From the Letters to the Editor column of the February 2008 issue of Perspectives on History
Letters to the Editor: Saving Books in Repositories
Mary Elizabeth Brown, February 2008
Editor's Note: Perspectives on History welcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should ideally be brief and should be sent to Letters to the Editor (or mailed to Letters to the Editor, Perspectives on History, AHA, 400 A Street SE, Washington, DC 20003-3889) along with full contact information. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters' contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.
To the Editor:
I'm writing to express my appreciation for James W. Cortada's "Save the Books!" The article's discussion of how to prevent libraries from discarding books that might prove useful to future historians made some good points regarding intervening in the current process, whereby libraries discard books and booksellers pick them up. I was wondering if part of the solution might not lie in establishing repositories for books on particular subjects, the way the federal government has designated institutions of higher education throughout the country as repositories of specific kinds of federal documents, or the way archives such as the Immigration History and Research Center in Minnesota have become repositories for collections of materials in specific fields. For example, a college with a major in the tourism business could become a repository of travel and tourism ephemera, a college founded by the Lutherans could become a repository for publications by that denomination, etc. Perhaps the librarians' or archivists' professional societies could have pages on their web sites that librarians across the country could consult when it is time to discard books, so that a librarian who finds his or her college has something that doesn't really fit with that college's mission could be transferred to the proper repository. Developing a repository system might also facilitate the development of funding so that organizations can apply to develop the directories of repositories, and individual institutions can apply for funds to establish repositories or transfer materials there. The system might also help with the process of identifying and digitizing important materials.
I'm not a professional librarian (although I work in libraries), and would be interested to see if there are any professional librarians reading Perspectives who could make further suggestions.
—Mary Elizabeth Brown
Marymount Manhattan College