Yale History Department’s Report on the Library in 1969

I’m somewhat of an interloper on this blog. I often work with special collections material from MSSA, but I am based in the Humanities Collections and Research Education (HCRE) department in Sterling Memorial Library. While going through an old filing cabinet in my office space, I came across an excellent find that will soon be available in MSSA – the “Report of the Library Committee of the Department of History” dated April 16, 1969.

1969 History ReportThe 86-page report was a massive effort by Yale’s history department to offer constructive criticism to the library and to suggest ways that collections and policies could be improved. The history department created a committee of 23 faculty members (nearly one-quarter of the department in 1968-1969) that was further divided into eight sub-committees by area of study: Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern, Modern European and Russian, British, United States, Latin America, Asian, and African history. The committee consisted of both senior scholars and young historians and included many familiar names like Michael F. Holt, Daniel Walker Howe, Edmund S. Morgan, Howard R. Lamar, and Robin Winks, among others. The lone woman on the committee was the Mary C. Wright, the celebrated historian of China who was the first woman to gain tenure in Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

List of 23 members of the Yale history department's library committee of 1968-1969.

List of 23 members of the Yale history department’s library committee of 1968-1969.

The Eastern and Central European historian Piotr S. Wandycz, the chairman of the committee, wrote the introduction, where he stated the committee had surveyed the holdings of the library and that they were “[d]eeply concerned about the problems of the Library,” which appeared to be in decline because of budgetary issues (p. 1). In light of this, the committee called for closer cooperation between the library staff and the history faculty, since the library was an essential partner in helping the history department retain its top-tier status.  Wandycz noted that, “historians are the prime producers and users of the contents of libraries,” and deserved greater attention from librarians as a result. (p. 2)

The committee made ambitious demands. The United States, Modern European and Russian, and Latin American sub-committees called for a doubling of collections budgets, exclusive of labor costs. Some sub-committees had specific numbers in mind. For example, the African committee called for $50,000 to backfill gaps in collecting (the African collections budget had been $15,000/year since 1963) and a $5,000 annual increase in the African book fund (pp. 84, 86). The Asian sub-committee called for nothing less than a $100,000 acquisitions budget for their area along with a demand “to stop the purchase of trivia, memorabilia, de luxe edition, and pretty books.”  (pp. 78-79, quote on 79).

While the Asian sub-committee worried about poorly made decisions by the library’s acquisition staff, some sub-committees were more concerned with lacunae. Ramsay MacMullen, chair of the Ancient history sub-committee, noted that at least one-quarter of the books published in Roman history since 1950 could not be found in the stacks (pp. 10-11). The report also noted gaps in the microfilm holdings of American, British, and Continental newspapers that were especially galling.

Partial List of Broken Sets of Periodicals for Medieval East Central Europe, 1969.

Partial List of Broken Sets of Periodicals for Medieval East Central Europe, 1969.

But the historians thought books were the most important materials for the library.  They wanted the library to purchase all publications from American and British university presses while paying greater attention to university presses around the world. That being said, the committee decried the gaps in serials and demanded retroactive buying. The library was also called upon to collect the papers of all major national and federal governments in the world. The committee insisted upon a slow down of deaccessioning and and the need to accept all gifts – claiming that space issues and their costs should not trump the value of the collections. In addition, the historians expected cataloging and cross-referencing had to be improved, the essential core of material for every history field had to be purchased regardless of current faculty interest, and better listings of special collections had to be created.

The demands were immense, and while I can’t say what came of this report at the moment, one has to assume it was an impossible agenda to carry forward in full. Things have certainly improved since 1969 – for example, the library can gain electronic access to just about any academic journal in the world if it is willing to pay. Also, Yale has massive collections of newspapers on microfilm and in electronic form, especially improving the gaps in Midwestern newspapers the United States sub-committee mentioned. Filling in the periodical and newspaper gaps has become easier. The easily accessible online used book market makes retroactive book purchases easier, although not perfect.

