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RG 16 - Oberlin College Library
Scope and Content

The records of the Oberlin College Library cover the years 1815-(1950-89)-90.  These historical materials provide proof of the work of five distinguished College Librarians, spanning a century, but they also document the role Oberlin played over time in developing librarianship in a small college liberal arts setting.  Except for some gaps for the pre-1887 years and for missing annual reports for 1973-74 through 1977-78, the files in this record group are essentially complete.  The correspondence of the various directors has been preserved since 1908.  Some of the documentation for the professional work of Azariah Smith Root (1862-1927) is to be found in his private papers (30/57).  In addition to the main administrative files of the Librarian, all of the Library Departments and campus branches are well-documented at the policy and general programmatic levels.  The largest group of files documents the work of the Acquisition's Department, or those of collection management.  Most of these records constitute formal reports, individual gift files (donor relations), along with documentation on acquisition activities for each college department.  Among the most interesting and best documented topics is the development of the Judaic and Near Eastern Studies Collection (JNES) in particular and the role of grant funds to support collection development in general.

The records are arranged in six subgroups:  I. Records of the Office of Director of Libraries; II. Library Departments, Programs, and Predecessor Bodies; III. Building Files (Architecture and Construction); IV. Publications; V. Historical Files; and, VI. External Organization Files.  In 1990, when the record group was rearranged, to integrate the files (31 lin. ft.) of Librarians Herbert Johnson and William A. Moffett, two new subgroups were created.  First, the voluminous records of the Library Departments and Programs were separated from the files of the Director of Libraries and, second, those files relating to the professional activities of the librarians were grouped under "External Organization Files" (National, Regional/State, and Local).  Within the subgroups, records are arranged in series by type of file (annual reports or minutes) or subject, usually in some order of priority.  The general files, organized by year, organization established by Librarians Herbert Johnson and William A. Moffett between 1971-90, have not been maintained.  Within the recreated series by record type or function, the records are arranged in either alphabetical or chronological order.

Subgroup I, Records of the Office of Director of Libraries, is of an administrative nature and consists of records such as annual reports of the Librarian, council minutes, committee and task force files, director's correspondence, financial, personnel, and subject files.  These voluminous files in a large way trace the day-to-day operations of the library and document major initiatives in budget and staff development, collection development and management, long-range planning, and library policies and procedures in a number of areas.

The files relating to Library Departments, Campus Branch Libraries, and Special Programs are located in Subgroup II.  These records, which document the work of the College Library in all of the functional areas (e.g., acquisitions, cataloging, circulation, and reference) as well as the broader activities of the branch libraries (Art, Conservatory of Music, Science Libraries), are significant in terms of quantity and quality.  They document the development of on-line systems for circulation and cataloging and provide grist for the mill on the role of branch libraries in a small library setting.  Four record series document the main library's relationship to the College Archives, Oberlin Public Library, and its support for special programs and exhibitions.

Subgroup III through VI—Building Files, Publications, Historical Files, and External Organization Files—constitute the records of wider functional, or subject activities in the library.  Much of this work was administered across departmental or subordinate administrative lines.  Except for Subgroup VI, the file organization along subject files was further established by the several offices and it has been maintained here.  Thus, under the Building Files is found the records of three major building programs—the construction of Carnegie Library in 1908, its expansion and renovation in 1940, and the construction of Mudd Learning Center (now Mudd Center) in 1974.  The record series organized under Publications, Historical Files, and External (Professional) Organization Files follow the same pattern.

Note:  Additions made to this collection since 1990 may not be reflected above.

