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Library Services for Chemistry Graduate Students: At the Chemistry Library

Welcome to the Chemistry Library!  We are pleased to offer a multitude of resources to assist you in your research and teaching while you are at the University of Pennsylvania. Below is a brief overview of library services specifically designed for chemistry graduate students. 

Using the Chemistry Library

The Chemistry Library is located on the fifth floor of the Chemistry Department, in the Class of 1973 Wing. The library houses an extensive collection of circulating and non-circulating books, print journals, and reference works, in addition to its many electronic resources, but the majority of the facility is devoted to spaces for chemists to work, read, and collaborate.

Spaces in the Library

The Chemistry Library offers different spaces for different types of work and collaboration.  We like to think that there is something here for everyone!

Quiet Spaces (Shhh!)

  • The Computer Teaching and Resource Room: Contains eight computers equipped with Microsoft Office, ChemDraw, Maple, Photoshop, EndNote and all electronic information resources needed for chemical research. Workshops and instruction sessions are taught in this room several times a semester. During library hours and when the room is not reserved for an instruction session, the computers are available for use on a first-come, first-served basis. Click here to learn about computer facilities across Penn's libraries.
  • The Blank Space: Located in the rear of the library in proximity to the bound journal collection and the Macintosh computers, this quiet, naturally-lit space is a graduate student's dream!  Using dry erase markers, brainstorm and scribble ideas on the tables and even the walls!  When you've come up with something brilliant, photograph it, and then erase and start anew.  These tables are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and markers can be found in the containers on the edges of the tables or obtained from the circulation desk.  We ask that you please use our markers, so as not to damage the whiteboard paint on the walls.

Collaborative Spaces (No Need to Hush!)

  • The Main Collaboration Room: When you enter the library, you are in the main collaboration room, where TAs and instructors meet with students, students meet to work together on homework and projects, and things are noisy and exciting.  The entire corner of the room is floor-to-ceiling whiteboards, making it an ideal place to hold office hours and review sessions.  Some library training seminars and classes are also held in this corner of the room.  Dry erase markers can be obtained from the circulation desk.  We ask that you please use our markers whenever possible.
  • Group Study Rooms: We have two group study rooms that can be used for small group meetings.  There's no need to be silent in these rooms, but please bear in mind that the person next door may be having a Skype interview, so, do be courteous.

Reserving Space in the Library

The Chemistry Library has a number of spaces that can be reserved for various purposes by graduate students.  All reservations can be made in person at the Chemistry Library circulation desk, by phone at (215) 898-2177, or via e-mail to

  • Group study rooms:  These rooms seat four people and are available to be reserved for two-hour time slots at any time when the library is open. The rooms are equipped with a white board and large, wall-mount LCD monitor, and you can project either your own laptop or the dedicated PC in the room using the monitor. White board markers are on reserve at the circulation desk and can be borrowed for two-hour intervals. You may reserve a study room up to two weeks in advance, and walk-ins are welcome.  Group study rooms are great for practicing presentations, doing phone or Skype interviews, or doing group work with a small number of people.
  • Chemistry Library Conference Room:  This room seats 6-8 people and can be reserved for longer blocks of time.  It has a state-of-the-art, wall-mount A/V system, which can be used with the PC provided or a personal computer.  Keyboard, mouse, and HDMI or VGA cables and dongles can be borrowed from the circulation desk.  This room is ideal for small, quiet meetings or exam grading away from the prying eyes of students.
  • Tables:  The tables in the main collaboration room of the library can be reserved for office hours and review sessions.  There are six tables in the corner by the whiteboards and two tables on the opposite side of the room.  When making your reservation, please indicate the number of students you anticipate attending.

Library Keys

The Chemistry Library issues library keys to current Chemistry Department faculty, post-doctoral fellows, and graduate students. These keys will allow you to access the current and bound journal collections twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. To sign out a library key, please see a member of full-time staff in the library between 9:00AM and 4:30PM. You will need to bring your PennCard and a $10 deposit, which is refunded when the key is returned.

Reserves Services for Teaching Assistants

The Chemistry Library can make course materials available to your students in print or digital format and can also help you navigate Canvas, Penn's courseware system.

  • To have course materials, readings, problem set solutions, etc. scanned and uploaded to a Canvas site, contact Judith Currano at (215) 746-5886 or
  • To learn more about Canvas, please contact Judith Currano at (215) 746-5886 or, or contact the Canvas team at
  • To have books and other materials placed on reserve for your students in the library, contact Robert Harris, Library Service Assistant, at (215) 898-2177 or

Services to Support Your Research

Learning to Find Chemical Information

The sheer quantity of available information can be daunting at times during your research.  We aim to ensure that you can find the piece of information you need when you need it in order to move your research to the next stage.

