The Princeton Library
Report of the President
Libraries have a particularly powerful hold on many of us, and in beginning this annual report I wish to acknowledge my own debt to both Firestone Library at Princeton, where I have worked as a graduate student and as a faculty member, and to Doane Library at Denison University where I studied as an undergraduate.
It has been said that all of us are autobiographical when it comes to writing about education, and I am certainly no exception to that generalization. As an undergraduate, I spent many of my most rewarding hours in the Denison library, and to this day I remember vividly the arrangement of the stacks, the place where I worked, and the inscription that I passed each time I entered the building:
Books are the treasured wealth of the world
The fit inheritance of generations and nations.
Thomas Carlyle once said that the true university is a collection of books. While the spirit of Carlyle's observation remains valid, the information explosion that has occurred in the twentieth century has made is impossible to think of any one library as the repository of all the resources needed by a scholar in pursuit of knowledge. Indeed, the modern research library has reached an important crossroads in evolution. Caught up in the profound changes that are revolutionizing the collection and dissemination of information throughout society, it is compelled to reassess and redefine its role. The library is under significant pressure not only to change, but to accelerate its rate of change; otherwise, it may not remain the vital center of university life.
Although the particular circumstances of Princeton's library system have been determined to no small extent by local history and tradition, they are to a much larger extent a reflection of forces affecting all research libraries. It seems appropriate, therefore, to devote this annual report to the changes that the library has undergone (especially in the past fifteen years) and to the challenges confronting all libraries seeking to address problems that are genuinely complex- that are philosophical no less then financial and technological.
The Role of the Library
As It Reflects a Philosophy of Education
The role of the library within a college or university can be understood only in the context of the institution's philosophy of education. While that statement is no doubt true generally, it merits special emphasis at Princeton. The particular shape and character of our library system reflects this University's distinctive characteristics: the close integration of faculty scholarship and research with graduate and undergraduate teaching, and the heavy emphasis placed on independent work (especially the senior thesis for undergraduates and research papers as well as the Ph.D. dissertation for graduate students).
This same interdependence is evident in even the broadest outline of the evolution of the library and the college from their earliest days. The initial library at Princeton was a personal gift of 474 books made by New Jersey's Royal Governor, Jonathan Belcher, in 1750. A second floor room in Nassau Hall housed the collection, and the educational philosophy of the early college, as it affected the library, was stated eloquently by President Samuel Davies in the first printed catalog (1760), which he compiled himself:
In its emphasis on independent study, an atmosphere of free thought, and the integration of the library into teaching and course work, President Davies' statement captures the ideals that have guided the development of Princeton's library to modern times. Those ideals were, however, far from realized through most of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
After a fire destroyed the interior of Nassau Hall in 1802, the collection was rebuilt, enlarged, and moved to Stanhope Hall when the building was completed the following year. More than fifty years later, a wing was added to the rear of Nassau Hall (now the Faculty Room) specifically for the collections, and the library was thus returned to its original home in 1860.
But progress in developing the library had been excruciatingly slow. Soon after his arrival in 1868 to become president of the college, James McCosh complained to the Trustees that the library was "insufficiently supplied with books and open only once a week ... for one hour. "McCosh is largely credited with creating the modern library at Princeton. Under his administration, the library was open every day except Sunday; the first full-time professional librarian, Fredrick Vinton (who was brought from the Library of Congress), was employed; and a new building, Chancellor Green Library, was constructed in 1873 solely for the purpose of housing the expanding library collection. This last event laid the scholarly foundation for the transformation of the College of New Jersey into Princeton University.
As the University developed in the early years of the twentieth century, the establishment and growth of the graduate college under the leadership of Dean Andrew Fleming West required major strengthening of the library collections. In addition, two important innovations in undergraduate instruction had occurred that were to have lasting effects on the library: the introduction of the preceptoiral mode of instruction and the development of a new upperclass plan of independent study. Greater emphasis was placed on critical thinking, and students were given more extensive writing assignments that required an appreciation of the nature of scholarship. The consequences were dramatic: Ten years after the introduction of the independent study plan in 1923, for example, the circulation of library books had tripled, and there was a growing demand for work space within the library for both students and faculty.
Their trends culminated eventually in a bold new plan for a library that would serve as a "laboratory of the humanities." Until that time, the typical library building was warehouselike in structure, its reading room cavernous and poorly lighted, and its stacks closed to students. In contrast, Firestone Library was planned in the late 1940's as the biggest open-stack library in the world, a teaching library that would bring students, faculty, and books together in ways that would encourage learning, intensive scholarship, and casual browsing. With more than two thousand study seats dispersed throughout the stacks and in several reading rooms, the plan achieved a function commingling of space that was part of a revolution in university library architecture at that time. Firestone quickly became a model for other library buildings around the nation.
Princeton's library system has continued to develop in response to the ever-expanding research interests of faculty and graduate students, and the library's collections have become both larger and more distinguished as fields of study have matured. No university of any standing can function at a high level of accomplishment without a strong library. In a famous and oft-quoted statement by the University Grants Committee of Great Britain in 1981, the condition of a university's library was taken to be the most revealing measure of institutional quality: "The character and efficiency of a university may be gauged by its treatment of its central organ- the library. We regard the fullest provision for library maintenance as the primary and most vital need in the equipment of a university." In recent years, meeting that test has proved exceedingly difficult- but certainly no less important.
The present-day importance of the library to the undergraduate program of study at Princeton was stressed by Professor Robert Tignor, chairman of the Department of history, in his most recent annual report:
Graduate students are in many ways especially dependent on the library. It is noteworthy, for instance, that many departments in the humanities and social sciences hold their graduate seminars in Firestone Library. The graduate study rooms are also located there, immediately adjacent to the principal book collections, with the result that in these disciplines the lives of graduate students revolve around the library as completely as those of science students revolve around their laboratories. The blackboards and bulletin boards of the study rooms often provide the common message center for graduate students, and the various areas of Firestone Library have their distinctive cultures.