Advertisement from 1970.  Microfilm sets were the databases of their day.  Translated into 2013 dollars, this set had a real price cost of $294,000 (from http://www.measuringworth.com)

Advertisement from 1970. Microfilm sets were the databases of their day. Translated into 2013 dollars, this set had a real price cost of $294,000 (measuringworth.com)

But some of the problems still remain. The cost of library materials keeps growing, as does their diversity. Today the library has to manage the cost of e-books and print books. In many cases, the print version comes out first and the electronic version appears months later. If an institution goes e-preferred, how does it manage that lag time? At Yale, and no doubt elsewhere, use of e-book packages far outstrips the circulation of print materials.  The yearly content updates for Project MUSE’s UPCC and Oxford’s UPSO add new strains to budgets that were not contemplated even five years ago, but it’s clear from usage data that we must continue to support those purchases. We’re currently between two worlds and being forced to duplicate purchasing and it will be increasingly difficult to sustain.

Collection budgets in the humanities are also feeling pressure from the increased subscription costs of science and medical material. How can the library sustain the ever-rising increases of scientific publishers and keep up with the materials in the humanities? The numbers are startling. According to Robert Darnton, the average subscription to a chemistry journal is now over $4,000. It was $33 in 1970. In 2012, the Journal of Comparative Neurology cost $30,860 (click here for citation). But even humanities journals can be crushingly expensive.  Some electronic subscriptions to history journals can reach into the four-digit realm.

Beyond those budgetary pressures, the library has to deal with the purchase of humanities databases from the big six (ProQuest, Readex/Newsbank, Gale Cengage, Alexander Street Press, Adam Matthew, EBSCO). These databases are often extraordinarily powerful, yet costly – and in most cases carry yearly maintenance fees that can be high. Licensing agreements, along with their associated costs, also have to be managed. To say nothing of the cost of the purchase and preservation of the raw data from databases required by those in the digital humanities (some publishers/companies provide their raw data for free, while others have associated fees).

And more and more databases keep being produced. Dozens of small and medium sized collections and archives are now scanned in full and offered for sale each year. For example, Gale Cengage offers digitized archival collections in their database Archives Unbound and they could conceivably keep doing this perpetually. ProQuest has History Vault. Adam Matthew has entirely digitized the Gilder Lehrman Collection, an important collection of Americana on deposit at the New-York Historical Society. When do we say enough is enough? Should we be spending less on databases and more of our funding on rare and special collections materials that differentiate our collections from other institutions?

Yale’s history department currently does not have a library committee. It’s fair to say that a new document like the 1969 “Report of the Library Committee of the Department of History” would be immensely helpful to not just history, but the humanities as a whole at Yale. I know I would read a 2015 report avidly.

David J. Gary
Kaplanoff Librarian for American History

‘Bulldog and Panther’ Exhibit Opens

Bulldog and Panther: The 1970 May Day Rally and Yale – Memorabilia Room, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University

Bulldog and Panther exhibit poster1969 and 1970 were politically tumultuous years in the United States and indeed around the world. Unrest in U.S. urban areas and on college and university campuses focused on racial and gender inequalities, the ongoing U.S. war in Vietnam, and demands by students for more responsive and inclusive campus decision making. On 19 May 1969 Black Panther Party (BPP) member Alex Rackley was kidnapped and killed in New Haven by other BPP members who believed he was an FBI informant. In a time of intense FBI counter-intelligence focus on neutralizing the BPP’s influence in U.S. cities, the broad swath of indictments for the murder seemed an overreach to many. The defendants were referred to as the New Haven Nine, an allusion to the famous Chicago Seven, and included Bobby Seale, national BPP Chairman, who had spoken at Yale the day of the murder. Seale was extradited to Connecticut on the approval of California Governor Ronald Reagan, and the trial was set to begin in May 1970. A large protest rally was organized for the New Haven Green, scheduled for 1-3 May 1970. This exhibit explores the events leading up to the New Haven May Day rally, and its impact on Yale, the New Haven community, and beyond.

The exhibit is curated by Sarah Schmidt, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and Bill Landis, Manuscripts and Archives. It is free and open to the public Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM-4:45 PM, through May 16, 2014.

For additional resources on the exhibit see the New Haven Register article on a discussion panel, part of a collaborative series of events inspired by the exhibit hosted by the Yale University Library and Pierson College. The panel, held on February 26th, was moderated by Yale history professor Beverly Gage and featured Kathleen Cleaver, Ann Froines, and John R. Williams. Yale TV also did a feature on the exhibit, with interesting interview segments with Henry “Sam” Chauncey, Jr.

John Russell Pope and the Unrealized Yale Campus Plan

John Russell Pope. Illustrations by O.R. Eggers. Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building. New York: Cheltenham Press, 1919. “A general view of the University as proposed.”

Nearing the end of the second decade of the twentieth century, as the new Memorial Quadrangle dormitory buildings were approaching completion, the President and Corporation of Yale University hired the architect John Russell Pope to devise a plan for the expansion of the university. Pope’s plan aimed “to call attention to the immediate necessity of creating and safeguarding a good, orderly, practical arrangement of architectural harmony and beauty in the existing and future structures of Yale University and to present a plan whereby this result may be attained.” The resulting publication, Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building, with illustrations by O.R. Eggers, was printed by the Cheltenham Press of New York City in 1919 in an edition of 250 copies. This large and beautifully illustrated book envisions a Yale campus rapidly expanding to meet the needs of a twentieth-century university.

It is fascinating to contemplate some of the changes that Pope suggested, but that were never in fact implemented. Elements of Pope’s plan can be seen in today’s Yale campus, but the plan was significantly revised during the building boom of the 1920s and 1930s, overseen primarily by architect and Yale alumnus James Gamble Rogers (B.A. 1889).

John Russell Pope. Illustrations by O.R. Eggers. Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building. New York: Cheltenham Press, 1919. “The Square as seen from the New Campus at College Street corner, looking towards the new Wall Street gateway to Church Street.”

Pope conceptualized a focal dividing point between the city of New Haven and the university, instantiated in an arched entryway at the intersection of Wall and Temple Streets with wings of the surrounding building stretching towards Church Street. Behind the arched entryway, Pope’s plan included a group of Gothic buildings surrounding a central Square, off of which emanated the two principle spokes of Wall Street and Hillhouse Avenue, along which his New Campus buildings would be constructed in a harmonizing unification of many existing campus structures.

John Russell Pope. Illustrations by O.R. Eggers. Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building. New York: Cheltenham Press, 1919. “A general view of the proposed treatment of Hillhouse Avenue and Hillhouse group area.”

Pope’s plan preserved the science focus of the buildings along lower Hillhouse Avenue that had accompanied the development of the Sheffield Scientific School over the latter half of the nineteenth century, and expanded them northward culminating in a new observatory tower at the end of the axis. It also envisioned extending Hillhouse Avenue so that it intersected with the new Square centered around Wall Street.

Pope called for a New Campus, stretching from York Street towards the new Square along his Wall Street axis, uniting Yale’s existing Old Campus and the newly constructed Memorial Quadrangle with his overall plan. His plan indicates a new Library building between Wall and Grove Streets and occupying most of the area between the 1901 Bicentennial Buildings (Woolsey Hall, Memorial Hall, and Commons) and York Street, covering space now occupied by the Beinecke Library and the Sterling Law Buildings. Pope’s envisioned library was a towering Perpendicular Gothic cathedral, more awe-inspiring and perhaps less functional than the Collegiate Gothic Sterling Memorial Library structure that James Gamble Rogers eventually built slightly farther south. The tower of Pope’s library, facilitated by the removal of Durfee Hall, was conceived as a focal point connecting Yale’s Old Campus to Pope’s vision for a twentieth-century Yale University.

John Russell Pope. Illustrations by O.R. Eggers. Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building. New York: Cheltenham Press, 1919. “Looking from the main vestibule into the Reading Room of the Library.”

John Russell Pope. Illustrations by O.R. Eggers. Yale University: A Plan for Its Future Building. New York: Cheltenham Press, 1919. “A view from the Old Campus looking towards the Library–the removal of Durfee Hallopens an avenue connecting the Old Campus with the new and creates a fine vista terminating at the Library tower.”

Yale History Exhibit Opens

Celebrating Yale History in Manuscripts and Archives

Now through October 11, 2013 in the Memorabilia Room, Sterling Memorial Library.