The records of Oberlin College Library are arranged in the following subgroups and series:

Subgroup I.  Records of the Office of Director of Libraries

Series 1.  Administrative Reports
Subseries 1.  Annual Reports of Librarian
Subseries 2.  Reports of Other Campus Libraries
Subseries 3.  Departmental Reports
Series 2.  Director's Administrative Files
Subseries 1.  Minutes and Agenda of Meetings
Subseries 2.  Goals, Policies, and Procedures
Series 3.  Correspondence of the Director and Associate Director
Subseries 1.  Library Director's Correspondence, Prior to 1971
Subseries 2.  Library Director’s Correspondence of Herbert Johnson
Subseries 3.  Library Director’s Correspondence of William A. Moffett
Subseries 4.  Library Associate Director's Correspondence
Subseries 5:  Library Director's Correspondence of Ray E. English
Series 4.  Financial Records
Subseries 1.  Budgets
Subseries 2.  General Files
Series 5.  Committee and Task Force Records
Subseries 1.  Committees/Subcommittees
Subseries 2.  Task Forces/Work Groups
Series 6.  Personnel Records
Series 7.  Subject Files

Subgroup II.  Library Departments, Programs, and Predecessor Bodies

Series 1.  Library Departments
Subseries 1.  Acquisitions' Department
Subseries 2.  Art Library
Subseries 3.  Audio Visual Department
Subseries 4.  Cataloging Department
Subseries 5.  Circulation Department
Subseries 6.  Conservatory Library
Subseries 7.  Graduate School of Theology Library
Subseries 8.  Preservation Department
Subseries 9.  Reference Department
Subseries 10.  Science Library Branch
Subseries 11.  Special Collections Department
Subseries 12.  Technical Services Division
Series 2.  Other Library Programs or Affiliations
Subseries 1.  General Support Programs
Subseries 2.  Exhibits
Subseries 3.  Archives
Subseries 4.  Oberlin Public Library
Series 3.  Union Library Association
Subseries 1.  Administrative Records
Subseries 2.  Records Related to Library Materials
Series 4.  Friends of the Libraries

Subgroup III.  Building Files (Architecture and Construction)

Series 1.  Carnegie Library
Series 2.  Seeley G. Mudd Learning Center/Mudd Center

Subgroup IV.  Publications

Series 1.  Oberlin College Library Newsletter/Library Perspectives
Series 2.  Catalogs
Series 3.  Bibliographies
Series 4.  Handbooks
Series 5.  Bulletins

Subgroup V.  Historical Files

Series 1.  Writings
Series 2.  Oberlin College Library - Oberlin Public Library Histories
Series 3.  "Autograph File"
Series 4.  Artifacts
Series 5.  Clippings
Series 6.  Photographs

Subgroup VI.  External Organization Files

Series 1.  National Library Organizations
Series 2.  State/Regional Library Organizations
Series 3.  Local Library Organizations
Series 4.  Regional Affiliate Bodies
Series Descriptions

Subgroup I:  Records of the Office of Director of Libraries, 1887-1990 (34.65 lin. ft.)

Records pertaining to the daily operations, policy formulation, and management planning, which document activities and the chain of command at a number of levels.  Records are divided into seven series:  1. Annual Reports of Librarian, Campus Libraries, and Departments; 2. Director's Administrative Files (incls.:  Minutes of Meetings, etc.); 3. Correspondence of the Directors and Associate Directors; 4. Financial Records; 5. Committee and Task Force Records; 6. Personnel Records; and 7. Subject Files.

Series 1:  Administrative Reports, 1887-90, 1915-16, 1919-97

Reports of the director of libraries, campus branch libraries (Art, Conservatory of Music, Graduate School of Theology, and Science Library), and library department heads (acquisitions through technical services) and, in some instances, files of back-up data used to compile the reports.  These reports summarize the goals, objectives, activities, and accomplishments of each year.  The Director's reports are arranged chronologically.  Campus Branch Library and Departmental Library reports are each arranged first alphabetically and then chronologically.

Series 2:  Director's Administrative Files, 1956-89  (2.0 lin. ft.)

The Director's Administrative files contain two subseries:  1. Minutes and Agenda of Meetings, 1956-89; and 2. Goals, Policies, and Procedures, 1960-80.  The minutes and/or agenda of meetings of the Library Council, department heads, professional staff, and General Faculty are arranged chronologically within each group.  Subseries 2. Goals, Policies, and Procedures are each arranged first alphabetically and then chronologically.

