Guide to the Research Collections



Although resources in librarianship have always constituted a small part of the library's total holdings, they have received more attention, for professional reasons, than numerical reports indicate. Over a 45-year period this collection has grown very significantly, as indicated below:

19213,212 volumes

Statistics only partially measure the library's resources in this field. For example, since they indicate volumes rather than pieces, they do not reflect the fact that many volumes contain annual reports for a period of years. Moreover, many publications which other institutions classify as library science are classified differently in the Research Libraries (for example, published catalogs and certain bulletins of libraries).

The library's current acquisition policy embraces varying levels of coverage for different areas of librarianship. For bibliography, periodicals, and public services, the policy is comprehensive to the extent that such material is available through normal purchase or exchange channels. Education for librarianship and general works on American, British, French, and German librarianship receive coverage on a representative level. Publications by and about individual libraries in these countries, as well as all publications from other nations, are collected on a selective basis. However, material received under the PL-480 Program provides comprehensive current coverage for titles issued in the countries covered, and the Jewish Division maintains the same level for all library science publications in Hebrew. A policy of generally comprehensive coverage, apparently followed in the library's early years, did not prevail in a later period, probably under the assumption that the comprehensive collecting given to many areas in the field by the School of Library Service at Columbia University made the same degree of coverage unnecessary at the New York Public Library. In general, the Research Libraries have formed a collection which is good to strong in the general monographs and periodicals of the field (although better developed in English than in other languages), but which lacks comprehensive holdings in such special forms as library surveys, annual reports, dissertations, and ephemeral publications. For these types of materials the library makes individual, rather than blanket, selection decisions--it does not, for example, acquire microfilms of doctoral dissertations in the field, but selects individual titles for purchase.


The bibliographical tools of the field are well covered, although holdings are not comprehensive. In addition to Library Literature and Library Science Abstracts are indexing and abstracting services published in France, Hungary, Poland, Sweden, and the USSR. Another indication of this strength is the fact that the collection contains a very good representation of the guides, descriptions, surveys, check lists, etc., cited in American Library Resources: A Bibliographical Guide (1951) and its supplement (1962) by Robert B. Downs. The Dictionary Catalog of the library of the Columbia University School of Library Service is present, and the holdings of other printed library catalogs are good. For examples of the general catalogs issued by many American libraries in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, those from such academic and special libraries as the American Antiquarian Society, Boston Athenaeum, Columbia, Cornell and Harvard Universities, the John Crerar Library, Massachusetts Historical Society, the University of Michigan, and Wisconsin Historical Society might be cited. Catalogs, book bulletins, and published accession lists of public libraries have come from Boston, Brooklyn, Chicago, Cleveland, Enoch Pratt (Baltimore), Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and some smaller cities. From abroad are similar publications from such university libraries as Coimbra, Leiden, Oslo, and Oxford, and from such public and national institutions as those in Bordeaux, Geneva, Rio de Janeiro, and Stockholm. A nearly complete collection of the sets of printed volumes issued in recent years which reproduce the card catalogs of major foreign and domestic collections is also available. Useful for reference purposes is a sizable group of some 200 directories which provide listings of libraries and librarians; about half are foreign publications, covering either individual countries or regions.

The collection of the most important American library periodicals--those indexed in Library Literature-- is strong. The library currently subscribes, with two or three exceptions, to the entire group (some 100 titles); in the large majority of cases it possesses a full file, while sets are complete for the remaining titles from the point at which the subscription began in the 1940s or 1950s. More selective coverage applies to foreign periodicals, but current subscriptions exceed 50 titles from about 25 countries. There are complete sets of such important journals as Accademie e biblioteche d'Italia, Archives et bibliothèques de Belgique, Bücherei und Bildung, Bulletin des bibliothèques de France, Indian Librarian, Libri, New Zealand Libraries, and Zentralblatt für Bibliothekswesen, but files of other titles may begin with recent years. The coverage of bulletins of library associations is good, especially those in the British Commonwealth.