The Princeton library also attracts visiting faculty and visiting fellows from around the world who value the opportunity to work in such an excellent research facility in close proximity with leading scholars. One professor of military history from England who spent a term in residence as a fellow in the Shelby Cullom David Center for Historical Studies paid special tribute to what he called "the treasure house of the Firestone Library," and I know he spoke for many in praising the advantages of "so large a library maintaining an open shelf system. The role of the library and its staff as active participants in the learning process was a favorite theme of William S. Dix, who served with such distinction as head librarian from 1953 to 1975. He once wrote:
The Princeton Library Today: Essential Facts and Characteristics
Present-day Size and Scale.
From its original 474 books, Princeton's library has grown to a collection of 3.7 million volumes (including 2.2 million monographs and 1.5 million bound journals), approximately 10 million manuscripts, and small but enormously distinguished holdings of prints and coins, as well as phonograph records, microfilms, microfiche, micro prints, maps and various other artifacts, including a superb collection of death masks.
While the Harvey S. Firestone Library is of course the dominant element in Princeton's library system, with fifty-five miles of shelf space, it houses today just two thirds of all items catalogued. There are also twenty-two branch libraries, which have been located throughout the campus in close physical proximity to relevant departments for the convenience of users and to encourage the greatest possible integration of teaching, learning, and research.
Several of these branch libraries, such as the Marquand Library of Art (established in 1908 as the first formal departmental library), the Gest Oriental Library (established in 1971), and the Mathematics/Physics Library in Fine Hall (established in 1931), enjoy international reputations of their own. Other libraries include the Astronomy Library in Peyton Hall; the Biology and Geology Libraries in Guyot; the Chemistry Library in Frick; the Engineering Library; the Forrestal Library; the Near East Collection in Jones-Palmer Hall; the Plasma Physics Library; the Population Research Library in Notestein Hall; the Psychology Library in Green Hall; the Seeler G. Mudd Manuscript Library; the School of Architecture Library; and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs Library. In addition, branch libraries in the residential colleges contain general collections and provide additional study areas.
The library has grown from a staff of eight in 1900 to a full-time complement of about 335, including many highly trained professionals. There are, in addition, 350 part-time staff members, most of whom are students. One person appointed to the staff recently was fluent enough in twenty-two languages to be able to catalog items in each. (The library routinely catalogs in 52 languages). Advanced and advancing technologies are also having obvious effect on the skills and training needed by library staff members.
Princeton's library ranks eighteenth in a total size of collections among U.S. and Canadian university libraries. But this statistic alone can be misleading because of the absence on our campus of schools of law, medicine, business, or agriculture, each of which requires considerable library holdings. Of particular interest is the fact that Princeton has the highest per student circulation of books of any university in the country (possibly in the world): 113 books per student per year.
A Typical Day for the Library
A somewhat sharper sense of the range-and magnitude-of activities at the library can be gleaned from a simple listing of occurrences on an average day. The library system opened its doors at 8:00 A.M., and by 2:00 A.M. the next morning (closing time):
- 3,355 persons entered Firestone;
-3,993 books were circulated;
-700 students used some of the 11,000 books on reserve in Firestone;
-134 questions were answered by librarians on duty in the Reference Room and at the reference desk;
-222 titles were catalogued;
-2,663 catalog cards were filed in 40 different public catalogs (which in aggregate already held some 10 million cards);
-178 books were ordered and 24 books were discarded;
-11,494 pieces of mail were handled, and 1,341 serial items (books and journals) in many different languages were received;
-3,529 books were reshelved in 95 distinct sequences;
-388 books had ownership plates put in them, and 208 books were sent to the bindery;
-49 books were restored in the Preservation Unit;
-1.4 hours were spent by reference librarians at terminals connected to computer databases around the country;
-17,796 pages of photocopy and 438 frames of microfilm were made;
-27 items were loaned to other libraries and 21 volumes borrowed for Princeton users through the Interlibrary Loan Service.
There are a number of fields in which Princeton's collections are unusually rich, ranking among the best five or six in the country. These include art and archaeology, classics, medieval and Renaissance studies, English and American literature, American and European history (including especially twentieth-century American history), population research, East Asian studies, Near Eastern Studies, mathematics, physics, and plasma physics.
The University library also contains several unique collections that have developed over the years into very distinguished holdings deserving of special notice. In almost every instance, the growth of these collections has depended upon specific benefactors. Although it is not possible in this report to do much more than mention their existence, these unique scholarly resources constitute one of the major attractions of Princeton for scholars from all over the world. They include:
- The Graphic Arts Collection, consisting of over 10,000 books and 25,000 prints and drawings. The collection includes the Dard Hunter Archive on the history of paper; the Adler Collection of American prints; the Hamilton Collection of American illustrated books from 1670 to 1870; and the Leonard Milberg Collection of early American city views.
- The Theatre Collection, with 12,000 volumes and 100 current subscriptions. Of special note are the Warner Bros. Archives and Princeton's theatrical archives, which include playbills, broadsides, posters, scrapbooks and photographs, scripts and cassettes of musical shows, set and costume designs, acting scripts, and piano-vocal scores of various productions dating back to the nineteenth century.
- The Pliny Fish Library of Economics and Finance, contain the original Pliny Fisk Collection of railroad and corporation finance given to the University in 1915, as well as a collection of 5,485 reference books (bibliographies, indexes, statistical handbooks), 6,000 working papers, current issues of 952 journals in economics, and over 800 corporate annual reports.
- Twentieth-Century Manuscripts in the Field of American Statecraft and Public Policy, a collection containing correspondence, speeches, clippings, tape and phonograph recordings, and photographs from, among others, the papers of John Foster Dulles, Adlai E. Stevenson, James V. Forrestal, Allen W. Dulles, Bernard Baruch, John Marshall Harlan, George Kennan, and David E. Lilienthal.
- The Miriam Y. Holden Collection on the history of women, consisting of 3,00 volumes, as well as clippings, photographs and lithographs, cartoons, periodicals, letters, and manuscripts in the field of women's studies.