  • CHEM 601: Chemical Information Organization and Retrieval is a half-credit course required of every Chemistry graduate student. It seeks to introduce principles of chemical information searching, as well as practical experience using the print and electronic resources provided by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. For more information about the course, contact Judith Currano at (215) 746-5886 or
  • Training seminars covering a variety of databases and other electronic products are offered regularly in the Chemistry Library. They are targeted specifically to Penn chemists and are excellent introductions to new acquisitions, as well as being great refreshers for familiar resources. If CHEM 601 passed you by in a blur, these sessions can serve as useful reminders of methods of locating particular kinds of information.
  • One-on-one personalized research consultations/orientations are available to you in your office, at the library, or over the phone or e-mail. Contact Judith Currano, Head - Chemistry Library, at (215) 746-5886 or to set up an appointment or if you are having any problems searching for or obtaining materials.

Using Penn's Electronic Library

Most of Penn's chemical information is in electronic format, accessible 24/7 from any location, and we encourage you to browse and make use of our wide selection of digital databases, e-journals, e-books, e-reference works, and more.

  • Click here for a selection of chemistry specific resources.
  • Off-campus Access is available for all of the electronic chemistry resources, with the exception of the Cambridge Structural Database, when you follow one of the library links to the tool or use the Penn Proxy Bookmark.  For information or trouble-shooting assistance, please see
  • For tips and pointers for using specific chemistry resources, please browse our collection of resource or research-related guides or contact Judith Currano at (215) 746-5886 or
  • STN Substructure Searching: Can't find a preparation for the compound you want? Interested in finding a compound with a similar structure to your target molecule? Substructure searching on the STN database is available to current Penn affiliates only after 5PM on most weekdays.  Please make an appointment with Judith Currano at least two days in advance by calling (215) 746-5886 or by e-mailing


Books are a great way to get up to speed on a new topic!  The Chemistry Library actively collects books in all areas in which Penn Chemistry researches.  Graduate students may borrow as many books as they'd like and keep them for a full semester, with unlimited renewals.  New books are on display in the lounge area of the Chemistry Library Reading Room. They remain on display for one week, after which they are sent to the circulating stacks. The date on which they will be available to be borrowed appears on the colored slip inside the book. If you wish to be the first to check out a new book, write your name and e-mail address on the slip, and we will hold the book for you.

Obtaining Material Not Held at the Chemistry Library

Even if the Chemistry Library does not have the information that you need, we can get it for you from another campus location or another university's library. Visit for a list of delivery and access services available at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Penn Library Delivers items from other campus libraries to the Chemistry Library for your convenient pick-up.

  • BorrowDirect+ is an "expedited interlibrary loan" service that lets you search a combined catalog and directly request books not currently available at Penn; most books arrive within 4 working days. The University of Pennsylvania participates in two borrowing consortia: Borrow Direct searches the catalogs of major research library partners; and EZ-Borrow searches the catalogs of over 60 libraries in Pennsylvania and nearby states.

  • Interlibrary Loan If you need a book or journal article that Penn and its Borrow Direct and EZ-Borrow partners do not own, the Library's Interlibrary Loan department will be happy to help you obtain it in a timely fashion.

  • Purchase Requests If the Chemistry Library lacks a critical text or reference item in your area of research, we will consider purchasing it for our collection. Contact Judith Currano (215-746-5886, with purchase requests.

Plagiarism/Self-Plagiarism Checking

Penn licenses a service called iThenticate to check research work for plagiarism or self-plagiarism (also called text-recycling or dual publication.)  This service is available to any Penn researcher who is an author of a research document, such as a journal article, conference paper, or dissertation.  Work required for courses may not be input into iThenticate; the sister-service, TurnItIn, can be used for this purpose.  In order to use iThenticate, please follow these steps.

  • Request an iThenticate account by contacting the Courseware Support team at
  • Log into iThenticate with your iThenticate credentials.
  • Either establish a folder into which to upload your document or choose the default folder.  You have the option of specifying how the system should handle things like quoted text, references, and short matches.  Make sure that the preferences and parameters on the folder are set the way that you want them.
  • Upload your document to the desired folder.  The system will create an originality report, based on a comparison with published material and other material that appears in your iThenticate account.  Please note that your account is a black-box and that other people's work is not compared to your unpublished documents.
  • Review the originality report carefully.  iThenticate has been known to flag commonly used turns of phrase, as well as the names of commissions, committees, associations, and published works that appear in the main text of the document.
  • If desired, you may add other iThenticate users as readers on your folders so that they can see your originality reports.  They cannot upload documents or change parameters on these folders, though.

For more information about using iThenticate or if you have any other questions about publication ethics, please contact Judith Currano.

Meet your librarian

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Judith Currano
1973 Wing, Chemistry Laboratories

Judith Currano has been the head of Penn's Chemistry Library since 1999.  She holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry and English from the University of Rochester, where she did research in the lab of Bob Boeckmann, and a master's degree in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Judith's research interests include effective teaching techniques in chemical information, techniques of organizing and retrieving structural data, research and publication ethics, and how chemists interact with the primary journal literature.  She currently chairs both the Board of Trustees of the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre and the ACS Committee on Ethics; she is active in ACS, the Special Libraries Association, and the Penn Women in Chemistry group; and she edits one issue per year of the Chemical Information Bulletin.

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