Harvard College Library Order Department letters, 1881-1976
- Harvard College Library (Organization)
Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Permission of the University Archives is required for photocopying or publishing.
Extent160.8 cubic feet (458 document boxes, 2 legal document boxes, 2 half document boxes)
While early outgoing correspondence is represented, most of the collection consists of incoming correspondence from book agents, dealers, and other libraries or institutions, and documents the major acquisitions-related activities of the department such as buying, shipping, paying bills, and exchanging of books, periodicals, and other publications. There is much correspondence and catalogs of work for sale from agents and firms with which Harvard had long-standing relationships, such as Harrassowitz, Schoenhof, and Quaritch. Many of these agents and firms represented Harvard's investment, especially during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in international collecting. There are also requests from departmental and subject libraries for books to be purchased to aid in collection development, as well as from particular professors and students for personal research or interest.
Other material in the collection includes bound volumes of organizational material relating to the Order Department, including charts of major book agents and status of orders by year, charts of the state of funds for various subject collecting, directions regarding ordering and cataloging, lists of contact information for specific agents, and a detailed narrative of the functions of the department from 1939.
The earliest records of the Order Department date from the early 1880s, with Assistant Librarians-- including William Hopkins Tillinghast (1887-1913), William Coolidge Lane (1887-1893), and Alfred Claghorn Potter (1904-1928)-- serving as head of the department during each of their tenures. By 1939, the Order Department had expanded to maintain a staff of eleven people in different subdivisions, including the Bibliographical Division and the Executive Division. The former division held responsibility until the approval of purchase by the Librarian; this division read through requests and catalogs, maintained up to date files, prevented purchase of duplicates, and prepared orders with as much information as possible to be sent to the Librarian for approval and the seller or agent for fulfillment. The Executive Division ensured that orders were obtained rapidly, efficiently, and economically after approval of purchase by deciding on the appropriate agent, checking the received material against the bill and the original order, assigning an appropriate Library fund to pay the bill, and giving pertinent information to the Cataloging Department, where new orders were sent to be integrated into the Library's collections.
Over the broad time span of this collection, the Order Department underwent numerous changes, shifting with modernized library processes and technologies. Namely, with the growth of the Harvard Library system (which includes 72 libraries), the functions of the department were distributed amongst various staff within specific libraries, and these smaller staff units are now largely called Acquisitions or Collection Development, rather than the Order Department. Still, the essential task of acquisition remains the same.
- Blake, Robert Pierpont, 1886-1950.
- Coolidge, Archibald Cary, 1866-1928.
- Lane, William Coolidge, 1859-1931.
- Potter, Alfred Claghorn, 1867-1940.
- Tillinghast, William Hopkins, 1854-1913.
- Walton, C. E. (Clarence Eldon), 1898- .
- Winsor, Justin, 1831-1897.
- Harvard College Library.
- Academic librarians.
- Academic libraries--Massachusetts--Cambridge.
- Academic libraries--Acquisitions.
- Academic libraries--Administration.
- Academic libraries--Collection development.
- Academic libraries--Management.
- Harvard University--Libraries.
- Library employees.
- Universities and colleges--Libraries.
- Cambridge (Mass.)
Formats and genres
This finding aid was created by Leah Edelman in May 2016.
Preservation and description of the Harvard College Library Order Department letters was supported by the Harvard Library's Hidden Collections initiative.
- Harvard College Library. Harvard College Library Order Department letters, 1881-1976: 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