- The Rare Book Collection, containing 153,000 volumes from all periods, including in the classics the Junius S. Morgan Vergil Collection and the Robert W. Patterson Horace Collection; in American history the Grenville Kane Collection in early voyages and colonization, the Philip A. Rollins Collection of Western Americana, and the John S. Pierson Collection of Victorian novelists, the Rossette Collection of Janet Camp Troxell, the J. Harlink O'Connell Nineties Collection, and the Gallatin Beardsley Collection . . . .
- The William Scheide '36 Library, comprising 3,000 exceedingly rare books and manuscripts in many fields, including, for example, the Gutenberg Bible, the first edition of Pilgrim's Progress, and a pristine copy of the first printing of the Declaration of Independence.
One last characteristic of the Princeton library system has to be mentioned: its extraordinary cost. The annual operating budget of the library this year is $12.9 million. This represents 7.5 percent of the University's entire budget for "educational and general expenditures," and by this measure Princeton ranks highest among 110 research libraries for which comparable data is available. (The corresponding figures at Yale and Rutgers, to take two other examples, were 4.2 percent and 3.3 percent respectively in the most recent Association of Research Libraries report.) The heavy capital costs of space are of course additional- and, at times, daunting in and of themselves.
National and International Dimensions
The Princeton library system operates within a much larger context of scholarly publication, library consortia, and sweeping changes in technology that affect all institutions involved with storing, analyzing, and retrieving information. From every perspective, the events of the last few decades have increased interdependence among libraries concerned with research.
At Princeton, we have long encouraged interlibrary cooperation, and we have participated in many national efforts to extend local collections through shared resources. Julian P. Boyd, Princeton librarian from 1940 to 1952, observed as long ago as 1940: "The fallacy of an impossible completeness in any one library should be abandoned in theory and practice; librarians should now think in terms of 'completeness' for the library resources of the whole country." He was an active member of the group that established the "Farmington Plan," a program designed to bring U.S. libraries one copy of every book of potential research interest that was published anywhere in the world and to make catalog information for all books available through the National Union Catalogue. In the same spirit, Boyd's predecessor, Ernest C. Richardson, had been instrumental in establishing a plan for cooperative cataloging at the Library of Congress; Boyd's successor, William S. Dix, helped create the congressional legislation in 1964 (known as the "Dix Amendment") that funded the national cataloging program that finally achieved Richardson's objective.
Those unfamiliar with Richardson's role in stimulating the development of the Library of Congress system will regard mention of his name in the context of standardization as somewhat ironic. It is, after all, the continuing presence of the unique "Richardson Classification" system in parts of the Princeton library that to this day causes such distress to unwary students as well as established scholars. At about the turn of the century, when there was no standardized system, Librarian Richardson developed a classification tailored specifically to Princeton's needs. When the Library of Congress began producing inexpensive cards carrying its own call numbers, and maintaining complete classification schedules for use in other catalogs (about 1920), that system was adopted generally for its obvious advantages.
At most large research libraries, including Princeton, the Library of Congress system was adopted in selected fields without reclassifying material already on the shelf. New acquisitions were classified using the Library of Congress system, and the two systems were integrated in the catalog. Total reclassification of all books, which would have been costly and slow in a system containing 6 million catalog cards, was not undertaken here (or at a number of other major research libraries) because the cost was thought to be prohibitive.
In the late 1940s, research libraries began working together to develop alternative ways to augment traditional library collections. One of the most impressive early accomplishments was the formation of the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), which was founded in 1949 by ten major midwestern libraries. The CRL is best described as a cooperative library for libraries, intended to supplement member collections. Now an international association, the Center for Research Libraries has more than 180 members, including Princeton, and houses 3 million research-oriented books and materials that are readily accessible by interlibrary loan.
In 1979 Princeton became the seventh member of the Research Libraries Group (RLG), which was formed in 1974 for the express purpose of exploring ways in which computer-based systems might be used to establish a bibliographic processing system for research libraries. RLG has four main objectives: to ensure that published material of research value will be acquired by at least one member institution; to provide easy access to other collection and to expedite the sharing of resources; to encourage preservation projects among members, including the coordination of advances in preservation technologies; and to provide automated catalog management.
Let me give one specific example of the advantages of this kind of national enterprise. Under a $1 million grant from the Mellon and Ford Foundations and from the National Endowment for the Humanities, RLG undertook a project to develop an integrated component for the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) that would have the capacity to handle Chinese, Japanese, and Korean scripts. Since 1983, this first electronic bibliographic system to include the direct use of East Asian characters has been available in Princeton's East Asian Library.
Princeton also participates in the Research Library Centers of New Jersey, a network through which our collections are made available to the population of the state. As a resource center, Princeton's library provides support to local and area libraries, supplying materials that are too infrequently requested to be found elsewhere and providing reference information in specialty areas.
In a further effort to be sure that unique sources of scholarly materials in the library are known to a wider audience, the Friends of the Princeton Library publish the Princeton University Library Chronicle. This publication contains full descriptions and comprehensive lists of rare books and esoteric materials acquired by the library. It is sent to some 343 institutions all over the world.
No library can pretend to be totally self-sufficient in today's environment, and interlibrary networking is essential. In conjunction with independent research libraries such as the Morgan, Newberry, and Folger Libraries, major university libraries have begun to think in terms of a "national" library collection. Through cooperative efforts of various kinds, scholars can be assured of access to the fullest possible set of research materials, and libraries can alleviate at least some pressure on tight budgets.
As advances in technology are perfected, the possibilities for cooperation are increased. But whatever our success in developing a national equivalent of Carlyle's "collection of books," there is no way to evade the hard questions that face the Princeton library now, as it works to serve its own community while simultaneously participating actively in national and international efforts that hold great promise for the future.
The remainder of this report discusses four issues that are pressing ones for us: (1) managing the growth of the collections; (2) preserving library materials; (3) incorporating new technologies; and (4) space planning.
