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The Basic Library List: MAA's Recommendations for Undergraduate Libraries

This page describes the MAA's list of Recommendations for Undergraduate Libraries. To see what books are in the list, go to the Browse page and select either "Have BLL" (for all recommended books) or a particular rating. 

About the Basic Library List

The MAA's Basic Library List is a list of books recommended by the Association for purchase by college and university libraries. Books that are part of the BLL have that fact indicated in search results and on their "book details" page. The Advanced Search engine allows you to restrict your search to books that are in the BLL, and that is the primary way to access the list.

The original version of the BLL consisted of two small lists of books that the Association recommended for libraries in two-year and four-year colleges. This evolved, after much work by a large number of people, into a book: Library Recommendations for Undergraduate Mathematics, edited by Lynn Steen and published in 1991 as an MAA Report. The list was organized into fields and included ratings: books could just be listed or could receive from one to three stars. Books listed without stars were books that libraries should consider for acquisition. Titles with three stars were considered essential books that should be in every mathematics library.

Of course, in the 20 years since the creation of that list, many new books have appeared. Fields have changed, and topics that appeared central then now seem peripheral — and vice-versa. In some areas (notably Computer Science) it no longer seems appropriate for the MAA to be recommending books. So revision was needed. In fact, if possible we should continually revise the list as new books are published and old ones disappear.

Enter the internet. The BLL is now part of MAA Reviews. All of the Basic Library List is on MAA Reviews. The MAA Reviews editors are actively reviewing the list, adding books, changing star ratings. But it is frustrating for a book to be listed as BLL*** without any further comment. A real review seems desirable, and we have set out to obtain them. We are beginning to ask publishers for copies of those books (at least of those that are still in print!) and are working to find reviewers for them.

Please contact Brian Borchers, the editor of MAA Reviews to volunteer or if you have any questions about the BLL.