Biotechnology spans medicine, agriculture, industrial technology and commerce, and virtually all scientific disciplines, creating a broad spectrum of information needs among biotechnologists in the health professions, in agriculture, and in the sciences generally. These information seekers include individuals and institutions engaged in basic research, practitioners, clinicians, faculty members, students and individuals and corporations in the commercial and private sector. The three national libraries --the National Library of Medicine, the National Agricultural Library, and the Library of Congress--assume a significant role in meeting the information needs of this group through library collections by acquiring publications extensively on topics relating to biotechnology. This overlapping responsibility increases the potential for user confusion regarding the most appropriate source for particular materials, and for unnecessary and expensive duplication of effort. NLM, NAL, and LC are reviewing their collections with the ultimate goal of making access to biotechnology information easier for all interested users. As a first step, the Libraries have reviewed their collection development policies in biotechnology and have prepared this joint statement clarifying responsibilities in this area.
The purpose of this joint statement is to define the field of biotechnology, to record the collecting policy for each Library and to provide a guide to users of biotechnology information. A further purpose is to reduce unnecessary redundant collecting at the national level in this discipline.
Biotechnology is that body of knowledge which relates to the use of organisms, cells, or cell-derived constituents for the purpose of developing products which are technically, scientifically and /or clinically useful.
The literature of biotechnology is derived from fields and includes basic research publications in molecular cell biology as well as materials describing basic biological processes from several disciplines including biochemistry, genetics, immunology, virology, microbiology and protein crystallography. An equally important segment of biotechnology literature describes applications in industrial processes, agricultural production, pollution control, waste treatment and biomass conversion.
The multidisciplinary nature of biotechnology necessitates collecting extensively in basic fields such as biochemistry, genetics, immunology, virology, and microbiology. Basic research materials for molecular cell biology, genetic engineering, applied molecular biology, enzyme technologies, monoclonal antibodies and hybridomas, recombinant DNA, plant tissue culturing, fermentation science, etc., as well as materials describing basic biological processes, are intensively collected.
Library of Congress collection guidelines insure the acquisition of library materials in such specialized areas of industrial and commercial processes as pollution control, waste treatment, biomass conversion, drug production, biorecovery of materials, bioreactors and support systems, food science and technology, and other commercial applications.
At the present time, the Library of Congress does not have a detailed acquisition policy statement for biotechnology. However, existing LC acquisitions policy in medicine and the sciences defines a broad scope for collection development which includes biotechnology. According to the RLG Conspectus Guidelines the areas relating to biotechnology are collected by LC at the Research Level 4. The Library of Congress has deferred to the National Library of Medicine and the National Agricultural Library in the acquisitions of library materials relating to clinical medicine and technical agriculture.
Biotechnology is designated a core subject for collecting and NLM's particular interest in the field includes materials dealing with the alteration of biologic function by changing genetic information, i.e., genetic engineering. Also of special interest are biotechnology laboratory tools and methods, which include restriction endonucleases, transfection, cloning technologies, molecular sequence and structure analysis algorithms, computer databases and gene and protein structure, function analysis and prediction.
For collection development purposes, materials in three areas are regarded as of central importance (1) genes, (2) proteins, and (3) cell & tissues, when related to humans, primates, or laboratory animals and with a potential to human health care and disease prevention. NLM also collects, but not as broadly, other animal studies of these topics, the use of organisms in sanitary engineering and the environmental effects of biotechnology on humans or animals.
Generally excluded from the NLM collection are biotechnology materials concerned with alternative energy sources, biomass conversion for industrial production, fermentation technology, and commercial production of materials or organisms developed through biotechnology.
Although the science of biotechnology is multidisciplinary, most aspects are studied at disciplinary or subdisciplinary levels. Findings of these investigations usually bear potential or direct applicational values to agriculture or related sciences. NAL collects material in biotechnology to meet the needs of the researchers and practioners pursuing these basic sciences. NAL collects materials concerning genetic engineering, cloning technology, tissue culture, enzyme technology, the use of microorganisms for production and biomass conversion and the effect of biotechnology on the environment. Laboratory and industrial techniques, computer databases, development of algorithms related to genetic structures and the like are also of special interest.
