The Time has Come

My mom used to adapt the phrase from Dr. Seuss’ Marvin K. Mooney book to inform me that it was time to do something – “The time has come, the time is now for Megan Elizabeth to go to bed now.” My memory mimics her voice and changes the phrasing whenever it’s time to make a change.

20120523 blog 1Today is my last day as an employee at The Institute Library. I’m leaving to have just one  job (instead of several part-time jobs) while I pursue a Master’s in Library Science from the University of Wisconsin Madison‘s low residency program. I’m not leaving New Haven and I’m not leaving the library – just the payroll so I am granted the flexibility to volunteer when it is convenient for me. I will most likely be here on Saturdays and for all the events….

Seriously, this is the coolest place ever.

I’ve met one of the world’s fastest lock pickers, a physics professor who’s building a time machine, nomads, authors, historians, and some of the most eccentric people with fascinating stories – because public libraries are society’s great social equalizer.

20120531 Blog 1I will miss giving the tour of the library the most – I usually get so excited that I nearly regurgitate the library’s history – unable to stop for air or questions. I want to hug this place – or at least the card catalog.

Alas, the time has come, the time is now, for Megan Elizabeth to go back to school now…



Institute Library Trivia

  • The book mailing service was approved by members in the spring of 1960 and began June 1st of that year.
  • The current home of the Institute Library was built in 1878
  • Membership dues increased from $6.00 per year to $10.00 per year in January 1965
  • What is now the Biography Room was originally the Ladies’ Reading Room

Ladies reading in the Ladies’ Reading room in 1944

  • The Institute Library had 750 members & about 35,000 books in 1939
  • Cunningham & Son was a sail, awning, and banner company that was on the 4th floor of the current home of the Institute Library.  It closed in 1915

    Advertisement from the 1912 New Haven Directory

  • No other businesses occupied the 4th floor after Cunningham & Son
  • The air conditioner was installed in the summer of 1956
  • The third floor of the library closed in October of 1971 for financial reasons & was reopened as gallery space in October of 2011

Institute Library Membership in the 19th Century

“Membership is not a simple thing.  It derives, in one form or another, from the social impulse and structure that brought the libraries into existence in the first place, some 250 years ago, and the principle remains the same today.” (Nicolas Barker, America’s Membership Libraries, page 2)

There are three elements that are consistent across almost all membership libraries: shareholders (those who first found the funds that brought the library into being); members (those who pay to use the library); and the general public (those who are not members but still, in someway, engaged with the library).

The Institute Library is the only membership library in North America (that we know of) that was started by working class men instead of a guiding patron with deep pockets.  In the 19th century and into the first two decades of the 20th century, the Institute Library used a tiered membership model as a way of providing members in a more cost efficient way.  It was an active member in the community until the end of the 19th century and is now reengaging with the New Haven community.

This bookplate indicates that there were two memberships options – one that offered just the privileged of book borrowing ($3.00 per year) and the other that allowed book borrowing and the use of the library’s reading room ($5.00 per year).

An Institute Library card to use the Reading Room for only four weeks – c. 1840

Early on in the library’s existence, membership for women cost less than membership for men.  The library opened its doors to women in 1835.  This price sheet is from the 1860s.  During several decades, the Institute Library also offered life-time memberships and family memberships.

Finally, a tally of the different types of membership in 1916:

The Institute Library is returned to its founding roots by reengaging with the community starting in 2011 and July 1st, 2012, the library launched a new tiered membership model, after nearly 100 years.

Free Public Library System in India & William Borden

“There is no more ennobling thing than the reading of good books; it leads men, along flowery pathways, towards earnest and pure lives. I am doing what I can to educate my people to the stage where they can ready and appreciate great thoughts of the present and the past, and the result so far has been very gratifying.  But I would do more.  I would bring to the poor man or woman, the ordinary man of the bazaar, to the common people everywhere, this wealth of literature now only known to the educated.”