Series 3: Correspondence of the Director and Associate Director, 1908-45, 1958, 1960-71, 1972-90  (10.8 lin. ft.)

The correspondence series is organized around five subseries.  Subseries 1 contains the correspondence of directors Azariah Smith Root, Julian Fowler, and Eileen Thornton.  These files, dated prior to 1971, are arranged both alphabetically by correspondent and then chronologically, and arranged by subjects (Thornton administration).  Subseries 2 constitutes the correspondence of Herbert Johnson; Subseries 3 the correspondence of William A. Moffett; Subseries 4 incorporates the correspondence of Associate Director's Harold A. Olson and Ray E. English; and Subseries 5 contains the correspondence of Ray E. English.  The correspondence deals with a wide variety of issues in library administration, including automation, collection development, building programs, staffing needs and the relationship between the Oberlin College Library and the Oberlin Public Library.  The correspondence files of W.A. Moffett are more expansive and even include documentation covering special events, projects, and publications.

Series 4:  Financial Records, 1938-90  (2.9 lin. ft.)

Documents relate to budget development and other financial matters, particularly efforts to build endowments and seek outside financial support.  Arranged chronologically.

Series 5:  Committee and Task Force Records, 1886-96, 1902-04, 1911-12, 1927-90  (6.25 lin. ft.)

Minutes and reports of committees, sub committees, Task Forces, and special work groups which were formed to deal with library business.  The Library Director served on some of these committees, or the Librarian received a copy of the proceedings.  Arranged alphabetically.

Series 6:  Personnel Records, 1956-90  (4.6 lin. ft.)

Material related to personnel matters such as benefits, professional development, faculty status, salaries, working conditions, and staff organizations and unions, including minutes of meetings of these groups.  Arranged alphabetically.

Series 7:  Subject Files, 1947-90  (2.7 lin. ft.)

Miscellaneous single files containing information on a variety of subjects, such as historical portraits, New Student Orientation, Questionnaires, Scholar Study Applications, and so forth.

Subgroup II:  Library Departments and Programs and Predecessor Bodies, 1884-1989 inclusive  (22.4 lin. ft.)

Subgroup II, which largely constitutes the administrative files of library department heads and the special assistance provided by the library in support of special programs, contains four principal record series:  Series I. Library Department Files; Series 2. Other Library Programs or Affiliations; Series 3. Union Library Association; and, Series 4. Friends of the Libraries.  These records are fairly complete and report on the activities of ten departments, six or more special library programs, and the library's relationship to the College Archives and Oberlin Public Library over time.  The vertical and horizontal lines of management and policy making in the library are also documented here.

Series 1:  Library Departments, 1884-1996  (14.4 lin. ft.)

Library Department Files are twelve subseries.  This documentation reports on the daily activities, operations and management of the various departments and collecting areas within the main college library and the Campus library branches.  Included are the departmental records for Acquisitions, Art Library, Audio Visual, Cataloging, Circulation, Conservatory of Music Library, GST Library, Preservation, Reference, Science Library, Special Collections, and Technical Services Division.  Files typically include annual reports (monthly), correspondence, memorandum (internal), records of gift and grant funds, and statistical reports.

Series 2:  Other Library Programs or Affiliations, 1888-1970s (4.2 lin. ft.)

Other Library Programs or Affiliations, consisting of four subseries, mainly covers General Support Programs (e.g., Peace Corps), Exhibits, Archives, and Oberlin Public Library.  These files document special programmatic efforts of the Library as well as the library's special relationship with the College Archives and the Oberlin Public Library.

Series 3:  Union Library Association, 1855-1911  (3.9 lin. ft.)

Includes records of the College Society Library Association (i.e., Account Books, 1855-1869; Constitution and By-Laws, 1858; and, Catalogue, 1862) and the Union Library Association (i.e., Articles of Incorporation, 1886; Constitution and By-Laws, 1902; and, Accession Books, 1887).  See the inventory for a complete list of the records.

