Libraries Embark on Major Initiative to Increase Access to Special Collections

NEW YORK, January 26, 2005 - Researchers at Columbia and around the world will gain access to some of the most significant and currently least accessible of Columbia University Libraries’ hidden special collections, thanks to support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

A grant of $355,000 from the Foundation will support an ambitious processing initiative to catalog a selection of special collections from the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and the C. V. Starr East Asian Library.

“This project is designed to expand awareness and use of some of our richest special collections,” noted James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian. “Columbia is very appreciative of this outstanding support.”

This new initiative builds on the discoveries of the Mellon-funded Survey of Special Collections Materials project, which was completed in August, 2004. A key goal of that project was to develop an accurate understanding of the condition and future preservation, processing, and access needs of Columbia’s unique unprocessed and under-processed collections. Based on the survey, eleven collections were identified as having the greatest intellectual value as well as the most urgent processing needs.

Some of the archives that will be processed include the records of the architects of New York’s Grand Central Terminal (Warren and Wetmore); the papers of the of Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League, a league that investigated corporations and persons associated with Germany in the 1930s to expose relationships with the Nazis and encourage campaigns to boycott them; and the Donald Keene Japanese Literary Correspondence Collection, a collection of letters written by postwar Japanese authors, including Japan’s two Nobel Laureates in literature, to Donald Keene, the Shincho Professor of Japanese Literature and University Professor Emeritus at Columbia.

The collections will be processed to facilitate researcher access, materials will be rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes for long-term preservation, and at-risk materials will be identified. MARC (machine-readable catalog) records will be created for all collections and they will be entered into Columbia’s online public access catalog and into the Research Libraries Information Network (RLIN) database. Finding aids will be created for all collections and will be made available locally as well as online.

The C.V. Starr East Asian Library is one of the major collections for the study of East Asia in the United States, with over 760,000 volumes of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, and Western language materials, as well as some holdings in Mongol and Manchu, and over 5,500 periodical titles. The collection, established in 1902, is particularly strong in Chinese history, literature, and social sciences; Japanese literature, history, and religion, particularly Buddhism; and Korean history. The Library’s website is located at:

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library owns over 500,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and almost 28 million manuscripts in nearly 3,000 separate manuscript collections. It is particularly strong in English and American literature and history, classical authors, children's literature, education, mathematics and astronomy, economics and banking, photography, the history of printing, New York City politics, librarianship, and the performing arts. Individual collections are as eclectic as they are extensive. For additional information about the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, please call 212-854-5153.

The Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library is one of the most outstanding and comprehensive collections relating to architecture and the fine arts in the world. Avery collects a full range of primary and secondary sources for the advanced study of architecture, historic preservation, art history, decorative arts, city planning, real estate, and archeology. The Library contains more than 250,000 volumes, including 35,000 rare books, and receives approximately 1,000 periodicals. Avery’s Drawings and Archives collection includes one million architectural drawings and records. The Library is home to the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, an operating program of the Getty Research Institute, which is the only comprehensive American guide to the current literature of architecture and design. The Avery Library, a noncirculating collection, counted 135,590 visits in the 2002-2003 academic year.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

01/26/05 JD