Collection Development

The Norris Medical Library book collection supports in-depth research and graduate-level work for most subjects relating to medicine, pharmacy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Only English language books are purchased, focusing on providing a current collection. Generally, only the latest two editions of each book are retained. The journal collection focuses on titles published in English and indexed in MEDLINE. Online-only subscriptions are purchased when the publisher provides a reasonable archiving policy. Journals in which USC authors consistently publish are also considered. If you have a specific request, please fill out our online form to recommend a book or journal for purchase

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 selects resources in direct support of USC health sciences goals, and organizes and disseminates them for efficient use and easy navigation. Most subjects relating to medicine, pharmacy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy are collected at the research level (RLG Level 4) in English-language and, generally, non U.S. imprints are not selected in the clinical disciplines. Biomedical engineering and public health administration 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 deselecting 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. Print journals are retained when the electronic format has not been licensed. 

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 the USC Science and Engineering 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 the USC Science and Engineering Library.
  • Molecular and Cell Biology:  Especially as it relates to human gene therapy and mechanisms of neoplasia and cell motility.  Additional material on cell biology is at the USC Science and Engineering Library.
  • Oncology:  Especially viral aspects, oncogenes, lymphoma, molecular aspects.
  • Microbiology :  Especially virology. Generally excludes agricultural and industrial microbiology.
  • Neurology :  Comparative neuroscience and cognition also at the USC Science and Engineering Library.
  • Immunology:  Including transplantation immunology.
  • Pathology:  Especially relating to blood, infectious disease, and neoplasia.
  • Pharmacology:  Includes an extensive collection in the area of ethnopharmacology.
  • Physiology:  Especially epithelial physiology, kidney physiology, mechanisms of diabetes, and ion transport.
  • Toxicology:  Especially toxicity of free radicals.

Clinical Specialties

  • Allergy
  • Anesthesiology:  Excludes highly specific and/or technical works.  Also at the LAC+USC General Hospital Library.
  • Cardiology:  Special emphasis on preventive aspects of atherosclerosis; also vascular surgery and heart transplantation.
  • Communication Disorders:  Purchases are selective.  Excludes technical aspects of audiology and most clinical speech therapy.  Works on aphasia are collected.
  • Critical Care Medicine
  • Dermatology
  • Emergency Medicine:  Also at the LAC+USC General Hospital Library.
  • Endocrinology:  Especially diabetes.
  • Family Medicine
  • Forensic Medicine:  Especially the psychiatric aspects of legal medicine.
  • Gastroenterology:  Especially esophagus and liver.
  • Geriatrics:  Emphasis on medical care; level 3 coverage of psychological and counseling aspects.  Also at the USC Gerontology Library.
  • Global Medicine
  • Gynecology and Obstetrics:  Emphasis on clinical practice.
  • Hematology:  Especially clinical and research aspects of hematologic pathology and thrombosis.
  • Infectious Disease:  Especially viral infections, AIDS, tuberculosis, tropical diseases.
  • Metabolic Disease
  • Nephrology :  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 the occupational hazards of the airline and electrical power industries and air pollution effects.
  • Oncology, Clinical: Especially the urologic aspects of leukemia, lymphoma, epidemiology and chemotherapy.
  • Ophthalmology:  Especially retina, cornea, glaucoma.
  • Orthopedics:  Especially orthopedic surgery and trauma aspects.
  • Otorhinolaryngology:  Includes oral medicine.  Since much of the work in otology is conducted at House Ear Institute, the collection is light in this area.  The Wilson Dental Library collects more comprehensively on mouth disorders.
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychiatry:  Emphasis on clinical psychiatry and psychotherapy and not on psychological counseling. Includes substance abuse, sexuality and forensic psychiatry. as well as neuropsychology, developmental psychology and psychological aspects of aging.   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:  Purchasing is selective due to the large number and high cost of books in this area.  Also at the LAC+USC General Hospital Library.
  • Respiratory Medicine:  Especially asthma, tuberculosis, fungal infections, lung transplantation.
  • Rheumatology
  • Sports Medicine:  Emphasis on sports injuries (rather than athletic conditioning), rehabilitation, and physical therapy. Athletic aspects of sports medicine are collected at the USC Doheny Memorial Library.
  • Surgery:  Purchasing is somewhat selective due to the large number and high cost of books in this area. Works on highly specific surgical procedures are generally excluded, except with faculty recommendation. Oral and craniofacial surgery is mainly collected at the Wilson Dental and the LAC+USC General Hospital Libraries.
  • Tropical Medicine:  Area of significant interest at LAC+USC Medical Center because of immigrant patient population.
  • Urology:  Includes reconstructive surgery, erectile dysfunction, urologic cancer.