Maharaja Sayajirao III,  Baroda, April, 7, 1912

Maharaja Sayajirao III, Gaekwar of Baroda (1862 – 1939) was one of the most progressive princes of what is now modern India.  He traveled to western countries repeatedly and invited foreign specialists for the development of the State both materially and culturally.  The Maharaja introduced reforms that transformed Baroda economically, socially, and culturally.

Sayajirao chose the head librarian, William Borden, at The Institute Library to establish a free public library system in Baroda.  In 1910, Borden left New Haven for Baroda.  He created a comprehensive network of libraries, which was made up of  a state central library, four district libraries, forty-five town libraries, and more than a thousand village libraries.  The district libraries had extensive traveling systems with a Visual Instruction Branch to reach the most illiterate people.  This system reached 80% of the population within two years.

Above Image: William Borden with his Library Students in Baroda

“I determined to introduce into Baroda what we in the United States have recognized as a goal to be ultimately attained, but which we have not yet reached…What America could only dream of, Baroda could do, and in a measure has done.
-William Borden 1913

The classification system Borden created for these libraries was similar to the one he created (and we still use) at The Institute Library.  Borden left Baroda in 1913. And, unfortunately, after the death of the Maharaja Sayajirao, the library system did not continue.  Modern-day India uses the Dewey Decimal System.

The Card Catalog, part II

Many patrons ask me, “So, this unique classification system – is it easier to use than the Dewey Decimal System?”

I’m always hesitant to answer because it does take time to become accustomed to the system and I haven’t figured out a shortened/summarized version yet.  In all honesty, I’m still learning the ins and outs of Borden’s classification system.  I don’t want to overwhelm anyone…

The books are shelved by class and sub-class and from there by order of acquisition.  This means that books by the same author may or may not be next to each other on the shelf, nor are the books put in alphabetical order by author.

Also, if the acquisition number is 1145, does not mean that it the 1145th book on the shelf in that subclass….Take a look at J6 (which is Fine Arts – Painting & Decoration) – the acquisition numbers are in chronological order, but there are numbers missing.  This is because when a books is deaccessioned (taken out of circulation) – its acquisition number is retired forever.  For a library that has been around since 1826, there are thousands of books that have been taken from the shelves to make way for other (not necessarily new) books.

So where do these deaccessioned books disappear to?  Mostly – to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books (located on the 3rd and 4th floors of the library).

This is the 4th floor cemetery – thousands of books fill the plastic bags.  Over the past year or so, the library’s Book Committee has been busy going through all of these forgotten books.  They have a specific criteria for which ones will be kept, the ones to be sold at the next book sale, and the ones to be recycled.

This photo is of already sorted books in the Children’s reading room – located on the 3rd floor and currently not open to the general public.  More on the great work of the Book Committee later…

The books that will be kept will be put back into circulation.  HOPEFULLY – all of these books will still have their book plates, indicating their classification and acquisition codes.  Unfortunately, there has been some misunderstanding of the classification system since the 1930s (example: Far Eastern Asian History is currently classified as European History due to WWII).  This will undoubtedly create some more confusion.

I will explain the growth intentions of library classification systems and what happened to the Institute Library’s classification system after William Borden left the library in Part III.

Book Cart!!!

It may seem like a slow day to be posting about the library’s new book cart – but it is so helpful, it deserves a post.  Until getting the book cart, our to be processed and to be shelved books were in mountainous piles behind the circulation counter – not great for book spins and these mountains took up too much space.

Santiago and Will assembling the new book cart

Santiago – one of the high school students who spends afternoons at the library – offered to help Will with the assembly (by “assembly” I mean, shoving the wheels into the legs – which took more effort that one might think).

I love the new book cart – Vicky, Becky, and Will do too.  I immediately shelved our newly acquired books on the cart, and Will and I got to work on cataloging them in a more organized fashion.

The book cart hard at work