Issues in the 1980s- And Beyond
Acquisitions: Managing the Growth of the Collections
Long-Term Trends. Throughout almost all of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the principal problem for college libraries was the task of increasing their holdings rapidly in order to create at least the nucleus of a collection. Acquisitions problems of course persist: It is critically important today that a library such as Princeton's buy new publications and make retrospective purchases. Our situation is radically different, however, in that a very substantial "nucleus" exists and a reasonable "steady state" of annual purchases is fully maintained. Nonetheless, the accumulated size of the base collection, the current volume of scholarly publication, and the rate of purchases combine to raise difficult problems of how the library can afford- and can manage- even larger collections.
Some historical perspective is instructive. It took Princeton almost two hundred years to acquire its first million books (in 1947); it took only twenty years to acquire its second million (in 1967); ten years were needed to acquire its third million (in 1977); and we are now about to acquire our four millionth book.
The phenomenal postwar increase in acquisitions- compounded by the still faster growth in other forms of library materials- is in part a reflection of the growth of knowledge and of publications worldwide (see figure 1). But it also reflects the transformation of Princeton into a major research university with graduate programs as well as undergraduate programs of the highest quality. And it reflects too the importance this University- and its many generous donors- have attached to providing the necessary resources.
Growth in book collections is, by the very nature of scholarship, difficult to contain. Expansion is required by the appointment of a professor with special interests within a particular field, the addition to the curriculum of new departments and new programs, and increases in the volume of literature in each field. Consider, for example, the growth of the Gest Oriental Library. In 1957, it had 139,855 volumes; by 1971, when the Program in East Asian Studies was introduced into the curriculum, the collection had almost doubled (248,621 volumes). Now the collection contains almost 400,000 volumes (the fifth largest East Asian collection in the United States), and it is considered by scholars worldwide to be one of the great collections of East Asian works outside of Asia. The richer a library's holdings, the more they contribute to research and to teaching- and that success in turn generates demands for additional volumes from growing numbers of users.
Financial Pressures and Acquisitions. The general problem of deciding on an appropriate level of acquisitions and of managing the growth of collections can be illustrated by reviewing briefly our experience over the last thirty years or so- the last fifteen of which have been particularly trying and traumatic for librarians and library users alike.
In the 1960s (the "golden days" of university finance, as some refer to the first two thirds of that decade and the latter half of the 1950s), many university budgets were balanced rather comfortably; both private and government support for higher education and for research was burgeoning, real income in the country was rising steadily, and the growth of libraries was taken for granted. Reasonably stable prices facilitated the acquisition of books, and increased resources meant rapid growth- albeit sometimes rather undisciplined growth- in space, in staff, and in collections.
At Princeton, the library system was given exceptionally high marks for its collections, for its acquisition policies, and for essentially all aspects of its operations. In 1968, the Special Committee on University Governance (the "Kelley Committee") found that 78 percent of the faculty rated their degree of satisfaction with the library as "high." In fact, the library received a more favorable rating than any other part of the University.
By 1977, the situation had changed markedly. In the 1970's, libraries were affected severely by the economic pressures that beset universities generally. These pressures mandated reductions in library budgets (or at least slower rates of increase) at the same time that prices of library materials and salaries were escalating in the face of double-digit inflation.
As a result, significant numbers of new books were not acquired because of lack of funds, and retrospective buying to fill in gaps in collections was also restricted. Moreover, the cutbacks in both of these areas were quite unevenly distributed, with several fields of study affected disproportionately. (The informal nature of internal budgeting procedures within the library was one part of the explanation for this unevenness.) In addition, theft and mutilation of books had become serious problems at all major libraries, including ours.
Given this combination of circumstances, it is hardly surprising that satisfaction with the library declined significantly. The situation was so serious that we convened a Special Faculty Committee on Library Acquisitions and Losses to investigate the problems and to make recommendations for addressing them before permanent damage was done to key collections. The committee found that while expenditures for book acquisitions had continued to rise in the early 1970s, the rate of increase had been inadequate to prevent a significant decline in the number of new books added to the collections. The librarian's best estimates show that the annual acquisition levels were fairly steady at about 65,000 to 68,000 books per year until 1976-78, when they suddenly dropped to about 52,000 to 54,000.
The committee observed that changes in publication patterns and in the prices of both books and serials had contributed mightily to Princeton's problems. Whereas the rate of publication of monographs had leveled off in the early 1970's, the number of serials published continued to increase. In the University library, the average price per book rose 75 percent between 1970 and 1976, and the prices of serials rose even more rapidly. The need to maintain an uninterrupted flow of serial purchases, particularly in areas of science and engineering where price increases were especially pronounced, produced a sharp increase in the proportion of the acquisitions budget devoted to serials: from 29 percent to 46 percent. Simultaneously, the proportion of the acquisitions budget used by the humanities and social sciences fell from 77 percent in 1970 to 61 percent in 1976.
Several emergency measures were taken in 1978. The Trustees assigned an additional $3 million of endowment to support acquisitions, and appropriations from general funds were also increased sharply. Two general objectives were to restore book acquisitions to the level that had prevailed earlier and to establish separate budgets for monographs and serials.
It was decided that Princeton would relate its level acquisitions to the overall volume of book publication in the United States and the United Kingdom, assuming that these publication numbers would serve as a rough index of the world output of scholarly books and that Princeton's "acquisitions share" of this total should not be diminished. These objectives have been accomplished, although at very substantial cost: The acquisitions budget has gone from $1,143,224 in 1971-72 to $3,557,000 in the current year. It is estimated that about 69,000 new monographs will be acquired this year (not including over 6,500 volumes from the private collections of Robert Taylor '30 and Howard Behrman).