Annual reports of American libraries constitute an important feature of the collection. However,

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in recent years many libraries have ceased publishing reports, or the Research Libraries have found it increasingly difficult to claim items which fail to arrive regularly. For instance, there are files for only about one-third of the institutions composing the Association of Research Libraries (those of some additional universities appear as part of the president's report); with some exceptions (e.g., Harvard, Stanford, Yale, the Huntington E. Hartford Library, and the Boston Public Library) these sets begin only in the 1950s. For large public libraries, such as those in Chicago, Los Angeles, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, and St. Louis, files are complete since their founding. Deserving special mention are long runs of the reports of smaller municipal institutions in southern New England; this group includes Brookline, Fitchburg, Lancaster, Lawrence. Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Northampton, Quincy, Salem, Springfield, Watertown, and Worcester, Massachusetts; Providence, Rhode Island; Hartford and Waterbury, Connecticut. Examples from smaller cities in other parts of the country are also present, but relatively few files extend to the present without gaps. Some 500 cities are represented in this group, with holdings ranging from a single report to a complete file. There are good files of the reports, journals and other publications of most state library agencies.

Holdings of library surveys are good, but not comprehensive. The Public Catalog contains about 225 entries under the heading "Library Surveys." With the exception of general works on survey methodology, most titles are reports of surveys of individual American public, college, and university libraries, generally undertaken since 1930. Among the authors represented are Robert B. Downs, Nelson Associates, Maurice F. Tauber, Joseph L. Wheeler, and Frederick Wezeman. There are a few studies not dealing with American institutions, nearly all of which refer to the British Commonwealth. These often cover library services in an entire country or portions of it, rather than those of an individual library.

More than 1,000 entries in the Public Catalog are listed for publications of the American Library Association. These include serial titles such as ALA Membership Directory, publications resulting from such special programs as the Library Technology Project; and the various reading lists and guides issued over the years. Few of the items which receive limited distribution, such as the minutes of the executive boards and processed publications of the divisions, are retained by the library.


Of the specialized areas within librarianship, holdings are most extensive for that of classification. They embrace not only theoretical and practical works, but also include a good collection of general classification schemes, both those abandoned and those still in use. More than 400 schemes for individual subjects (e.g., agriculture, business, Japanese literature, motion pictures, nursing) are also available. The collection of materials on reference books and reference work is also strong, although less extensive than that on classification. Nearly all guides to and bibliographies of reference materials are present.

For two subareas the library's collecting policy approaches exhaustiveness. A small group of monographic and serial literature, which includes publications in a wide range of languages, covers the preservation of library materials. Information storage and retrieval systems are covered by the standard journal and monographic works, a sizable number of conference proceedings, and reports emanating from research centers and consulting firms in the information science field.

The area of librarianship education is not strong. While all important monographic studies (e.g., those by Danton, Munn, Reece, Vann, and Williamson) and the serial publications of the Association of American Library Schools are present, holdings of the course announcements, reports, and alumni bulletins of the individual accredited library schools are weak; there has been no attempt to maintain files of such items. An exception is the library's own Library School, which operated from 1911 to 1926. The book collection contains the announcements, reports of the principal, programs of commencement exercises, registers of students, and miscellaneous items; archival materials have been transferred to Columbia University. There is a basic information collection on education for librarianship in other countries.

Resources on the New York Public Library and those institutions which it absorbed are, or course, unique. Published material includes not only the 46 reports (1849-94) of the Astor Library and the 25 (1870-94) of the Lenox, but also those of the Aguilar, Harlem, New York Free Circulating and Washington Heights Free Libraries from their founding until their consolidation with the New York Public Library. A set of the library's own general and financial reports, the Bulletin, and other publications, is maintained as a unit in the classified collection (other parts of the collection frequently contain additional copies of individual items). The Manuscripts and Archives Division administers archival collections which bear directly upon the library's history: letters to Joseph Green Cogswell, superintendent of the Astor Library; some 200 letters (1859-73) from James Lenox to Edward G. Allen relating to the purchase of books for Lenox's library, and 33 from various persons to Lenox; the papers of C.A. Nelson, long associated with the Astor Library; and the papers of two New York Public Library directors, John Shaw Billings and Harry Miller Lydenberg; an extensive collection of bibliographical notes and other papers of Wilberforce Eames; the entire collection of manuscripts relating to Andrew Carnegie's gifts for public library development in New York City (including his famous letter of March 12, 1901, about his contribution of $5,200,000 toward the branch library building program).