The Manuscripts and Archives Department in the Yale University Library is a treasure trove of resources documenting the history of Yale, from the 1701 minutes of a meeting of seven of the ten founding ministers of the Collegiate School that was renamed Yale College in 1718, to images, email files, and other born-digital material created within the past year by the University’s offices and groups. This exhibit showcases items from the University Archives, Yale publications, and manuscript collections, organized around the themes of Student Life, Places and Programs, Yale and the World, Yale People, and Yale Events. This represents just a drop in the bucket of collection materials in Manuscripts and Archives and throughout the libraries that provide primary sources for exploring the people, places, and events that have contributed to over 300 years of Yale University history.

The exhibit is curated by Manuscripts and Archives staff members. For more information contact mssa.reference@yale.edu or (203) 432-1744. The exhibit is free and open to the public Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM-4:45 PM. Click here for more information about exhibits and events at the Yale University Library.


Carter Harrison and Yale’s Campus (the Old Brick Row) in 1843

The letters of Carter Henry Harrison (Class of 1845) of Lexington, Kentucky, written to his mother, Caroline E. Harrison, while he was a student at Yale College, provide a fascinating glimpse into student life at Yale in the middle of the 19th century. Carter’s letters, a small part of the Yale Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection (MS 1258, Box 9, Folder 343), comprise eight letters written between 1842 and 1845.

The letter dated 15 January 1843 is especially poignant because it reports the death in the college the previous week of an unnamed student who was Carter’s “only intimate acquaintance at this place … one of the most amiable boys [he] ever saw.” The student had “been sick eleven days (that is in bed) with the billious fever.” He discusses his own feelings about this sudden death of a fellow student, and reports that the boy’s father had not yet even arrived at Yale following notification of his son’s illness. Carter’s sentiments and his reassurances to his mother about his own well being are reminders of the profound physical and emotional distances from home experienced by many Yale College students in past centuries.

Carter also discusses at length the preaching and religious considerations that were a part of the Yale College curriculum at the time, reflecting a very different educational and social environment than that encountered by Yale students from the latter 19th century to the present. The first page of the letter contains a contemporary woodcut of the Yale campus, the Old Brick Row, to which Carter has added a legend identifying the buildings. He closes his letter with information to his mother about how some of these buildings function in his daily routine as a student. While his labels under the buildings in the woodcut are correct, he has gotten north and south reversed in his listing of the buildings in the legend. A typed transcription of the letter is available.

Earth Day and May Day Cross-fertilization at Yale, 1970

In the heady days of the spring of 1970, Senator Edward M. Kennedy came to Yale on Earth Day (April 22, 1970) to speak, on the occasion of the nation’s first Earth Day, at a Yale Political Union luncheon in Commons. In the afternoon after Kennedy’s speech, a teach-in on “The Politics of Pollution” was scheduled in the Yale Law School auditorium.

Earth Day in 1970 coincided with the pre-trial proceedings for the “New Haven Nine” trials and increasing tensions in New Haven and on the Yale campus over the heavy-handed response of the Nixon administration and the FBI’s secret Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) to the 1969 kidnapping, torture, and murder by members of the Black Panther Party of Alex Rackley, a New Haven Black Panther member who was suspected of being an FBI informant. These events ultimately led to the May Day strike/rally on May 1-3, 1970, and the temporary suspension of academic activities at Yale.

Student protests over the Black Panther trials spilled over into the Earth Day events when Ralph Dawson, Class of 1971 and moderator of the Black Students Alliance at Yale (BSAY), and Kurt Schmoke, Secretary of the Class of 1971, interrupted the Yale Political Union luncheon to appeal for support for the jailed New Haven Black Panthers. That cross-fertilization of activism was captured in this image from the May 1970 issue of the Yale Alumni Magazine, and can also found in the collections of Manuscripts and Archives.

Tips on Researching pre-20th C. Yalies

On Wednesday morning, April 10th, Yale alumnus David Richards (1967 B.A., 1972 J.D.) made a presentation to Manuscripts and Archives staff on research he’s been conducting into the impact of Senior (aka secret) societies on Yale’s administration and governance. He offered some very useful tips for researching Yale students and student life for the period before the growth of student publications at Yale during the last quarter of the 19th century. Links from items discussed below to freely available digital copies in Google Books are provided when they exist.

