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REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE LIBRARY AND CABINET.
The Library, in all its departments, and the Cabinet have been most courteously shown to your Committee by Dr. Green and his assistants and by Mr. Norcross. We wish, also, to acknowledge our indebtedness to the valuable report made by Mr. Swift and his colleagues of the Library and Cabinet Committee of last year. Their suggestions form the basis of many of our recommendations, and in particular we are in hearty accord with the policy of progressive yet conservative expansion of the usefulness of the Society wbich is urged in the closing paragraph of their report.
With respect to the arrangement and security of our valuable collection of books and pamphlets your Committee is glad to announce that very important improvements have been accomplished during the past year. The large room over the Dowse Library has been equipped with modern steel shelving, and a considerable collection of the books in most frequent use has been conveniently installed there. Abundant space is also afforded for work-tables for those who may need to make use of the volumes in this room. material improvement has been accomplished in the arrangement of the Society's large collection of pamphlets and old periodicals on the steel shelves of the rooms recently relinquished by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Committee finds the pamphlets well and conveniently housed, and the general neatness and order of these storage rooms is most satisfactory. With the exception of a collection of government publications still occupying wooden cases in one of the basement rooms, the Committee is glad to report that all the books and pamphlets of the Society are now conveniently arranged on modern fire-proof shelving. By way of additional security, however, particularly in the basement room aforesaid, where even a small fire might, through smoke, do great damage to the general contents of the building, your Committee is of opinion that two or three hand fire extinguishers should be purchased and kept in places convenient for emergency use.
The preservation of valuable books is unfortunately not completely assured even after danger from fire and from dampness is excluded. In our extremely dry atmosphere, made still
drier by the high temperature artificially maintained, the deterioration of leather bindings is exceptionally rapid. Your Committee has found not a few of the backs of the finely bound mss. and books in the Waterston and Dowse collections already cracked, and most of the remainder in a condition to crack almost as soon as the volumes are opened. We feel that it is extremely important that no time should be lost in having these bindings treated by an expert in one of the renovating processes now in use. If this is done immediately, it will probably still be practicable in most cases to restore the full strength and durability of the leather.
Besides caring for the security and convenient arrangement of its collections, good library management demands the prompt rejection and disposal of useless duplicates and of such books and pamphlets as are not germane to the interests and purposes for which the collection is maintained. In a library formed like ours, very largely through gifts in bulk, such extraneous matter tends to accumulate with great rapidity. These accumulations, not worthy of a place on the shelves of the library and ordinarily heaped up on its floors or stored away in the basement, form a useless incumbrance, diminishing the orderliness and convenience of the rooms and very materially increasing the dangers from fire. Some progress has recently been made in disposing of matter of this kind, as recommended by the Library Committee of last year, but much still remains to be done. We recommend that lists be prepared by the Librarian's assistants of such duplicates or extraneous matter as may be of special value, and in particular of duplicate copies of early newspapers and pamphlets, together with lists of such missing numbers of newspapers and periodicals as may be needed to complete important files in our collection, and that copies of both lists be circulated, with a view to the negotiation of exchanges, among the leading libraries and historical societies of the country. As for those duplicates and other superfluous accumulations which possess small money value or none at all, we agree with the Committee of last year in recommending that they be sold, given, or thrown away, as may prove practicable, with the least possible delay; and inasmuch as a decision as to what is, or is not, of value for the purposes of the Society is sometimes a rather difficult matter, we suggest that the whole
subject be referred to the special committee to be mentioned below.
What we have said thus far concerns mainly the security and arrangement of the library as a repository of historical material, but, in addition to the duty of preserving our collections, your Committee assumes that it is the purpose of the Society that its library and rooms should afford adequate opportunities of research to the historical investigator, by providing him with the usual facilities for his work, and should also serve as a centre of historical studies and historical scholarship in the community. We believe that these important ends are at present far less adequately attained than is desirable or than the means and opportunities of the Society fully warrant.
