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COLLECTION Identifier: UAIII 50.8.10.2

Records of the Harvard College Library: William Coolidge Lane general files

This collection documents the activities of William Coolidge Lane (1859-1931) as Librarian at Harvard from 1898 to 1928, and includes Harvard College Library material kept by Lane from the mid to late 1800s. The collection is comprised of correspondence, personal notes, newspaper clippings, pamphlets and brochures, photographs, and blueprints created in the course of Library business by Lane and members of the Harvard community, librarians and affiliates of other universities, and the public. Records cover topics including bequests and acquisitions (especially for departmental and subject libraries, and of international materials), the evaluation of conditions in Gore Hall and the building of the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, the refining of library policies and procedures at Harvard, and general reference requests, and illustrate the growth of the Harvard Library, its daily operation, and the continued professionalization of librarianship. Additionally, records reflect aspects of social history, including World War I and the Library's international relations, and women's history.

Dates

  • 1877-1929

Researcher Access

The Records of the Harvard College Library: William Coolidge Lane general files are open for research. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Permission of the University Archives is required for photocopying or publishing.

Extent

24.15 cubic feet (69 document boxes)

This collection documents the activities of William Coolidge Lane (1859-1931) as Librarian at Harvard from 1898 to 1928. The collection is comprised of correspondence, Lane's personal notes, newspaper clippings, pamphlets and brochures, photographs, and blueprints, and includes material written in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, and Japanese, among other languages. Most materials have a typed or handwritten heading noting a correspondent or subject, creating an alphabetical system by which the records were originally arranged. The collection is further arranged in series according to previously grouped records, labeled General Correspondence, Special Subject Files 1-3, Gore Hall pamphlets, and Staff file on women. Special Subject File 1 also contains material kept by Lane from his predecessor, Justin Winsor, which dates from the mid to late 1800s.

Largely composed of correspondence created in the course of Library business between Lane and members of the Harvard community, librarians and affiliates of other universities, and the public, these records cover topics including bequests and acquisitions (especially for departmental and subject libraries, and of international materials), the evaluation of conditions in Gore Hall and the building of the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, the refining of library policies and procedures at Harvard, and general reference requests. Following the themes of the Harvard College Library letters (UAIII 50.8), to which this collection is a successor, these records further illustrate the growth of the Harvard Library, its daily operation, and the continued professionalization of librarianship.

Lane's pursuits as Librarian and University figure are also represented in this collection. In addition to increasing the count of volumes in the Library from 200,000 to nearly 2,500,000, the records reflect Lane's supervision of the physical transfer of these volumes from Gore Hall to Widener Memorial Library (opened in 1915) and his role in the furnishing of the new building, from shelving and storage to desk carrels to toilets and washbasins. Active in professional organizations, the collection also includes documentation of Lane's activities in the American Library Association and the New England College Librarians, among other organizations. Lane also spearheaded a number of initiatives at the Library and in the Harvard community to aid in the World War I effort, including raising money for European communities, donating books to soldiers and ruined libraries, and planning memorials for Harvard men in the war. These efforts are reflected in the records, as are Lane's opinions on the war, which are often mentioned in casual correspondence throughout the collection.

International relations, both in terms of the Library's World War I efforts and in terms of the broadening scope of its collections, is another subject of these records. The collection of materials from and exchange of publications with numerous international university, government, and local libraries is reflected, as is the recruitment to Harvard of Chinese scholar Alfred Chiu, who helped found the Harvard-Yenching Library and developed a system for the classification of Chinese and Japanese books in American libraries.

Furthermore, this collection documents aspects of social history, including the research interests of notable figures of the day such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Law Olmsted, Louis Tiffany, and Ida Tarbell, as well as aspects of women's history. Of note is the 1909 petition by female employees of the Library to receive paid vacation, which Lane supported; the discussions regarding use of the Harvard College Library by Radcliffe students and regarding female Library employees enrolling in classes at Radcliffe; and Lane's "Staff file on women," which contains subject files on numerous female employees in the Library and information about their positions, job duties, and salaries, and in certain cases, information about their personal lives.

As documented in this collection, Lane's role in shaping the physical space of Widener, the growing scope of the Library's collections, and policies for their access and use illustrate the Harvard Library's ongoing evolution into a modern and globally recognized institution.

