Guide to the Research Collections



Of the several subject collections of the Research Libraries, the Economic and Public Affairs Division has the largest collection, with over one million volumes and ten thousand serials. A division of social sciences, it includes economics, business, sociology, demography, political science, and international relations among its fields of collecting interest. Resources in the specific subjects will be described in the following chapters. In almost every case the division attempts to acquire on a comprehensive basis the essential materials in its fields of interest without regard to language, place, date, or form of publication.


While the Astor Library did not attempt to purchase much now considered essential to the special business library, it did have standard works in the field of economics and, for the time, an unusual collection of public documents from various countries relating to public finance. In 1897, Dr. Billings enlarged the library's list of periodicals in commerce, finance, trade, industry, and technology, and commenced the systematic indexing of these titles in the library's card catalog. The Lenox Library was virtually without resources in this field, except where its history collection, particularly American, offered allied materials. Samuel Tilden's library contained important works on banking (including 225 scarce English tracts, one of which was a treatise on bank credit printed in 1683), and on taxation and finance. There were also long files of leading economic journals. In 1899 the accession of the Ford collection strengthened general materials in the writings of American, English, French, German, and Italian economists, and added special features, such as editions of Adam Smith, works on the West Indian Trade, the Bullion Report, the Bank Act of 1844, the Repeal of the Corn Laws, and American writings on tariff legislation, taxation, and currency.


The majority of cards in the dictionary catalog of the Economic and Public Affairs Division duplicate those prepared for the Public Catalog. A small percentage of cards, however, represent selective indexing by subject of articles in journals, and are present only in the division. The division is the center for information on the government publications in the collections of the library. (The terms "government publication" and "public document" are used interchangeably in this Guide. ) The key to these extensive holdings is the division's Catalog of Government Publications, certainly one of the most important of its kind in the world.1 A fuller description of the catalog is found in chapter 36.

The special indexes and files of the Economic and Public Affairs Division are:

Censuses Index

A card index of recent official census publications on population, housing, agriculture, business, etc. (active, 2 card drawers). The cards are arranged alphabetically under country, listing publications ordered or in process.

Directories Index

An index to the directories in the Research Libraries of interest to the Economic and Public Affairs Division, arranged under such broad subjects as banks and banking, commerce, labor, securities (active, 9 card drawers). The information given for each title includes the issues available in the library and the library classmark.

General Newspaper Clippings and Pamphlet File

A file of current pamphlets and newspaper clippings (active, 32 vertical file trays). Subject headings generally follow those used in the Public Affairs Information Service Bulletin.

Government Reports by Popular Names

A finding list on cards arranged by name of chairman or other identifying term for reports of official committees and commissions of the United States and other governments (active, 1 card drawer). An entry such as "Beveridge Report" represents the catalog entry "Gt. Britain. Interdepartmental committee on social insurance and allied services. Report. 1942."

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Index of Current United States Congressional Committee Prints

As there is no convenient finding list for Congressional "committee prints," the Economic and Public Affairs Division assigns numbers to them as they are received and files them accordingly in a vertical file (active, 2 file trays). The number of any item in this temporary location is found by referring to a card file where the prints are listed first by committee and then alphabetically by title. After each Congress, the prints receive regular cataloging and are added to the permanent collections.

Market Surveys Vertical File

Current market surveys are arranged by subject in this file under such headings as "Market Surveys--Automobile Ownership," "Market Surveys--Boston" (active, 3 file trays).

Periodicals File

A listing on cards of the periodicals currently received in the Economic and Public Affairs Division arranged by country of origin (active, 3 card drawers). In cases where many periodicals are received from a single country there is a subdivision by subject.

Reference Questions File

A card file made up of information found in answering reference questions and stored for future use (active, 2 card drawers). It is arranged alphabetically under general subjects.