Our determination to maintain the policies recommended by the special faculty committee was put to a severe test in 1979-80, when University-wide budget reductions were required. The book budget was protected, although provision was made for a selective reduction in serial acquisitions ($50,000 per year for three years). More recently the budget for 1985-86 provided a 10 percent increase in funds available for acquisitions. The acquisitions budget for 1986-87 will increase at the slightly more modest rate of about 8 percent as a result of a slowing in the rate of increase of book and serials prices. (It should be noted, however, that even this slower rate of increase is twice the rate of increase in the Consumer Price Index and greater than the increase in student charges.)
Of course, Princeton was by no means alone in having to cope with the financial pressures of the 1970's, and in fact this university managed to achieve larger increases in expenditures for acquisitions than did most other research universities. Of the six universities for which data are presented on Table 1, only Harvard increased its acquisitions budget more rapidly than Princeton over the ten years from 1971-72 to 1981-82.
One important, if obvious lesson from Princeton's experience in the 1970s is the changing nature of library management and the need to be every bit as rigorous in allocating funds within the library as within every other organizational unit of the University. All of the struggles with the acquisitions budget that occurred in the 1970s drove home the need for a far more sophisticated budgeting system designed to prevent unintended declines in acquisitions in certain areas and, at the same time, to prevent overbuying in one area at the expense of another.
Under the new system now in place, forty-five full- and part-time selectors (many with advanced degrees) work directly with departments and are responsible for making informed choices and being aware of the particular needs of various fields of study. Fortunately, there is now both greater control and more flexibility in the management of acquisitions, and we can therefore be more confident that every dollar is being used effectively. In this important sense, the real purchasing power of the acquisitions budget has gone up even more significantly than the dollar figures (impressive as they are) would suggest.
The Decision to Limit Access to the Collections.
More stringent measures have also been taken in recent years to limit access to the collections. Following a great deal of discussion, the Faculty Committee on the Library issued a report in April 1982 recommending that new steps be taken to limit access to the collections in Firestone to members of the University community and others granted special permission. (Previously the library and its stacks were completely open to anyone.) This recommendation was adopted most reluctantly, because the University has always wanted its collections to be available to a wide array of users. That continues to be an important objective for us. Nonetheless, a combination of considerations led the committees to conclude that the case for imposing some limit on access was compelling.
First, as was mentioned earlier, the problem with providing enough resources to make the requisite number of new acquisitions was compounded in the 1970s by the mounting tide of loss, mutilation, and theft that plagued university research libraries nationwide. The American Library Association estimated the losses for its member libraries to be in excess of $250 million annually in the mid-1970s. A systematic inventory of the Princeton collections made in 1976-77 revealed that 10 percent of the branch collections and 5 percent of the Firestone collections could not be found, with the total of presumed losses amounting to 150,000 volumes ($3 million in replacement costs at that time). Moreover, for reasons no one understood, the losses were very unevenly distributed- with, for example, fully one third of the topology collection in the Mathematics/Physics Library missing.
Careful study persuaded the committee that increased security alone would not correct the situation. Moreover, in addition to the evident problems of theft and mutilation, there was increasing concern over the "intensity of use" of the University's core collections by individuals with no connection to the University. Exit tallies at Firestone Library in the 1970s showed that the number of visitors of all kinds was increasing at the rate of 10 percent per year. The projected growth in the number of research-oriented corporations along the Route One corridor (and the attendant increase in the population in the area) suggested that this set of pressures was likely to become even more acute.
It seemed unwise to delay facing up to this sensitive problem any longer, and the combination of spiraling costs, limited resources, and the virtual absence of user charges made the status quo seem indefensible. Thus the faculty committee decided on a combination of new user charges and rules limiting access for those who were neither members of the University community nor fee-paying card holders (with, of course, provision for exceptions in special circumstances). Fairness in sharing responsibility for meeting costs as well as concern for the long-term condition of the collections argued for this outcome, and while it is still somewhat controversial, it seems to be increasingly understood and accepted ...
Preservation of the Collections
At the same time that we worry about acquisitions, we must also pay close attention to the condition of books already on our library shelves. Only in recent years, however, have major research libraries begun to address actively the problem of book preservation or to coordinate preservation efforts. To cite a recent example, last May five major research libraries in our region (Columbia, Cornell, Princeton, the New York Public Library, and the New York State Library) formed the Mid-Atlantic States Cooperative Preservation Service to share information about emerging preservation technology and microfilming to preservation purposes. But solutions to questions of how best to restore deteriorating materials and to retard the disintegration of books are proving complicated, expensive, and difficult to achieve. Some publishers of academic books continue to use poor quality paper and inferior bindings, while increasing intensity of use puts heavy stress on poorly made books already in our collections ...
The scope of the preservation problem is immense nationwide. Our predicament it typical of other research libraries: A survey of Princeton holdings conducted in 1977 revealed that an astounding 42 percent of the 3 million books in the system were deteriorating and badly in need of some type of preservation treatment. Bindings were cracked or tattered, some books were missing spines, the contents were falling out of others, and countless volumes had brittle paper, paper tears, or other evidence of abuse.
In the sciences and social sciences, the books and journals most in demand are generally recent acquisitions that need little or no repair before they become outdated. The situation in the humanities is very different. Many older books in these fields still receive very heavy use, and as a result some three fourths of the items treated come from this division, especially from the fields of English, foreign literature, history, art history, and the classics.
Princeton's program of preservation was initiated in 1978 with the help of a challenge grant of $100,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which was matched by $300,000 in donations from alumni and friends of the library. Because preservation work is extremely labor-intensive, our original objective was limited to hiring additional temporary staff to carry out preservation projects. We found that we could treat more than 17,000 items a year, but even at that rate it would take approximately forty years to review the humanities collection alone. In the beginning, then, we had to limit our preservation program to those items needing immediate attention.
By 1980 it was clear that the task was going to be of such proportions that a long-term commitment on the part of the University would be required. Accordingly, we appointed a preservation officer and several support staff members and purchased technologically advanced equipment to facilitate treatments. These steps have increased productivity, and to date more than 120,000 items have been treated.
A particularly successful part of our preservation program has been the Deacidification Unit, which handles the vexing problem of the high acid content of paper used in many books published from the mid-nineteenth century down to the present day. These volumes are subject to unusually rapid decay and must be deacidified to prolong their otherwise short lives. (Unfortunately, many are already past the point where deacidification is effective.) A national task force on preservation estimated that 25 percent to 60 percent of all research library holdings are too brittle to be circulated routinely and noted that "post-1830 book paper has been notoriously unstable. The life expectancy of a book published today is 300 years shorter than that of a book published in the 16th century."
The library has also been active in preservation microfilming. For example, roughly 12,00 medieval Arabic manuscripts, the largest concentration of such material in this hemisphere, were filmed to ensure preservation of the original documents. This process had enabled us to make copies available in response to frequent requests from scholars all over the world.
Driven by remarkable technological progress and powerful economic pressures, revolutionary changes are occurring that will radically alter the way the research library processes, controls, and disseminates information. For most of its more than two-hundred-year history, the Princeton library has done by hand all of its acquisitions, processing of materials, cataloging, and reference work; by the 1990s there is no doubt that the fundamental operation of the library will be profoundly different. In the past ten years we have already come partly to depend upon computer-based systems developed both locally and nationally to accomplish many key tasks.
While we know that major changes must be made, the terrain that we are entering is both unfamiliar and potentially hazardous, and we believe that the appropriate watchword continues to be "caution." When Librarian William Dix first reported (in his annual report for 1966) on developments in computing for libraries, he recommended strongly that Princeton wait until tested systems proved usable elsewhere. That strategy has worked well, and it continues to guide our actions.
In slightly more than a decade, the University library has made important strides toward automation in four areas: (1) cataloging and interlibrary loan systems using RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network); (2) reference services through PURRS (Princeton University Reference Retrieval Service); (3) acquisition and circulation systems using the Geac system; and (4) a public on-line catalog service using the Carlyle system (TOMUS).
Princeton made its first move toward automation in 1974 when the Princeton University Library became a member of the Ohio College Library Center (OCLC), a nationwide computer network linking some three hundred libraries of various sizes that was successfully creating computer-produced catalog cards for members. Through this association, we obtained a large amount of derived cataloging and eliminated the costly and burdensome manufacture of original catalog cards. In this process, our cataloging staff also gained valuable experience with the techniques of network processing of library bibliographic records. Unfortunately, structural limitations in the OCLC program prevented full use of the system for many of our cataloging needs or its use as an internal on-line catalog.
In 1978, the Research Libraries Group, described in Part I of this report, developed RLIN, a much more powerful bibliographic network that promises to address specifically the needs of research libraries. This step forward was not without its trials, as might have been expected with a new organization that involved twenty-seven research libraries with aggregate collections of 80 million volumes, aggregate staffs of 10,000 people, and aggregate annual budgets of a quarter of a billion dollars.
Most difficulties were eventually smoothed out, and by 1984 the RLIN system was working well for cataloging (at a level that meets research library standards), for searching and locating books for patrons, and for interlibrary loans among member libraries. The time needed to obtain a book on an interlibrary loan was reduced from two weeks to a matter of days. There are currently twenty-seven RLIN terminals in Firestone and Gest Libraries, and telephone access is available in most branches to the RLIN database, which contains some 20 million items. Princeton staff members have contributed 45,000 records to the database, and almost one fourth of our cataloging production is derived from RLIN entries contributed by other members.
Another early development was a special reference service known as the Princeton University Reference Retrieval Service (PURRS), which the library has offered since 1975. PURRS offers on-line connection with an estimated 110 databases worldwide, including Dialog Information Services, Dow Jones, and Chemical Abstracts. Since understanding the protocols and data structures for various databases often requires special training, experienced reference librarians are available to search for and interpret data. This is a particularly useful tool for comprehensive searches in the sciences and social sciences, but it is considerably more expensive than traditional indexes.
Several smaller local systems were also developed to provide reference information service that was not available through traditional indexes. One of the earliest, known as CONFILE, was developed in 1975 to create a file of bibliographic records relating to conference proceedings in the field of engineering. Previously, such material was rarely catalogued in timely fashion. CONFILE has provided fast and efficient access to this body of information and still works well. Similarly, a three-year grant of $172,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1982 has enabled the library to undertake the computer indexing of a large arrearage of uncataloged literary manuscripts in Rare Books and Special Collections.
An automated circulation system was another early objective. There was an unsuccessful attempt in 1977 to use a system that was not fully developed; after abandoning that effort, we began over the next few years to develop a database on a system provided by Geac of Toronto, Canada, in preparation for the later introduction of a satisfactory circulation system. This occurred in 1981, when we began use of the Geac circulation control system at Firestone. It was then extended to the Engineering Library last spring.
In 1983 the Geac acquisitions system was also installed, providing an integrated system that has functioned quite well. The combined circulation and acquisitions databases contain over one million items. The Geac methods for searches are easy to use, and Geac works as an online "finding list" that can indicate to library users whether a book has been acquired and whether it is on the shelf. For the future, Geac also has the capacity for automating serials check-in, the labor-intensive process by which library staff account for the 300,000 individual issues of serial publications received by subscription each year. At the present time the library is converting its 30,000-plus manual subscription files to Geac.
Our most recent application of technology has been to install (in 1984) an on-line catalog leased from Carlyle, a California firm, to duplicate the "new catalog," which contains items cataloged from January 1981 forward. Eight public terminals using a Carlyle program known as TOMUS can search for items by author, title, subject keywords, or call numbers. In contrast, the Geac circulation file is inadequate as an on-line catalog system because entries do not contain full bibliographic data or subject information. TOMUS cannot now do cross-referencing, but our initial experience with the system is otherwise promising.
As technical improvements continue to be made, we look forward to solving some of our most intractable problems. One of these is the need for the "retrospective conversion" of 3 million earlier catalog cards in the main card catalog (over 6 million in the total library system) into machine-readable form. Only about 300,000 catalog cards in our system have been converted through what is a highly labor-intensive task. It has been estimated that the full conversion of all of our catalog cards into machine-readable cards would take five staff members nine years if done by hand. There is new hope that technology for reading catalog cards and making the conversion automatically may be available in the near future.
Making the right decisions about new systems appropriate for our needs and keeping up with new advances- without inconveniencing users inordinately- are major challenges. The immense costs of the new technologies also force hard choices. But the exciting possibilities continue to push us on in search of the best ways to ensure high-quality library service in a rapidly changing environment.
Providing adequate space for books, readers, staff, and essential library service are preoccupations for American higher education. When Pyne Library opened in 1897, it contained fewer than 200,000 volumes in a space that was expected to be adequate for 200 years. In the next few decades, some of the more immediate pressure for additional space was relieved with the establishment of the first branch libraries, but by 1928 Librarian James Taylor Gerould announced in his annual report that the library system had reached its full capacity- 169 years ahead of schedule. The period from the late twenties to the late forties was a difficult one for a nation that faced economic collapse and then a world war, and Princeton was not insulated from those events or their repercussions. The library had to cope as best it could. Books were unsystematically stored in cellars and attics; summers were spent shifting books about in the all but futile effort to accommodate another year's growth. Unfortunately, this unhappy situation took its toll on the library's collections, causing considerable book damage and loss. Some volumes still bear the marks of that trying period.
During those years, extensive planning and fund raising for a new library were undertaken, culminating in the construction of the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library in 1947. Some 1,250 groups and individuals contributed to this effort, with a substantial gift from the Firestone family providing the critical funds that enabled the project to succeed.
Even with the rapidly changing requirements of today, Firestone Library continues to accommodate itself to new internal arrangements with remarkable facility. In terms of total space, however, we have already gone beyond the original walls of Firestone four times to create significant additions ... There is clearly a limit to how often this kind of expansion can be undertaken, and most of us believe that the Firestone site will not accommodate much more-if any- expansion after a current addition is built ...
Many of the issues already identified in this report have obvious bearing upon any discussion of current or future space planning. The growth of the collections, the intensity of their use, our efforts to preserve damaged materials, new methods of storing information, and automation of library systems all have an impact upon the amount of space needed. At the present rate of growth- roughly 100,000 volumes per year, including both books and bound journals- it has been estimated that we would need approximately 10,000 square feet of new space annually merely to keep up. Although new approaches, such as optical disks and cooperative database sharing, offer possibilities for the future, there are no panaceas evident in 1986.
As early as his 1981-82 report to the Trustees, Princeton's librarian, Donald Koepp, observed that the University libraries were essentially at capacity and that existing volumes needed to be moved into storage immediately to make space for new acquisitions. Unfortunately, the Annex storage facility at Forrestal was at that point also full. He described the situation as critical and concluded:
None of these observations could be called a surprise. Nor has Mr. Koepp been content to "curse the darkness." Rather, he had worked very hard-and very thoughtfully- to develop a closely coordinated plan that is intended to address the space needs of Princeton's libraries until the year 2000. I believe that this plan has a good chance of accomplishing that objective- even as all of us are sobered by the fate of that earlier prediction that the Pyne Library would serve for 200 years!
Mr. Koepp's plan, as endorsed by the Faculty Committee on the Library and the Trustees, assumes a continuation of the current policy concerning new acquisitions (discussed earlier). It then consists of five principal elements: (1) continuing to strengthen branch libraries, but without wishing to "off-load" on them materials that really belong in Firestone; (2) making greater use of compact storage; (3) pursuing a rigorous policy of deaccessioning materials when that can be done responsibly; (4) adopting new, space-efficient technologies for library materials when that is feasible; and (5) pressing ahead with a very carefully considered proposal for an addition of approximately 50,000 square feet of space to Firestone.
Strengthening Branch Libraries. One primary response to space problems in the past has been to decentralize holdings. But in recent years several major branches were found to be nearing their capacities, including most particularly engineering, chemistry, and geology. We have several times evaluated the possibilities for expanding those branch libraries most hard pressed, while we have fought for time to develop alternative approaches to the general problem of space for the library system as a whole.
Some pressure was relieved with the construction in 1976 of the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library to house the American statecraft manuscripts and the University Archives. In the following years, several other facilities were modified or expanded, including the Gest Oriental Library in 1980. As the result of generous donations from alumni, especially in the Class of 1945, as well as substantial support by corporations and foundations, the Geology Library underwent major renovations in 1979-80 that quadrupled the floor space available in Guyot Hall and added significantly to storage space. Presently, as part of A Campaign for Princeton, work is proceeding to provide a modernized branch library in Frick Chemical Laboratories, as a cost of $750,000.
In addition to work completed or in process, we know that we will need to expand the space for biology and molecular biology in Guyot Hall in the near future. Then, at least two other collections will need attention: the Marquand Library of Art, to provide expanded space for art and archaeology, and Near Eastern studies, where the exceptional level of activity in recent years has outpaced all attempts to accommodate the collection adequately in Jones-Palmer Hall and in Firestone.
Compact Storage. A complementary approach, which we have also pursued vigorously in recent years, has been to increase our centralized storage capacity through enlargement of the Forrestal Annex and the creation of compact storage space there and in unoccupied space on the lower level of Fine Hall. Compact shelving refers to special facilities built for high-density storage; through the use of narrow aisle widths and the placement of the shelving on runners that enable easy retrieval, we can reduce the space needed for aisles to one tenth of the amount needed under more conventional arrangements. This allows storage of twice as many books per square foot of space.
Compact shelving is generally most valuable for older, little-used material, and it can reduce our need for space significantly. It does produce additional staffing needs, however, and "open-stack" usage is difficult. At present, we have the capacity to house almost one million books in this way, including some 600,000 volumes in the storage library on the lower level of Fine Hall, which went into full operation in 1983.