NAL collects at the comprehensive and research level materials concerning genes, proteins, cells and tissues as they relate to laboratory and domestic animals, plants, food processing and the use of organisms in fermentation and sanitation. Studies of these topics as they relate to primates or clinical medicine are collected only when there is present a potential application to agriculturally related areas. Biotechnology materials which concern only medical or other applications which have no obvious potential value for areas of interest to agriculture are not collected.
Together, NLM and NAL attempt to collect, retain and preserve all significant information on biotechnology as it relates to medicine and agriculture. Many aspects of the subject are collected and treated differently at each institution in accordance with the needs of its users. For the purpose of describing their collecting policies in biotechnology, NLM and NAL have outlined the field at the category and subcategory level. A list of these with the collecting levels for both Libraries appears below.
In describing the collecting levels, terminology by the Research Libraries Group (RLG) and later adopted by the Association of Research Libraries has been used. The RLG definitions for collecting levels used by NLM or NAL for biotechnology materials are as follows:
Basic Information Level: A collection of up-to-date general materials that serves to introduce and define a subject and to indicate the varieties of information available elsewhere. It may include dictionaries, encyclopedias, access to appropriate bibliographic databases, selected editions of important works, historical surveys, directories, bibliographies, handbooks and a few major periodicals, in the minimum number that will serve the purpose. A basic information collection is not sufficiently intensive to support any course or independent study in the area involved.
Instructional Support Level: A collection that is adequate to support undergraduate and most graduate instruction, or sustained independent study; that is, adequate to maintain knowledge of a subject required for limited or generalized purposeos, of less than research intensity. It includes a wide range of basic monographs, complete collections of the works of more important writers, selections from the works of secondary writers, a selection of representative journals and the reference tools and fundamental bibliographical apparatus pertaining to the subject.
Research Level: A collection that includes the major published source materials required for dissertation and independent research, including materials containing research reporting, new findings, scientific experimental results, and other information useful to researchers. It is intended to include all important reference works and a wide selection of specialized and major indexing and abstracting services in the field. Pertinent foreign language materials are included. Older material is usually retained for historical research.
Comprehensive Level: A collection in which a library endeavors, so far as is reasonably possible, to include all significant works of recorded knowledge (publications, manuscripts, other forms), in all applicable languages, for a necessarily defined and limited field. This level of collecting intensity is one that maintains a "special collection"; the aim, if not the achievement, is exhaustiveness. Older material is retained for historical research.
National Collection Responsibility: RLG also developed the concept of national collection responsibility. A library that agrees to accept this responsibility for a given subject agrees to collect in the subject at the comprehensive level, process material in the subject on a priority basis, provide services nationwide for other research libraries and preserve the material dealing with the subject indefinitely. Areas of national collecting responsibility assumed by either NLM or NAL or both for all facets of biotechnology are indicated below through the use of the term "National" instead of "Comprehensive." These designations must be interpreted in light of the "General Principles" section above, i.e., assumption of "National" or "Comprehensive" responsibility for a biotechnology subtopic is limited to those aspects of the subtopic which are of particular interest to the individual Library.
This summary of collection development policies for biotechnology serves as a statement of national collection level responsibilities and as a guide for those who wish to utilize the resources of the Libraries for this material. The complete collection development policies of the Libraries should be consulted for additional information. The national Libraries cooperate to ensure that significant literature in biotechnology is collected, retained and preserved at the national level and to make this literature accessible to the wide variety of researchers and practitioners throughout the United States.
The following outline for biotechnology was based
on the topical breakdown used in Biotechnology Research
Abstracts and was augmented from the subtopics used
in the NAL and NLM collection development policies.