Coverage of material about other libraries in the city and state is good, although there are noticeable gaps in the files of annual reports. There is a collection of the reports, check lists, and public library statistics of the New York State Library. The Manuscripts and Archives Division also has a group of documents relating to the early years of the Library Company of Philadelphia, the keystone being a "Memorandum of Agreement" with its first librarian, Louis Timothee, dated November 14, 1732, and signed and sealed by Benjamin Franklin and other directors of the company. Several collection--such as those on the Berkshire Republican Library, Stockbridge, Massachusetts: the Union Library, Western, New York; and the Lisbon Library, Newent, Connecticut--pertain to the early history of the American library movement. The division holds the papers of R.R. Bowker, founder and

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editor of Library Journal; and the records of the New York Library Club for the period from 1901 to 1959.


Entries in the Public Catalog under the subject heading "Libraries" with geographical subdivisions provide the best single indication of the library's resources on libraries and librarianship abroad; over 3,500 titles appear here, excluding, of course, those under the subdivision for the United States. This figure does not reflect publications in Slavonic and Oriental languages and in Hebrew, whose cards do not appear in the Public Catalog. Publications include long runs of annual reports of important libraries (especially those in the British Commonwealth), surveys, brochures issued for the dedications of new buildings, general histories and the histories of individual libraries, treatises on administration, technical processes, etc. There are relatively few items of less than book length (e.g., surveys of individual libraries and reports by American librarians on their overseas assignments). Although this file contains entries for nearly all foreign countries, the most substantial numbers of entries appear under Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, the Soviet Union, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland; of this group Canada, France, and Great Britain are most extensively covered.

Material on librarianship in Canada includes publications of the Canadian Library Association and the Canadian Library Council, journals of regional associations, and the reports and other publications of the National Library and a number of major university and public libraries. Resources on Great Britain consist of comparable types of material; the reports from the public libraries of such cities as Birmingham, Liverpool, and Manchester extend back more than a century. In addition, there is a large block of publications issued by the British Museum--particularly guides to and catalogs of manuscript holdings and the printed catalogs of the Department of Printed Books.

In addition to general material on libraries in France (some 250 titles), there is an excellent collection of the publications of the Bibliothèque Nationale. Approximately 1,200 titles, some in bound volumes of pamphlets, are held. More than one-third pertain to manuscripts held by the Bibliothèque Nationale; another sizable portion are publications issued by the individual departments (e.g., Maps, Periodicals, Prints) and the published catalogs of the Département des Imprimés; finally, there is an extensive group of exhibition catalogs. Material assembled on such French research libraries as the Arsenal and the National and University Library at Strasbourg are considerably less extensive; these institutions have been relatively inactive in publishing. The same is true of the major libraries of the University of Paris (the Sorbonne, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, and others), although entries used in the Public Catalog do not bring references to the university's libraries together under a single heading.

The Slavonic Division's holdings consist of general monographic publications, directories and censuses, and yearbooks of major individual libraries. Much of the material is of historical, rather than current, value. For publications from China before 1949 there is a good collection in English and some items in Chinese; few publications from the People's Republic of China are found. For most Asian and African countries the Research Libraries have little nonwestern-language material. Resources in the Jewish Division embrace libraries and librarianship in Israel, and Jewish libraries in other parts of the world.

For comparative librarianship the publications of international organizations active in the field supplement materials dealing with specific countries. In addition to UNESCO publications, the collection contains complete sets of those issued by the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) and the International Federation for Documentation (FID). Also available are the various publications of the Pan American Union's Columbus Memorial Library.