One of the first things which impressed the Committee in its survey of the library is the absence of a proper readingroom. The only available working place offered to the investigator who desires to consult manuscripts or other material in the Society's collections appears to be a seat at an overloaded table in the Librarian's room, facing a glaring light and incommoded by the conversation ‘and other interruptions unavoidable in an administrative office. If he wishes to consult current historical periodicals, he will find practically none of them, and if he wishes to make ose of atlases or books of reference he will find but few, and most of those entirely out of date. The Society has hitherto depended for the increase of its library almost wholly upon the liberality of members and upon gifts from outsiders who possess curious or historical material worthy of preservation. There have never been to any extent systematic purchases calculated to procure the books of reference necessary to the worker. The gazetteer on our shelves was published in 1862. The latest atlas is a general atlas published in 1876; both were good authorities in their day, but have long since been superseded. Until recently there was no general history of modern times in which the ordinary dates of events and names of rulers could be found. There is even now no good encyclopædia on our shelves.
In addition to the need of an adequate collection of works of reference, of the leading modern historical authorities, and of periodical publications, we feel that there is another im
portant department in which special efforts are needed to bring our library to a proper standard of usefulness. While the Society has entered into exchange relations with leading historical societies in other parts of this country, but little systematic effort seems to have been made to establish such relations with similar organizations abroad, more especially in England. These societies have, however, in many cases shown great activity and scholarship in publishing material useful to an understanding of American history. Occupying the position it does, it seems probable that our Society could obtain whatever it may desire of current publications of this character by way of exchange and in regular procedure, but those already some years in print would probably have to be obtained, as heretofore, by purchase. Our library contains, for example, a partial set of the publications of the Hakluyt Society and the Camden Society, both of them secured by purchase, at long intervals of time; but since the Camden Society was merged into the Royal Historical Society, the acquisition of its publications has not been continued. Two or three volumes of the Naval Record Society, the Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, and a partial set of “Archæologia” comprise what the Society holds of this great mass of valuable publications. The English, French, German and Dutch governments have been printing their records, some of which relate to the United States, and all of which would naturally be looked for in a well-equipped historical library. Some effort is being made to repair our deficiencies, but your Committee recognizes that it will be long before the Society can be congratulated upon any strength in this department. We believe, however, that it would be of distinct advantage to the Society to enter into close relations with historical bodies abroad.
In conclusion, your Committee considers that the time has come when the Society should appropriate and expend a reasonable sum in remedying the deficiencies mentioned in this report and for the general improvement of the library, and that hereafter a stated amount should be expended annually in continuing this improvement. Moreover, since there is in Boston no place in which a good collection of the more important historical periodicals can be consulted, excepting the overcrowded and ill-ventilated Newspaper and Peri
odical Room of the Public Library, we urge that for the ordinary convenience of members, as well as for the needs of special investigators, the Society establish and maintain, on one of the two lower floors of its building, a reading room, equipped with suitable desks and tables and provided, in addition to the more important works of reference, with current numbers of the leading historical reviews and periodicals, American and foreign.
Should the foregoing recommendations toward extending the usefulness of the Library be adopted, there would obviously be imposed upon some one a considerable burden of new work -- far more than we should think it proper to suggest as an addition to the Librarian's present duties.
We would recommend, therefore, the creation of a Library Committee consisting of three members, to be appointed by the President and to have general charge, subject to the ratification of the Council, of planning the new arrangements, of drawing up lists of books and periodicals for purchase or exchange, of providing suitable furniture and equipment, and of carrying out the other recommendations of this Report. In the selection of this committee we beg to suggest that the interests, respectively, of local history, of American history, and of foreign and general historical literature ought severally to be considered.
With regard to the Cabinet the Committee again notes the overcrowded condition often mentioned in former reports, but having no new recommendations of importance to make, and having given so much time to what seems to us the more important matter of the improvement of our library facilities, we merely call attention once more, as worthy of the consideration of the Council, to the suggestions for enlargement by building out an additional room, or an addition to the present room, to be lighted from above; for a summer exhibition of the more interesting pictures and relics in the large room on the lower floor; for the election to our membership and appointment as Curator of Coins, under the general supervision of the Cabinet-Keeper, of some expert on coins, in particular on American issues, who shall seem in other respects also well qualified for membership in the Society. The suggestion that a certain number of foreign coins in our collection might properly be dis