Soils Survey Index

A geographical index, using a state-county approach, to the U.S. Soils Bureau's Field Operations (1899-1922) and to the U.S. Plant Industry Bureau's Soil Surveys from 1923 to the late 1950s (inactive, 1 card drawer).


A general description of the extent of the resources in the division by form of material follows.


The book collection is intended to contain all the principal works in the fields of division interest from every country, and as much useful secondary subject material as can be discovered and acquired. Included are the publications of such bodies as the National Bureau of Economic Research, the Brookings Institution, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the Council on Foreign Relations, and their counterparts in other countries, as well as market surveys and special reports of trade missions and chambers of commerce.

Among the outstanding aspects of this collection are the holdings on regional and city planning, foreign trade, banking and finance, corporation history, railroad history, labor, and political science. When Sir John Clapham's The Bank of England, A History was published in 1944, an examination of his citations revealed only two published items which could not be found in the library; the others were, for the most part, present in first editions from the late seventeenth century onward.


The division attempts to obtain all important general periodicals issued more frequently than once a year in its fields in addition to a representative selection in special subjects. These include the journals of the central banks; chambers of commerce; trade associations; learned societies; professional associations; labor, research, and charitable organizations; and financial, tax, and news services. Room is available for the current issues of only some 2,000 of these titles; approximately 3,000 other periodicals of interest to the division are shelved in the Periodicals Section.

Noncurrent Serials

Examples of serials issued once a year or less frequently are stock exchange manuals; bank and corporation reports; trade directories; proceedings of professional, trade, and labor organizations; yearbooks relating to housing, legislation, international law, transportation, municipal and state government; and monographs issued in series by societies, universities, and other research agencies. The holdings are comprehensive.

Government Publications

The Economic and Public Affairs Division has one of the world's great collections of government publications. It is a depository for United States public documents, receives all federal official publications issued by the Queen's Printer, Ottawa, as well as those issued by many other government agencies throughout the world. Files are usually available from the earliest periods.

An attempt is made by the division to acquire essential official documents from every country, including official gazettes; parliamentary proceedings and papers; annual legislation; foreign correspondence and treaties; departmental reports; censuses; and statistical reports, both current and annual.

In this collection are many outstanding files; a few may be cited. Official gazettes form a strong group and provide a detailed current record of executive and legislative activity; through its Gazettes Acquisition and Microfilming Program, the library now has on film files dating from the late 1950s for most of the world's official gazettes, and is working to complete filming of its retrospective holdings.2

The collection of British Parliamentary Papers and similar files for the British Commonwealth of Nations are notable for their completeness. They include the collected papers of the independent states and dependent territories, as well as of many provincial and state legislatures.

The holdings of census reports, foreign trade statistics, treaties, and foreign office reports and correspondence represent a large proportion of the materials published in most of the countries of the world.

State, Provincial, and Municipal Publications

The collection is excellent for the United States and the British Commonwealth; the library is a

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depository for the state publications of New York, Washington, and California, and also receives most New Jersey publications. Holdings are not particularly strong for other localities. In general the division attempts to acquire the municipal publications of all cities in the United States with a 1970 population of 400,000 or more. It also acquires the municipal publications of Canadian, Central, and South American cities with a population of 250,000 or more; and the publications of the cities of Europe, Africa, and Asia with populations of 500,000 or more. If a city is a national capital, or has some other special significance, its municipal publications will be sought by the division regardless of its size.

Publications of International Organizations

The library served as a depository for League of Nations documents, and maintains the same relationship with the United Nations and such affiliated agencies as the International Labor Office, the International Court, and the International Bank. The library is also a depository for the publications of the European Economic Community and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The proceedings and papers of a great number of international congresses have also been acquired.


A growing number of publications are being produced in microfilm. The division receives many of these, including the Readex Microprint series of United States government publications listed in the Monthly Catalog from 1953 onward, and the Human Relations Area File microfiles. The division is also responsible for acquiring and collating the titles included in the Gazettes Acquisition and Microfilming Program of the Research Libraries.