Selin attended Binghamton University, where she earned her bachelor's degree. She received her MLS from SUNY Albany. She was a Peace Corps volunteer from the fall of 1967 through the summer of 1969 as an English teacher in Malawi. She retired in 2012 from being the science librarian at Hampshire College.
Selin is well known for being the editor of Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures (1997) which is one of the first books which allows readers to "compare a variety of traditional systems of mathematics and cosmologies." Mathematics Across Cultures: The History of Non-Western Mathematics (2000), is considered by Mathematical Intelligencer as a companion to the Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures. The journal, Mathematics and Computer Education, wrote that Mathematics Across Cultures filled a gap in the history of mathematics and was "an exciting collection of papers on ethnomathematics." Selin's editorial work, Nature Across Cultures: Views of Nature and the Environment in Non-Western Cultures (2003), was considered by Polylog to be a "valuable source for intercultural philosophers." Selin edited the Encyclopaedia of Classical Indian Sciences (2007). She has also edited several more books in the Science Across Cultures series: Medicine Across Cultures, Nature and the Environment Across Cultures, Childbirth Across Cultures, Parenting Across Cultures, Happiness Across Cultures and Death Across Cultures.