Series 4:  Friends of the Libraries, 1993-2003  (0.1 lin. ft.) Consists of letters (incoming) concerning gifts to the Library and bookplates created to commemorate donors or their family members.

Subgroup III:  Building Files (Architecture and Construction), 1905, 1908-61, 1963-90, n.d.  (7.25 lin. ft.)

Extensive correspondence, reports, statistics, drawings, and general information centering on the building, decorating, and maintenance of Carnegie Library and the Seeley G. Mudd Learning Center/Mudd Center.  The name for the building housing the library was formally changed in 1988.  Arranged in two series:  1. Carnegie Library; and, 2. Seeley G. Mudd Learning Center/Mudd Center.

Series 1:  Carnegie Library, 1905, 1908-61, 1964-90, n.d. (1.0 lin. ft.)

Records concerning Azariah Root's plans for and the construction of Carnegie Library, 1905-08, the 1940 expansion and renovation of Carnegie, and subsequent building use and maintenance.  Arranged alphabetically by subject.

Series 2:  Seeley G. Mudd Learning Center/Mudd Center, 1956-89 (6.25 lin. ft.) Extensive documentation of the planning, selection of materials, construction, and equipping of Mudd Center.  The more recent files document the special problems faced by the administration in maintaining the building in current use. Arranged alphabetically.

Subgroup IV:  Publications, 1940, 1957-63, 1965-70, 1975-76, 1979- (1.0 lin. ft.)

Newsletters, bibliographies, pamphlets, handbooks, and bulletins published by the Oberlin College Library.  Arranged in six series:  1. Oberlin College Library Newsletter/Library Perspectives; 2. Catalogs; 3. Bibliographies; 4. Handbooks; 5. Bulletins; 6. Miscellaneous.

Series 1:  Oberlin College Library Newsletter/Library Perspectives, 1969-73, 1979-  (0.4 lin. ft.)

Periodic newsletter of information on people and activities in the College Library.  The 1969-73 newsletter appeared monthly; the 1973 volume is missing issue numbers 2, 4-7, and 11.  Since 1979, the newsletter has been published weekly.  The numbering of the issues in each volume is somewhat haphazard.  The numbering is consecutive since 1979.  Arranged chronologically.

Series 2:  Catalogs, 1932, 1940, 1967, 1986  (0.2 lin. ft.)

Printed catalogs of special collections.  Arranged alphabetically by title.

Series 3:  Bibliographies, 1980-88  (0.2 lin. ft.)

Subject bibliographies of Oberlin College Library holdings in Women's Studies entitled "Current Scholarship in Women’s Studies."  Arranged chronologically.

Series 4:  Handbooks, 1957-63, 1965-70, 1974-77, n.d.  (0.18 lin. ft.)

Handbooks of rules, regulations, and procedures of the College Library.  Arranged chronologically.

Series 5:  Bulletins, 1930  (0.01 lin. ft.)

Consists of a copy of the Oberlin College Library Bulletin (vol. 11, no. 1).

Series 6: Miscellaneous, 1988 (0.01 lin. ft.)-

Consists of Oberlin College Libraries Staff Association Cookbook.

Subgroup V:  Historical Files, c. 1815-1883, 1885, 1897-98, 1902-67, 1970, 1980-84, n.d.  (2.4 lin. ft.)

Materials documenting the history of the Library or collected by the Library Director for their general artifactual or historical value.  Divided into six series:  1. Writings; 2. Oberlin College Library - Oberlin Public Library Histories; 3. "Autograph File"; 4. Artifacts; 5. Clippings; and, 6. Photographs.

Series 1:  Writings, 1897-98, 1941, 1951, 1955, 1967, 1974, n.d. (0.4 lin. ft.)

Manuscript, typescript, or printed writings or compilations on the history of the Oberlin College Library, information from the Oberlin College Catalogs, 1834-45, lists of Oberlin College theses, and court records and writings regarding Oberlin-owned lands in West Virginia.  Arranged alphabetically by author or topic.

Series 2:  Oberlin College Library - Oberlin Public Library Histories, 1885, 1902-61, 1970, 1980-81  (0.2 lin. ft.)

