YMI – The Existential Question or a History of Names

A brief history of the different names of the library:

  • Apprentices Literary Association – August 1, 1826
  • Young Mechanics Institute – November 28, 1828
  • New Haven Young Men’s Institute – 1840

The legal name is still the New Haven Young Men’s Institute, although it is mostly referred to as the Institute Library.

The Centennial Committee wrote in its 1926 report, “It immediately became customary to drop the New Haven in our title, and the recollection of your committee even the Young Men’s has disappeared from common usage and we exist under the appellation ‘The Institute.’”  The committee also noted in its report that the Y.M.I. title began appearing in the records as early as 1846.

“It’s the existential question the library asks itself – Why am I? – Y.M.I.”  The library’s fearless leader/executive director, William C. Baker, enjoys this play on the name.  But it’s an excellent question for the library to ask itself, especially during this time of reintegration into the New Haven Community.

The Board of Directors, Will Baker, the rest of the library staff, and the numerous members and volunteers are doing a wonderful job working to answer the question as to why New Haven needs the Institute and why the Institute needs New Haven by preserving the history and engaging with the community.

I’ll write more on the history of the institution and the current community engagement later.



The library’s collection is unique for two (main) reason:

1. The library has been in existence since 1826 and at this location (847 Chapel Street) since 1879.  This is a long time span of book acquiring.
2. The database/catalog is not electronic.  There is no scanning your eyes down the computer screen or using a combination of key words.  Your options are to peruse the card catalog or meander the stacks.

I use the card catalog when I’m looking for something very specific – by author or  classification.  Normally though, I meander through the stacks.

Today, a high school student handed me his find: The World’s Wickedest Women: Intriguing Studies of Eve and Evil through the Ages by Andrew Ewart.  Amazing.  Ewart apparently wrote The World’s Wickedest Men too, but according the the card catalog – the library does not have that book.

My FAVORITE book that I’ve found is Canada: America’s Problem  I am the first person to check it out since 1961 (it was published in 1942).

My betrothed found a book by AA Milne (author of Winnie the Pooh) hiding in the stacks – it’s a fairy tale for adults with a somewhat snarky introduction about how Milne wrote the book only for him and his wife to enjoy.

I love these finds.

The Microspatula

I worked in Special Collections and Archives at the DePaul University Library as an undergraduate student.  There, I learned all about rare book handling and processed some of the university archives.  In fact, my name can be found on some of the finding aids that are listed on the Special Collections and Archives website.

My all time favorite librarian tool was the mircospatula. I used it for safe staple removal, separating stuck-together-pages, and label removal.  It was awesome – (in a way that only a library staff person would find it to be, to be completely honest).

Will Baker bought a microspatula for the Institute Library last week and it arrived yesterday.  I am THRILLED!  Pictured above is the new microspatula – it’s about 8″ long.  We’ll use it when we cover the dust jackets of books (which is to help preserve the book’s condition).

Someday I hope to return to archival work – ideally processing the Institute Library’s slightly messy historical materials – armed with my microspatula.