates with others to offer two programs leading to the Ph.D. degree: Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB). A combined M.D./Ph.D. can be pursued with either of these programs.

  • The Molecular and Cellular Biology Program has about 140 students and includes faculty from the Genetics, Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, Pathology, and Physiology departments of the Geisel School of Medicine, from the Thayer School of Engineering, and from the departments of Biological Sciences and Chemistry of the College of Arts and Sciences.
  • The Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) encompasses all areas of ecology, evolutionary biology, and related disciplines.  It has about 20 students and 9 core faculty drawn from the Department of Biological Sciences and the Environmental Studies Program who collaborate with colleagues from the Geisel School of Medicine, the Thayer School of Engineering, and the Arts and Sciences departments of Geography and Earth Sciences.

The Department of Computer Science offers a Ph.D. degree in Computational Biology, either alone or in combination with an M.D.

General Subject Boundaries

The biology collection at Dana Biomedical Library covers the scope of research and curriculum needs in the Department of Biological Sciences and the Geisel School of Medicine with emphases on biochemistry, ecology, evolution, genetics, and molecular and cellular biology.

Faculty and graduate research interests include cellular and molecular biology, genetics, developmental biology, electron microscopy, aquatic and terrestrial ecology, evolutionary ecology, neurobiology, molecular genetics, population ecology, biostatistics, plant growth and development, history and philosophy of biology, and animal behavior, and evolution.

In addition to curriculum and research support, there is an effort to provide very basic collections to support general interests of the Dartmouth community in biological sciences-related areas such as gardening, ornithology, pet care, fishing, hunting, and nature appreciation.

Most books considered for purchase are quite current; materials published prior to the most recent five years are purchased very selectively.  With the exceptions of biographies and histories, and as described below, older (15+ years), little-cited, little-used, or duplicate books and superseded editions are candidates for potential withdrawal during periodic collection assessment projects.

While emphasis is on the collection of current materials, the library very occasionally acquires through gift books that enhance the existing historical collections, including herbals and literature on botanic medicine, marine biology, and natural history.

Several of the Dartmouth libraries collect material that is relevant to biological research. For example, Baker-Berry Library collects in biological anthropology, psychology, ethics, geography, environmental economics, sociological and political perspectives on science, and maintains the U.S. government documents.  Feldberg collects materials in biomedical and environmental engineering, biotechnology, and environmental aspects of business.  Kresge collects some materials related to the environment and ecology, as well as biochemistry.


Material is acquired in English, with rare exception.

Geographic Areas

Much of the material in biology describes subjects which are independent of geography. Descriptions of most of the world's geographic/ecological areas are included in the collection, with more depth being provided in descriptions of the New England region, or other areas where Dartmouth has programs (e.g., tropical biology in Costa Rica and marine biology in the Caribbean).

Types Of Material Collected

The emphasis is on subscriptions to journals and other serial literature, with over 95% of the resources acquisitions budget going to standing orders, subscriptions, and licenses.  Monographs are none-the-less an important part of the collection.

Dissertations from outside of Dartmouth are rarely collected.

Format Of Materials Collected

The Biomedical Libraries have a widely dispersed clientele and digital full-text books and journals are essential to providing service to users at the two campuses and across the region.  Most current journals are now received in digital format only.  Frequently updated reference resources, such as encyclopedias and directories, are preferred in digital format.  Print is still the predominant format for monographs.

Other formats, including DVDs, videotapes, sound recordings, and computer programs, are purchased selectively, primarily for curricular support.

Special Collections and Manuscripts

Rare books, manuscripts, and other historical items are not actively collected.

Dana's Special Collections are in the processed of being re-evaluated.  As of the fall of 2006, the most significant and rare materials have been transferred to the Rauner Special Collections Library so that they may receive appropriate care and curation.  The remaining material will be assessed for continuing relevance to Dartmouth's research and teaching, and then retained, withdrawn, or transferred as appropriate.

Other Resources Available

The collection is extended through consortial licenses for journals and through resource sharing such as Borrow Direct, DOCLINE, and OCLC.

The U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory has a research library which has materials on subjects such as biological restoration and the Montshire Museum has a small resource library which includes field guides.

Creation Date

September 1985 (Pamela Ploeger)

Revision History

January 1994 (Connie Rinaldo)

May 2001 (Peggy Sleeth)

October 2006 (Peggy Sleeth)

LC Class


Related Policies

Anthropology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Engineering, Environmental Studies, Geography, History Of Science, Medicine, Psychology


Pamela Bagley

Current Bibliographer

Pamela Bagley

Last Updated: 8/5/16