  1. Read Four Years at Yale (New Haven: Charles C. Chatfield & Co., 1871) by Lyman Hotchkiss Bagg (1869 B.A.). According to Richards this is the most comprehensive record of the annual cycle of student life at Yale in the mid-19th century.
  2. Browse the lists of members in fraternity catalogs for Phi Beta Kappa (1898 catalog link provided), and the Yale Junior fraternities Alpha Delta Phi (1909 catalog link provided), Psi Upsilon (1902 catalog link provided), and Delta Kappa Epsilon (1910 catalog link provided), many editions of which have been digitized and are available in Google Books. These contain a surprising amount of data about individual students and cover significant percentages of Yale classes, especially during the 19th-century time period. For example, according to Richards’ calculations, out of the 110 members of the Yale College Class of 1853, information about 74 students can be found in the three Junior fraternity catalogs.
  3. Explore Anson Phelps Stokes’ Memorials of Eminent Yale Men: A Biographical Study of Student Life and University Influences During the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1914). These biographies of the more famous co-graduates of a particular class provide a good flavor of student life during the time period and glimpses of other members of the class. Other single-subject biographies can serve the same purpose in establishing context for understanding the life of a student in a specific Yale College class or era, for example, John A. Garver’s John William Sterling, Class of 1864, Yale College: A Biographical Sketch (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1929).

In our alumni-related reference work in Manuscripts and Archives we rely heavily on student publications and class books, which did not come into routine existence until late in the 19th century. Richards’ research reminds us all of the potential of other resources for researching Yalies of an earlier era.

William Howard Taft

See the interesting blog post attached below, recently from the Yale Alumni Magazine’s “This Just In” blog. The post discusses former president Taft’s consideration, and reasons for not wanting to accept, the position of president of Yale University. There are a number of different historical resources related to this article at Manuscripts and Archives, including the class books the Class of 1878, Skull and Bones membership lists that include Taft, as well as photos and records from commencement and other events attended by Taft.


When Taft turned Yale down

  • Former Yale President Timothy Dwight (the younger), United States President William Howard Taft, and Yale President Arthur Twining Hadley.
    President Taft, then a Yale trustee, at Commencement in 1911 with former Yale president Timothy Dwight (left) and then Yale president Arthur Twining Hadley. Photo: Manuscripts and Archives.

At about this time 100 years ago, William Howard Taft (Yale Class of 1878) had just left the White House and was taking a short vacation before starting a new job: professor of constitutional law at Yale. But as I learned while writing a short piece for our new issue about the chairs Taft sat in during his professorship, Taft had earlier been considered for another job at Yale. And his reason for not taking it tells you how much times have changed.

When Yale president Timothy Dwight left office in 1899, Taft’s friends urged the Yale Corporation to consider him for the job. At age 42, Taft was then a federal judge and former US solicitor general; he was also serving as dean of the University of Cincinnati law school. A sympathetic Taft biographer says that he modestly declined because he did not feel he had enough experience in higher education. But Taft had a more interesting reason not to pursue the job: in 1899, Yale was still moored, if loosely, to its Congregationalist roots, and every president to that date had been an ordained minister. Taft saw this as a problem, as he wrote in a letter to his brother Henry:

It would shock the large conservative element of those who give Yale her power and influence in the country to see one chosen to the Presidency who could not subscribe to the creed of the orthodox Congregational Church of New England . . . I am a Unitarian.  I believe in God.  I do not believe in the Divinity of Christ, and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.  I am not, however, a scoffer at religion but on the contrary recognize, in the fullest manner, the elevating influence that it has had and always will have in the history of mankind.”

Taft’s religious beliefs were not a major issue, though, when he ran for president of the United States in 1908. Today, Yale’s second Jewish president is preparing to take office. But how would a candidate who didn’t “believe in the Divinity of Christ” fare in a race for president of the US today?

Yale Alumni Magazine | Blogs.

Yale University Presidents

Recently, Provost Peter Salovey was announced as the University’s next president, succeeding Richard C. Levin, effective June 30, 2013.  For more information, follow the links below:

Yale Presidents Throughout History

Watch this recent video interview of Judith Schiff, Chief Research Archivist in Manuscripts and Archives, discussing Yale University Presidents through the years:

Researching Yale Presidents in Manuscripts and Archives

Manuscripts and Archives holds a wealth of historical information and documentation of Yale presidents through the years. Examples of the types of materials that can be found include: