Oberlin College Archives


PAPERS, 1881-(1881-1930)-1986


The papers of Azariah Smith Root (1862-1927, A.B. 1884) document the personal and professional life of this prominent educator, librarian, and scholarly humanitarian. Mainly consisting of correspondence and records of his professional library activity, these papers document Root's numerous contributions to librarianship and his membership and presidencies of the American Library Association, Ohio Library Association, and Bibliographical Society of America. The collection is organized into eight series: 1. Biographical; 2. Correspondence; 3. Diaries and Notes (Anna Metcalf Root); 4. Files Relating to College and Community Service; 5. Files Relating to Professional Librarianship; 6. Talks and Writings; 7. Miscellany; and 8. Photographs.

The most important item in the biography series is a bound volume prepared in 1955 by his daughter, Marion Metcalf Root. Included is a biography, obituary notices, and letters of sympathy and condolence. The condolence letters attest to Root's fame and popularity in both the Oberlin community and the larger arena of professional librarianship. Several scholarly accounts, which were largely culled from these papers, are included as part of the biographical series.

The correspondence series consists of both personal and professional correspondence. The courtship letters of Azariah Smith Root and Anna Mayo Metcalf are included in this series, along with other family correspondence. In both the alphabetical and chronologically arranged incoming correspondence researchers will find personal letters interspersed among letters pertaining to librarianship and Oberlin College and community service. Notable correspondents include: Howard Hyde Russell (1855-1926, B.D. 1888, D.D. 1921); Webb C. Hayes; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Sr. (1888-1965); William S. Scarborough (1854?-1926); Newton Diehl Baker (1871-1937); Frank Fanning Jewett (1844-1926); Anna Julia Cooper (1859-1964, A.B. 1884) and Lucy Stone (1818-1893, A.B. 1847). Twenty letters, (1889-96) from Judson Smith (1837-1906, B.D. 1863) outline the negotiations regarding the successor to James H. Fairchild (1817-1902, A.B. 1838, B.D. 1841) as President of Oberlin College, and as professor of Theology. Two 1896 letters discuss William G. Ballantine's (1848-1937) successor.

Anna Metcalf's Root's diaries consist of 20 volumes covering the years 1883-84, 1897-1909, 1912, and 1914-29. The brief entries record family news and information on health and activities, household expenditures, and subjects of lectures and sermons attended. The diaries are microfilmed on six reels and should be used in place of the originals.

Included with the diaries are Anna Metcalf's notes from Professor John M. Ellis' (1831-1894, A.B. 1851) 1882 lectures on "Evidences of Christianity." Monthly rhetoricals written by both Anna and Azariah S. Root between 1881 and 1884 deal with subjects such as the effects of liquor, Chautauqua, and paid domestic work.

Records of Azariah S. Root's service to Oberlin College and the community include files relating to the planning and building of Carnegie Library, 1905-09, including specifications and correspondence with the architectural firm, Patton and Miller of Chicago. Other College related documentation includes files from Root's committee service. Root's community service is partially documented in files of the Oberlin Board of Health, 1901-07, Board of Education, 1913-24, Oberlin Telephone Company, 1897-1906, and files relating to First Church, 1900-21. The First Church records include correspondence with Charles M. Hall (1863-1914, A.B. 1885) regarding his gift of an organ to the Church. Noticeably lacking from Root's records of community service are files of the Anti-Saloon League of which he was a founding member, and other civic enterprises such as the Oberlin Village Improvement Society and the Community Chest.

Root's professional librarianship is well documented, particularly in the files of the professional organizations in which he was active. Records of the professional organizations provide valuable insight into the development of librarianship as a profession, with particular emphasis on library school curriculum and training. Root's records supplement the files of the national organizations and add considerable detail for specific committee work. Less attention is given to library matters pertaining to Oberlin in these records. For documentation on the administration of the College Library during Root's tenure the researcher should consult the records of the Oberlin College Library (RG 16). Records of the professional societies include the American Library Association, 1901-24; Bibliographical Society, 1921-26; and Ohio Library Association, 1895-1922. Also included are files relating to the development of the Rutherford B. Hayes Memorial Library, 1924-28. Documentation includes incoming and outgoing correspondence, committee files, reports, and scattered minutes.

The talks and writings of Root document the breadth of his interests and knowledge. Talks, both typescript and manuscript, cover history, science, religion and libraries. Several sermons delivered by Root are also included in this series.

Miscellaneous material includes a detailed inventory of possessions and expenditures in the Root household between 1887 and 1889, and notes regarding a trip to Germany in 1898-99. The final record series contains photographs (25) from 1884 to 1927.


Series 1. Biographical, 1927-30 (1953, 1961, 1976-86) (0.4 l.f.)

Includes biographical material and other information about Azariah S. Root. A bound volume prepared c.1955 by Root's daughter contains a biography along with obituaries and letters of condolence. Several recollections of Azariah S. Root and later scholarly papers have been added to the collection.

Series 2. Correspondence, 1881-1934 (1.6 linear feet)

Primarily comprised of Azariah S. Root's non-professional correspondence, both incoming and outgoing. Incoming correspondence is arranged both alphabetically and chronologically. An index to the alphabetical correspondence is housed in the first folder. Outgoing correspondence consists of chronologically maintained carbon copies. Extensive courtship and family correspondence is also included. Arranged in three subseries: 1. Incoming correspondence; 2. Outgoing correspondence; and 3. Courtship Letters and Family Correspondence.

Series 3. Diaries and Notes, 1881-1929 (1.0 linear feet)

Consists of diaries and notes kept by Anna Metcalf Root. Diaries cover 1883-84, and 1897-1929. The diaries are largely non-personal, primarily commenting on weather, activities, and other projects. Notes include monthly rhetoricals while a student at Oberlin College (including some written by Azariah S. Root), lecture notes, and recollections of a trip to Europe in 1912.

Series 4. Files Relating to Faculty and Community Service, 1888-1920 (0.6 linear feet)

This series partially documents Root's committee service to Oberlin College and his numerous civic affairs. The most significant documentation pertains to the planning and construction of the Carnegie Library. Arranged in two subseries: 1. Faculty Service Files, and 2. Community Service Files.

Series 5. Files Relating to Professional Librarianship, 1895-1928 (2.7 linear feet)

Documents Root's contributions to professional librarianship, including correspondence, committee files and reports from professional library organizations. Root's presidency of the American Library Association, 1921-22, is particularly well documented. Research material relating to the American Correspondence School of Librarianship is included here for reference purposes (originals are at the University of Illinois). Arranged in 5 subseries: 1. American Library Association; 2. Bibliographical Society of America; 3. Ohio Library Association; 4. Rutherford B. Hayes Library; and 5. American Correspondence School of Librarianship (non-original documentation).

Series 6. Talks and Writings, 1898-1927 (0.4 linear feet)

Consists of typescript and manuscript articles, addresses, talks, sermons and writings on a variety of topics relating to Oberlin College and libraries. Some items which appear to be library science lectures are also included within this series.

Series 7. Miscellany, 1881-1927 (0.2 linear feet)

Includes an inventory of items and records of expenditures in the Root home, 1887-89; papers regarding Germany, 1898-99; a medal from the 1893 Columbian Exhibition; and other documents and material of a miscellaneous character.

Series 8. Photographs, 1884-1927 (0.2 linear feet)

Contains 25 images of Azariah S. Root and Anna Metcalf Root (albumen and silver gelatin processes). Images from their 1898-99 trip to Germany are included here.


The papers of Azariah Smith Root were recorded under five accessions. The bulk of the papers were received from the Oberlin College Library in 1971 (# 143). Additional records, which were uncovered when Carnegie Library was being vacated, were accessioned in 1974 (#256). Other material, including the Anna Metcalf Root diaries were received from Marion Metcalf Root, the daughter of Azariah and Anna Root. These accessions were recorded in 1972 (#170) and 1974 (#236). In 1981 several miscellaneous items were transferred from Special Collections (1981/8).


For additional documentation relating to the career of Azariah Smith Root the researcher is advised to consult the following institutional collections: Records of the Board of Trustees and Prudential Committee (RG 1); papers of Presidents James H. Fairchild (RG 2/3) and Henry Churchill King (RG 2/4); records of the Office of the Secretary (RG 5); records of the Office of the Treasurer (RG 7); records of the College Library (RG 16); Alumni and Development Records (RG 28); and Architectural Records (RG 53). The following personal papers collections also contain correspondence from or information about Root: George Frederick Wright (30/21); James Monroe (30/22); Robert S. Fletcher (30/24); Eliab W. Metcalf (30/28); Giles Waldo Shurtleff (30/32); and Keyes Dewitt Metcalf Family (30/212).

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Last updated: 23 February 2000