Records of the Harvard College Library: William Coolidge Lane general files
24.15 cubic feet (69 document boxes)
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.
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.
- General correspondence, 1897-1929
- Special Subject File 1: Administrative records, 1877-1928
- Special Subject File 2: Correspondence, 1897-1928
- Special Subject File 3: Serials, 1897-1928
- Gore Hall pamphlets, 1917
- Staff file on women, 1898-1917
- Harvard University Biographical files (i.e. "Quinquennial files"), circa 1700-. HUG 300, Harvard University Archives :
- Coolidge, Archibald Cary, 1866-1928.
- Lane, William Coolidge, 1859-1931.
- Winsor, Justin, 1831-1897.
- American Library Association.
- Harvard College Library.
- Library of Congress.
- Special Libraries Association.
- Academic librarians.
- Academic libraries--Acquisitions.
- Academic libraries--Administration.
- Academic libraries--Collection development.
- Academic libraries--Management.
- Academic libraries--Massachusetts--Cambridge.
- Academic libraries--Reference services.
- Harvard University--Libraries.
- Library employees.
- Library science.
- Universities and colleges--Libraries.
- Widener Library (Cambridge, Mass.)--Design and construction.
- Women--Employment--United States--History--19th century.
- Women--Employment--United States--History--20th century.
- World War, 1914-1918.
- Cambridge (Mass.)
Formats and genres
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.
- Harvard College Library. Records of the Harvard College Library: William Coolidge Lane general files, 1877-1929: an inventory
- Harvard University Archives
- EAD ID
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.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA