Veritas Huloar
Red Spacer

The Graduate and Professional School Libraries

Schlesinger Library

Print

Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

Report of Marilyn Dunn, Executive Director

The word that most accurately describes the atmosphere of the Schlesinger Library throughout the 2007–2008 academic year is energized. Translating the plans and anticipation of the previous two years into productivity has heightened our spirits and workload. During this initial year of the strategic plan, all library activities have been shaped by a commitment to realize progress on the initiatives it delineates. Work began on all fronts: 

  • to eliminate the processing backlog
  • to develop a strong communications plan
  • to begin digitization projects
  • to diversify the collections
  • to move forward on preservation

Public Service

The Public Service department welcomed and assisted researchers on more than 3,275 visits to Schlesinger Library this year. Librarians met with a wide array of classes and groups, presenting on topics that ranged from sex and gender in Victorian fiction to women and World War II. Curators cast their nets wide, with one traveling to Paris to assess and secure a highly desirable collection, the Hite Papers, and another exploring new terrain in popular culture.

Technical Processing

Materials in our processing backlog are finally flowing through the “pipeline.” Summer Unsinn, backlog serials cataloger, reports successfully providing complex cataloging for 1,047 titles. While much was accomplished in prioritizing collections and addressing the backlog, we were still in the initial stage of hiring. The library interviewed dozens of prospective candidates for positions at the Schlesinger, with the result that eight new staff have been hired and trained. Of these, four were replacements for vacant positions and four were related to the initiative to eliminate the backlog. Currently we are interviewing for six additional positions, all related to eliminating the backlog. Each search has involved at least one representative from each department in vetting the applications and selecting the interview pool as well as conducting the interviews. This approach represents an attempt to provide our staff with search experience, to invest broadly in the success of new hires, and to foster cross-department collegiality. In these efforts I have insisted upon attention to creating a more diverse workplace and am happy to say that, in a little over one year, five of the positions have been filled with candidates that offer the Schlesinger greater diversity in its workforce.

Fourteen manuscript collections were processed (ca. 266 linear ft. after processing), and ten are still in process, with several near completion. Fourteen container lists (for ca. 218 linear ft.) for newly acquired collections were also produced. Additionally, the merger of the Radcliffe Archives with the Schlesinger fostered the completion of cataloging the papers of Radcliffe College President (1972–1989) Matina Horner and at least three additional collections. Cataloging of print collections has increased, and the numbers reflect that library print catalogers created 500 more monographic records this year than last, as well as adding over 1,000 serial records to the HOLLIS catalog. When retrospective conversion of Schlesinger photograph records is combined with current cataloging of Radcliffe photos, we see an extraordinary increase in access over a short period of time. In 2005, no Schlesinger photos could be accessed in VIA; now researchers have access to just shy of 50,000 records and digital scans.

In preparation for eliminating the backlog, print collections have been prioritized this year, as manuscripts were last year. The backlog consists of approximately 12,650 titles. Technical services staff will implement a two-track movement of materials through the processing queue: a fast track for minimal processing of books commonly held, and a separate track to provide rare book cataloging with attention to the book as artifact—adding condition, binding, and provenance notes as well as other data to the record.

Communications

To place the Schlesinger’s profile prominently on the landscape and to ensure that donors of both collections and funds understand our mission and are informed of new initiatives, the Communications Office and the library’s administration developed and implemented a communications strategy. The spring issue of the Radcliffe Quarterly featured the evolving nature of contemporary libraries with a range of articles discussing collections, the history of the library, and the digital future. Additionally, the Schlesinger’s newsletter was reconceived and redesigned in a four-color format to create greater thematic unity. 

Digital Initiatives

Once Amy Benson, the Schlesinger’s new librarian for digital initiatives, was in place, reformatting projects surged forward. The Adam Matthew project to digitize travel diaries is well under way. Benson established a workflow and shepherded the process of moving materials to the Harvard College Library’s Digital Imaging Group. The Schlesinger’s new conservator, Amanda Hegarty, examined all materials and prepared preservation plans when necessary before the digitizing commenced. Over half of the designated titles for this project are now in the process of being digitized at Widener. The “born digital” project, which precedes the strategic plan but certainly aligns with it, was noted as the only known program in place to digitize blogs at a panel of leading experts at the 2008 American Library Association Annual Meeting, Trends in Technology. 