Last year over 60,000 volumes were moved to either the Forrestal or the Fine Hall Annex, and this was the greatest amount of catalogued materials moved to storage libraries in a single year since the Forrestal Annex was first established in 1968. There are now over 400,000 volumes in the annexes. In addition, both Mudd Library and the new library in Frick are equipped with compact shelving for some of their holdings. The use of compact storage space for seldom-used materials, with recall available within twenty-four hours, has enabled us to provide a critical margin of breathing space with relatively minor inconvenience to the user.
In our continued planning for growth, we must weigh the economic benefits of compact storage areas against the important benefit of open access to the collections and adjacent study areas. Other universities such as Harvard (where a new "book depository" located approximately twenty-five miles away was recently announced) have also seen the inevitability of this step for the modern library. Even the simplest arithmetic drives one to the conclusion that continuous acquisitions will outrun the availability of any conceivable amount of space on the central campus. By the year 2000, our plan envisions that 30 percent of our total holdings will be in storage areas and that 70 percent will be available in traditional library space. This would be a very favorable ratio for research libraries.
Deaccessioning. Librarians have increasingly come to recognize that a policy of holding onto any and all copies of any item previously collected, no matter what, is not rational- especially when the competition for resources, including library space, is so intense. In recent years, the Princeton library staff has given increased attention to evaluating existing holdings and to weeding out and discarding items no longer needed. This is a laborious process, but it is a necessary part of planning for effective use of space into the future. In 1985, approximately 5,000 items were deaccessioned, and it is expected that deaccessioning will continue at approximately this rate.
Space can also be conserved by the careful sorting of gift volumes. This too is being done with ever-increasing care and awareness that gifts of books, however generously intended, are not truly "free" when space implications are considered along with the costs of processing.
New Technologies for Storing Materials. As was indicated in an earlier part of this report, the library staff continues to use (judiciously) new technologies designed to minimize space demands. These include microforms and laser disks, which offer great promise for the future. A recent visitor to the Classics Department told me how absolutely astonished he was to discover that it is now possible to copy all of the principal tests of classical Greek literature on a single laser disk. Currently, our ratio of new library materials is approximately 85 percent traditional printed materials and approximately 15 percent other mediums. It is expected that as technologies develop and become more cost-effective, this mix may change to 60-40 by the year 2000. Indeed, our plan for the expansion of Firestone is predicated on this key assumption.
The Addition to Firestone. Underlying all of our concerns about space is this fundamental question: To what lengths are we willing to go to preserve the concept of a library of human dimensions, "a laboratory of the humanities" designed specifically to accommodate the needs of both student and scholar in a working environment that includes attractive study space conveniently located near relevant book stacks? When the cornerstone for Firestone Library was laid in 1947, President Harold Dobbs insisted that Princeton's library was not to be "merely another building," not "solely a shelter to books to preserve them against the ravages of time," but rather a symbol of "the inestimable opportunity of intimate association with the thought and experience of the human race." In this conception, ready accessibility to major collections and the setting created by small study spaces, carrels, and seminar rooms dispersed among the stacks are features essential to a broader vision of education.
Today we are just as strongly committed to that vision. In our continuing emphasis on liberal education and on independent work, the library has played a vital role, and we are determined to resist tendencies that would fragment the collections unduly or limit accessibility. Firestone must not be reduced to a mere warehouse for books. Moreover, the Princeton library system must retain its special commitment to accommodate students as well as established scholars. The American Library Association recommends as a standard that a university library have the ability to seat 25 percent of its student population. The Princeton University libraries can seat up to one half of the student population.
From my perspective, retaining the character as well as the quality of the entire library system depends more than anything else on the future of Firestone. Thus, vital as are all the other aspects of space planning, the addition to Firestone is of preeminent importance. Without the addition, none of our other efforts on behalf of the library system would realize their potential, and the library services provided by Princeton would deteriorate markedly. For this reason the University is committed to pressing ahead with the addition to Firestone as an absolute necessity....
The Library of the Future: Ambience and Character
It would be inappropriate to end this report by inflicting on the reader any "science fiction" view of my own as to the shape of the library of the twenty-first century. There are others much better qualified to speculate in that way.
There is, however, one very general concern that I want to register so that all of us who care about libraries can think about it consciously. For lack of better terms, let me call it a concern about ambience and character.
One of the faculty members at Princeton who had been most concerned with libraries for many years is Robert Gunning, professor of mathematics and former chairman of the most distinguished department. In a thoughtful memorandum to me, Professor Gunning summarized the subtle but clearly perceptible changes in the ethos of the Mathematics Library that have occurred since his days as a student in that department:
Libraries, and "information systems," have become so complex that I worry about our ability to retain the less tangible attributes that Professor Gunning describes so well in his warm recollection of the old Fine Hall Library. I make no plea for turning our back on new technologies; that would be self-defeating in the extreme and in its own way incompatible with the fundamental purposes for which libraries have existed so long. On the contrary, we must seize new opportunities to do old tasks better. That itself can be gratifying and rewarding.
At the same time, I think it is exceedingly important to have a conception of the library that stands against allowing it to become too impersonal and too technocratic. Libraries for me, and for many others, have always been places of warmth, of comfort, and of reassurance. This is partly a matter of enjoying books for their aesthetic qualities as well as for what can be gleaned from them. However impressive the capacities of optical disks, they will never, I believe, render obsolete the pure pleasure of being able to hold a copy of Homer's Iliad in one's hand.
Libraries are, and should remain, much more than simply "tools." They should be places that are inviting, that themselves are statements of the value of learning, and particularly of the continuity of learning. Thus, in planning the future of our library systems, we should give substantial weight, I believe, to devoting space to quiet corners, to the creation of an ambience and a character that extol the pleasures of learning.
If we succeed in achieving this delicate balance between cheerful- indeed enthusiastic- adaptation of new techniques and respect for old amenities, we will have accomplished a great deal. We will have made it much more likely that future generations of students, when they return to Princeton, will want especially to revisit Firestone Library or the branch library that was such a central part of their lives here. And we will have made it much more likely that libraries will continues to epitomize so much of what is meant by education.
-- William G. Bowen