Correspondence, reports, and excerpts from minutes regarding the history of the Oberlin College Library and the Oberlin Public Library and their relationship to one another.  Arranged by topic.

Series 3:  "Autograph File," c. 1815-1883  (0.8 lin. ft.)

Letters by early Oberlin personalities and well-known figures, along with copies of articles dealing with the Boxer Rebellion in China.  Among letters to be found here and those written by William Jennings Bryan, Levi Burnell, Frederick Douglass, John M. Ellis, Mrs. E.C. Stewart, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, and a 1832 Bill of Sale for one Negro girl.  These miscellaneous items, identified and listed by Robert S. Fletcher in the 1930s, are reported in the History of Oberlin College (1943), II, p. 932.  Arranged alphabetically.  See the separate listing for the autograph file (case file 16/5).

Series 4:  Artifacts, 1912, 1925  (0.4 lin. ft.)

Edison cylinders of Oberlin College yells and songs performed by the Glee Club, 1912, and a printing plate for the class of 1925's bookplates, showing a picture of Carnegie library.

Series 5:  Clippings, 1938-67  (0.4 lin. ft.)

Bound newspaper clippings on the subject of the Oberlin College Library.  Arranged chronologically.

Series 6:  Photographs, 1981-83, n.d.  (0.2 lin. ft.)

Contains black and white photographs of library staff, Metcalf student assistants (1981-83), and miscellaneous activities.

Subgroup VI:  External Organization Files 1949-89  (3.6 lin. ft.)

Materials documenting the College Library's relationship to external bodies or professional organizations are arranged under four series:  1. National Library Organizations; 2. State/Regional Library Organizations; 3. Local Library Organizations; and, 4. Regional Affiliate Bodies.

Series 1:  National Library Organizations, 1947-86, n.d. (0.8 lin. ft.)

Correspondence, reports, and studies document Oberlin College Library's relationship to national library organizations, such as the American Library Association and Association of Research Libraries (ACRL), and the Center for Research Libraries.  Includes mainly information, or background material on the external initiatives.

Series 2:  State/Regional Library Organizations, 1965-89 (1.8 lin. ft.)

Correspondence, memoranda and miscellaneous materials that document Oberlin College Library's relationship to OCLC, NEOMARL, OCCIO, and OLA.

Series 3:  Local Library Organizations, 1982-89  (0.2 lin. ft.)

The files relating to the Rowfant Club—a Cleveland based organization of book and print collections—document the activities of Library director William A. Moffett.

Series 4:  Regional Affiliate Bodies, 1949-87  (0.8 lin. ft.)

Series 4 contains the files of the Great Lakes College Association (GLCA) and the North Central Association.

Records of the Oberlin College Library were received from the library in twenty lots between February 1973 and August 1990.  The general files of Librarians Herbert Johnson and William A. Moffett were accessioned, respectively, in 1989 and 1990.  The files, amounting to 31.5 lin. ft., were reviewed and weeded by William A. Moffett.  Additional records were received from the Oberlin College Library, Special Collections, in 2001.

Related Materials

The following record groups contain materials related to the administration of the Library, its financial condition, facilities, and relationship with other campus departments and the community of Oberlin:  Azariah S. Root Papers (RG 30/57); Board of Trustees (RG 1); Papers of Presidents Henry Churchill King (RG 2/6), Ernest Hatch Wilkins (RG 2/7), William E. Stevenson (RG 2/8), Robert K. Carr (RG 2/9), Robert W. Fuller (RG 2/10), and Emil C. Danenberg (2/11); Papers of Presidential Assistant W.F. Bohn (3/1); Office of the Provost (RG 4); Office of the Secretary (RG 5); Office of Business and Finance (RG 6); Office of the Treasurer (RG 7); Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (RG 9/1); Graduate School of Theology (RG 11/2); Student Literary Organizations (RG 19/3/4); Oberlin College Archives (RG 41); Oberlin City Council (RG 31/5/1); Oberlin Public Schools (RG 31/7).

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