Acquisitions

This year’s purchases include many superb antiquarian titles documenting women and social movements of the 19th and early 20th century. Titles include Susan Glaspell’s A Jury of Her Peers (1927); R. D. Fulton’s The True Woman: A Series of Discourses (first edition 1869); James Gannon’s Bank Accounts for Women (1888); and Edith Wharton’s Italian Backgrounds with the original decorated and signed bindings by Margaret Armstrong (1905). Three important gift collections of culinary materials were received, and several new journals and select comics fill our shelves. The library was also very pleased to be a part of a collaborative effort with Widener Library in purchasing the Gerritsen Collection, a digital selection of over 400 books and 700 periodicals that document the international struggle for women’s rights from 1543 to 1945. 

The Shere Hite Papers were acquired this year, ending a four-year effort by the manuscript curator to obtain this extraordinary international collection of questionnaires on female sexuality, amassed while researching the Hite Report published in the ’70s. Other collections of note include the Alice Rossi papers, the records of Persephone Press, and the extensive work of noted feminist photographer Ann P. Meredith. In support of the diversity initiative, the manuscript curator contacted over 80 women who fall into the categories of conservative women or African-American women. Responses are beginning to arrive and in the next year we hope to have positive results to report.

Oral History

A new approach to oral history began this year with the library sponsoring researchers to undertake oral history, such as a NOW (National Organization for Women) project to interview women at the state level about their grassroots activism and state NOW organizations. Additional awards were made in the grants process on topics such as Women in the Black Nationalism Movement. Ruth Hill, oral history curator, is a resource for the scholars going forth, providing expertise on technique and legal guidelines. Ruth has continued working on long-term projects and has spent considerable time indexing the Horner Years material.

Research and Learning

With Nancy Cott in the lead, several groups were drawn to the library for research and learning. The Library and Institute sponsored

  • the second annual Summer Seminar on Gender History: Sequels to the 1960s;
  • the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Summer Seminar on 20th-Century Women’s Rights Movements for high-school teachers; and
  • the Boston Seminar on the History of Women and Gender (cosponsored with the Massachusetts Historical Society).

The library was very pleased by the enormously positive responses these events elicited from the participants.

The Schlesinger Library sponsors research grants for those using the library’s holdings. Carol K. Pforzheimer Student Fellowships support Harvard undergraduate study. Research support grants are open to faculty from any college or university and to independent scholars. Dissertation grants are open to scholars who are enrolled in a doctoral program in a relevant field, have completed their coursework toward the doctoral degree, and have an approved dissertation topic by the time the application is submitted. The library also sponsors oral history grants, which are open to scholars who are conducting oral history interviews.

Under Professor Cott’s leadership, the Schlesinger awarded 43 grants and fellowships to researchers doing work on such topics as A Brooklyn Enigma: The Controversial Disabilities and Mystical Abilities of Mollie Fancher (1850–1916); Sisters! Revolution Is Here!: Women’s Leadership and the Black Power Movement; and A Discursive Genealogy of the Impossible Black Lesbian Subject.

Professor Cott also arranged academic programming that included “Guts, Greyhounds, and Gandhi: Pauli Murray’s Civil Rights Movement, 1935–1973,” and Glenda Gilmore’s lecture on Pauli Murray, an African-American attorney, educator, and minister. Another program featured a presentation on graphic narratives by Hillary Chute, which dovetailed nicely with efforts to include more popular culture. This year’s Rothschild Lecture, featuring Adrienne Rich reading and commenting on her poetry, filled the rafters of the Radcliffe Gymnasium.

Exhibitions

Exhibitions drew new faces to the Library. Little Lulu at the Library, an exhibition of the collection of the first woman comic, Marge Buell, went up in October; and a second exhibition mounted in March. Women of Spirit: Religion, Voice, and Social Justice complemented the Institute’s Gender Conference on Women and Religion.

Schlesinger Library Council

The library council met twice in FY 2008, and their agendas included discussions of the high cost of collections and considerations for charting a course in this new environment. In the spring, the council visited HCL’s Digital Imaging Group to see firsthand how materials are handled in the reformatting process and to be introduced to the systems that run our digital programs.

Conclusion

Throughout FY 2008, progress has been made across all areas of the Schlesinger’s strategic plan. To achieve this, the library collaborated significantly with other members of the Institute’s professional staff. Programming has been aligned with new collecting initiatives, and many staff members were involved in outreach to the communities that the library seeks to document more widely. All in all, this has been a very productive year.