Collection Selector

photo of Donald Altschiller

Donald Altschiller

Librarian for History, Religion, and Military Affairs

Mugar Memorial Library

General Purpose of the Collection

The Religion collection at Mugar Memorial Library provides selected material on all religions outside the Christian and Jewish traditions, with special emphasis on Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and comparative religion. The collection also contains material on Christianity and Judaism that does not fall within the scope of the Theology Library. Such material focuses on the general historical and social aspects of Christianity and Judaism. Commentaries on primary sources, critical editions of religious works, and secondary sources, form the core of the collection.

The Religion Department in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) offers programs in the study of religion in all parts of the world and in all time periods, leading to a BA or a combined BA/MA. Areas of specialization include comparative philosophy of religion, religion in America, religion and culture, Christian studies, East Asian studies, Islamic studies, Judaic studies, and South Asian studies. Joint concentrations are offered in Classics and Religion, Anthropology and Religion, and Philosophy and Religion.

The Graduate School Division of Religious and Theological Studies offers MA and PhD programs. Entering graduate students may choose from among twelve fields of concentration: Judaic Studies; New Testament & Christian Origins; History of Christianity; Islamic Studies; Philosophy of Religion; Science, Philosophy, & Religion; Theology; Social Ethics; Religion and Society; Religion and Literature; Psychology of Religion; and Counseling Psychology and Religion. Faculty and course interests cover three major areas of specialization: Religious Texts and Traditions; Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics; and Religion, Culture and Society. Faculty from the division are also involved in the Center for the Study of Asia; Institute for Philosophy and Religion; the Institute for the Study of Muslim Societies and Civilizations; the Program in Scripture and the Arts; the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs; and in the Elie Wiesel Center for Judaic Studies.

Collection development in Religion is affected by the differing programs and interdisciplinary interests of the College of Arts and Sciences Religion Department, the Graduate School Division of Religious and Theological Studies, and the School of Theology (STH). Courses, programs, and faculty overlap among these three divisions, especially with regard to the study of the Christian and Jewish religions. Within those two fields, there is overlap relating to anthropology, art, counseling, history, literature, philosophy, psychology, and sociology.

Scope of Coverage

Languages collected (primary and selective) or excluded
English language material is emphasized. However, French and German texts are acquired as necessary, as important titles relating to the Eastern religious traditions are occasionally only available in those languages.
Geographical areas covered by the collections in terms of intellectual content, publication sources, or both, and specific areas excluded, as appropriate
Coverage focuses on the United States and Great Britain, although international coverage is maintained as well. Excellent publishers producing scholarly work on religion, often in English, are also located in Germany, the Netherlands, and India. The Religion Department’s interest in world religions precludes ruling out publishers in any part of the globe.
Chronological periods covered by the collection in terms of intellectual content, movements or schools, and specific periods excluded, as appropriate
Within the areas of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam, all time periods are covered, from the earliest origins of the religious systems to contemporary affairs. Material on religions of the ancient world is also collected, although ancient Greek and Roman religions are covered by the Classics Selector.
Chronological periods collected in terms of publication dates, and specific periods excluded, as appropriate
Emphasis is placed on current publications, but there are no restrictions regarding specific publication dates or periods. Reprints, new editions, and new translations of important works are purchased as necessary.

General Subject Boundaries and Library Locations

The subject scope of this collection is primarily determined by the Library of Congress call number range BL-BX.


  • BL 1-1099 : Religion — General Topics, History, Comparative
  • BL 1100-1299 : Hinduism
  • BL 1400-1499; BQ : Buddhism
  • BP 1-253 : Islam

Collected Selectively:

  • BL 1300-1399 : Jainism
  • BL 1500-2280 : Other Asian, Oriental, or Middle Eastern Religions
  • BL 2500-2592 : American (American Indians, see E and F)
  • BL 2600-2630 : Oceanean Religions (Australia and the Pacific Islands – Native)
  • BL 2690 : Arctic Regions
  • BL 2700-2790 : Rationalism
  • BP 300-395 : Bahaism
  • BP 500-610 : Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Other Beliefs and Movements
  • E 59-98 : North American Aboriginal Religions, Native North American Religions
  • F 1219.3 R38 : Native Mexican Religions
  • F 1434.2 R3 : Native Central American Religions
  • F 1619.3 R3 : Native West Indian Religions
  • F 2230.1 R3 : Native South American Religions

Collected Very Selectively:

  • BM : Judaism
  • BR 1-1725 : Christianity
  • BS 1-2970 : The Bible
  • BT 10-1480 : Doctrinal Theology
  • BV 1-5099 : Practical Theology
  • BX 1-9999 : Christian Denominations
  • Z 7161-7166 : Religion and Theology Bibliography
  • Z 8001-8999 : Personal Bibliography

All items in these categories are housed in Mugar Memorial Library.

Within Mugar Memorial Library, some overlap is inevitable with African Studies, Anthropology, History, Philosophy, Sociology, and other fields.

Related subjects and Interdisciplinary Relationships

African Studies
The African Studies Selector collects material on African religions, missionary activities in Africa, Christianity in Africa, and Islam in sub-Saharan Africa. Material on African-based or derived religions located elsewhere in the world, and material on Islam in northern Africa, is generally acquired by the Religion Selector.
Works dealing with the anthropology of religion are acquired by the Anthropology Selector.
The Classics Selector collects material on ancient Greek and Roman religions.
Some materials dealing with the historical aspects of Islam and Judaism are collected by the History Selector.
Modern Languages and Comparative Literature
Some foreign language writings cataloged in Religion can be considered literature and vice versa, and so consultation with the Modern Foreign Languages Selector is sometimes required.
Works devoted to musical liturgies and the role of music in religion are typically acquired by the Music Selector in consultation with the Religion Selector.
The Philosophy Selector acquires some works by prominent philosophers on the subject of religion. The Religion Selector acquires works on the philosophy of religion.
Romance Studies
Some writings in romance languages classified in Religion can be considered literature and vice versa, and so consultation with the Romance Studies Selector is sometimes required.
The Sociology Selector selectively acquires works pertaining to the sociology of religion.

Types of Materials

Books, periodicals, and reference materials, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, concordances, companions and guides, bibliographies, atlases, and periodical indexes.
Collected Selectively
Dissertations and theses, conference proceedings, biographies, religious texts, and electronic resources.
Not Collected
Collections of prayers, devotions, textbooks, pamphlets, audio-visual material, and rare materials.

Other On-Campus or Local Resources

The major component of coordination and cooperation is the arrangement between the School of Theology Library and Mugar Memorial Library regarding Religion acquisitions. Under this agreement, the School of Theology Library concentrates on acquiring material on Christianity, denominations and sects of Christianity, doctrinal and practical theology, historical Judaism (Judaism from its beginnings to 200 CE), biblical studies, missions, and pastoral counseling. However, some overlap must necessarily exist because of duplication of interests between STH and CAS faculty and demand for particular materials. Duplicative purchasing is more likely to occur for interdisciplinary and comparative works, reference material, material on contemporary religious movements and phenomena, and material on Christianity or Judaism requested for Reserve at Mugar Memorial Library.

Other libraries in the area have significant collections to which one might be referred for special studies.

Boston College has a strong collection of material on Roman Catholicism.

The Boston Theological Institute collects material on Protestant denominations.

Brandeis University’s collection emphasizes Judaica.

The Hebrew College focuses on Hebraica and interdisciplinary material on Judaism and Jewish culture.


Popular materials on the Occult and on New Age movements are collected selectively and by faculty request only.