Other Level 4 Areas

  • Biomedical Ethics:  Also at the Asa V. Call Law Library, Doheny Memorial Library and the Von KleinSmid Center Library for International and Public Affairs
  • Clinical Chemistry
  • Education, Health Science
  • Health Care Policy and Services:  Standard texts and journals are added.  Extensive collections are available at the Asa V. Call Law Library, the Von KleinSmid Center Library for International and Public Affairs, and the government documents depository at the USC Grand Library. Coverage is almost exclusively U.S.
  • Preventive Medicine and Public Health:  Emphasis on  the U.S. Includes epidemiology and biostatistics, cancer prevention, smoking cessation, prevention of occupational injury, atherosclerosis, health effects of air pollution, substance abuse prevention and global medicine.  Also at the Von KleinSmid Center Library for International and Public Affairs.
  • Occupational Therapy :  Many other fields overlap with OT and 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. Includes play therapy, delinquency, primate studies, stroke rehabilitation, and hand therapy. (Also at the USC Doheny Memorial Library.)
  • Pharmacy:  Emphasis on pharmacy practice and clinical pharmacy.  Somewhat selective in the area of pharmaceutical chemistry and manufacturing technology; toxicology research and 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 the USC Science and Engineering Library).
  • Professional Practice Issues: e.g. practice patterns, economics, malpractice, social roles, healthcare reform, provider patient relations, etc. (supplemented by materials at Asa V. Call Law Library and the Von KleinSmid Center Library for International and Public AffairsSelective 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 the LAC+USC General Hospital Library.)
  • Analytical Chemistry:  Emphasis on gas and liquid chromatography, electrophoresis, immunohistochemistry, DNA methods. Mainly at the USC Science and Engineering Library.
  • Biomedical Engineering:   Mainly at the USC Science and Engineering Library.
  • Comparative Anatomy:  Emphasis on primates and research animals. Dissection atlases for dog, cat, rabbit, and rat.  Mainly at the USC Science and Engineering Library.
  • Developmental Biology :  Emphasis on primates and research animals; the journal collection is Level 4. Craniofacial development is collected at Level 4.  Also at the USC Science and Engineering Library.
  • History of the Health Sciences:  Emphasis on U.S. history and major international figures and events. Excludes highly specialized monographs and most serials.  American frontier medicine is collected at Level 4.  Materials on history of infectious diseases.
  • Hospital Administration:  Most material on health administration is in University Park campus libraries. Also at the LAC+USC General Hospital Library and the Von KleinSmid Center Library for International and Public Affairs
  • 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 Memorial Library and the Science and Engineering Library.
  • Psychology:  Emphasis on issues relevant to abnormal psychology, psychological testing, preventive medicine, clinical counseling, and occupational therapy.  Mainly at the USC Doheny Memorial Library.

III. Level 2 Areas: Basic Level Collections

  • Computers and Information Science:  Mainly at the USC Doheny Memorial Library and the Science and Engineering Library.   Medical informatics is collect at Level 4.
  • General Biology:  Mainly at the USC Science and Engineering Library.
  • Nontraditional Medicine:  Collected only as it affects delivery of traditional healthcare to special groups.  American Indian Ethnopharmacology is collected for the Webb Collection. Some works on “holistic” approaches are collected, especially in support of Nursing and Occupational Therapy. Also Selective purchases are made in the areas of acupuncture and osteopathic medicine.
  • Organic Chemistry:  Mainly at the USC Science and Engineering Library.
  • Podiatry
  • Sociology:  U.S. only, and only as it relates to health, e.g. poverty, homicide, child abuse, attitudes to death, etc.  Mainly at the USC Doheny Memorial Library.
  • Veterinary Medicine:  Laboratory animals only

IV. Out of Scope

  • Chiropractic
  • Dentistry
  • 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 are 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 and outlines.   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 print versions only if online versions are not available.

Multiple copies

Works are purchased in single copies, with the exception of selected commonly consulted reference works. In rare instances, and only if usage warrants, up to three copies may be purchased for reserve use. Reserve works are purchased in both print and online format whenever possible.


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, particularly "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.