Biographical Note

William Lane (1859-1931) was Librarian at Harvard from 1898 through 1928, and served as Librarian Emeritus from 1928 until his death in 1931. Born in Newtonville, Massachusetts, Lane attended Harvard and, upon his graduation in 1881, began work in the Ordering Department of the Harvard College Library in Gore Hall. A series of promotions followed: in 1882 he was made Superintendent of the Cataloging Department, in 1884 he was named Assistant in charge of the Harvard College Library's catalog, and in 1887 he was appointed Assistant Librarian under Librarian Justin Winsor. In 1893 Lane left the Harvard College Library to serve as Librarian of the Boston Athenaeum, but he was called back to Harvard after Justin Winsor's death in 1897, and named Librarian at Harvard in 1898. In these positions, Lane continued his predecessor's focus on acquisitions by growing the number of volumes in the Library from 200,000 to nearly 2,500,000, and refined Harvard's cataloging and classification systems. Lane also oversaw the physical transfer of the entire Library from Gore Hall to the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, opened in 1915.

Very active in professional and local organizations, Lane belonged to the American Library Association (serving as President from 1898-1899), the Bibliographic Society of America, the New England College Librarians, the Massachusetts Library Club, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Cambridge Historical Society, and the Dante Society, among others. Lane was also active on a number of committees at Harvard, and was especially instrumental in promoting the Memorial Society for Harvard men in World War I.

A respected scholar in the field of librarianship, Lane lectured at the School of Library Economy at Columbia, published widely in professional journals (a bibliography of Lane's writings appears in Harvard Library Notes Number 21), and in 1899 successfully spearheaded a campaign to elect the first professional librarian to the position of Librarian of Congress. He was awarded an honorary A.M. by Harvard upon his retirement in 1928, and upon his death, President Lowell said of him, "[Lane] was a librarian of Harvard for 30 years, to whom scholars are grateful for the accessibility of its vast collections." Lane died of a heart attack at his home in Cambridge in 1931.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in six series according to previously grouped records (superseded call numbers noted below). Files are arranged alphabetically by series. Complete alphabetical ranges appear before alphabetized subject names.
  1. General correspondence, 1897-1929
  2. Special Subject File 1: Administrative records, 1877-1928
  3. Special Subject File 2: Correspondence, 1897-1928
  4. Special Subject File 3: Serials, 1897-1928
  5. Gore Hall pamphlets, 1917
  6. Staff file on women, 1898-1917

Acquisition information

The documents in this collection are University records and were presumably acquired in the course of University business.

Related Materials

Collections in the Harvard University Archives:
  1. Harvard University. Documentary history of the library, 1773-1879 (HUF 523.6.73): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua01010
  2. Harvard College Library. Harvard College Library letters, 1826-1914 (UAIII 50.8): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua10015
  3. Harvard Memorial Society. Records of the Harvard Harvard Memorial Society, 1894-1940 and 1972-1973 (HUD 3567)

References

  • Harvard University Biographical files (i.e. "Quinquennial files"), circa 1700-. HUG 300, Harvard University Archives : http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua11009

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 July 1.
People
  1. Coolidge, Archibald Cary, 1866-1928.
  2. Lane, William Coolidge, 1859-1931.
  3. Winsor, Justin, 1831-1897.
Groups
  1. American Library Association.
  2. Harvard College Library.
  3. Library of Congress.
  4. Special Libraries Association.
Topics
  1. Academic librarians.
  2. Academic libraries--Acquisitions.
  3. Academic libraries--Administration.
  4. Academic libraries--Collection development.
  5. Academic libraries--Management.
  6. Academic libraries--Massachusetts--Cambridge.
  7. Academic libraries--Reference services.
  8. Harvard University--Libraries.
  9. Library employees.
  10. Library science.
  11. Universities and colleges--Libraries.
  12. Widener Library (Cambridge, Mass.)--Design and construction.
  13. Women--Employment--United States--History--19th century.
  14. Women--Employment--United States--History--20th century.
  15. World War, 1914-1918.
Places
  1. Cambridge (Mass.)
Formats and genres
  1. Blueprints.
  2. Brochures.
  3. Clippings.
  4. Correspondence.
  5. Photographs.

Processing Information

The processing of this material involved a collection survey; intellectual arrangement, including integration of five child collections as separate series (see superseded call numbers); and the creation of this finding aid. Due to integration of child collections, some folder notations may no longer be correct; please refer to the box labels and the folder list in this finding aid. Titles transcribed by the archivist.

This finding aid was created by Leah Edelman in April 2016.

Preservation and description of the Records of the Harvard College Library: William Coolidge Lane general files was supported by the Harvard Library's Hidden Collections initiative.
Link to catalog
Title
Harvard College Library. Records of the Harvard College Library: William Coolidge Lane general files, 1877-1929: an inventory
Author
Harvard University Archives
EAD ID
hua18016

Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

Contact:
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