1400 Washington AveAlbanyNY
1400 Washington AveAlbanyNY

University Libraries Records


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This collection consists mainly of the records of the Office of the Director, records of the Library's divisions and departments, and the University Library Faculty. Includes accession and withdrawal records, 1929-1957; book circulation records, 1929-1960; correspondence, reports and minutes of bibliographers' meetings, 1966-1979; and bound volumes of the University Libraries newsletter, 1972-1976; announcements, schedules of events, memoranda, newspaper clippings, and brochures relating to Community University Day, 1972-1983; memoranda and pamphlets about access policy, 1979-1983; and annual reports, 1979-1987.


State University of New York at Albany. University Libraries
Date Coverage:
163.7 cubic ft. (about 163.7 boxes)

The University Libraries began as a textbook collection in the New YorkState Normal School, which opened in 1844.  Within three months ofits opening, the school had acquired its first set of textbooks, and in1845 a student was appointed as the first librarian.  While the importantdecisions regarding collection development were made by the faculty, thelibrary continued to be run by students under the direction of the principalof the school until 1849 when a faculty member was hired as librarian.

Although the library's collection would remain relatively small untilthe 1960s (partly because it was felt that the nearby New York State Librarywould be adequate for school's needs), by the beginning of the twentiethcentury it was clear that the school was becoming increasingly professionalized. In 1889 the name had been changed to the New York State Normal College,and in 1905 it began to offer baccalaureate degrees in the arts and inthe sciences.  In 1909 the school moved to a spacious new campus builtat the convergence of Washington and Western Avenues (now the DowntownCampus).  The name of the school was changed to the New York StateCollege for Teachers in 1914, and in 1916 the college hired Mary Cobb,its first professionally trained librarian.  She would preside overthe library for forty of the next forty-five years.  In 1933 the collegemoved the library from its cramped, University Libraries one-room quarterson the second floor of Draper Hall to the college's old auditorium, HawleyHall, the first building to be solely occupied by the library.  Themove didn't solve the perennial space problems that the library would continueto wrestle with during the ensuing decades, however.

The 1960s was a decade of phenomenal growth for the college and thelibrary, and it was at this time that the college became a true university. In 1948 it had become a part of the new State University of New York, butit wasn't until 1962, when it became the State University of New York atAlbany and one of four State University Centers, that it truly began tobe considered a serious research institution. Between 1960 and 1970, asstudent enrollment quadrupled, going from 3,300 to 13,200, and the numberof academic departments grew from seventeen to fifty, the library builta strong collection (swelling from 65,000 items to 620,000) to supportthe burgeoning new university.  The library's staff grew at a commensuratepace.  In 1960 there were ten librarians; by 1970 there were fifty-eight.In 1962 the library staffed its new Bibliography Department with subjectspecialists.

The library's collections and facilities underwent a number of changesduring this time of expansion.  In 1964 and 1965 a reclassificationproject was planned and implemented which involved converting from DeweyDecimal to Library of Congress classification, a reorganization of thecard catalog, and the beginning of a machine-readable shelf-list database. The library was designated a selective repository for U.S. government documentsin 1965.  Also at this time, the expanding collection became increasinglystratified.  The library established subject collections in the areasof the physical sciences, social sciences, humanities, business, and education--allseparately housed within the library.  Another separate collectionwas the University College Library (known as UNI), which was establishedto serve the needs of freshmen and sophomores.  The separate collectionapproach was quickly abandoned, however.  In 1970 the UNI was disbanded,and in 1972 the subject collections were integrated.  Although thesubject collections didn't survive, the branch libraries did.  Twowere established in 1966: one for the School of Library and InformationScience and one for the Graduate School of Public Affairs.  (Afternumerous changes in the branch libraries, there is now one branch--theDewey Graduate Library for Public Affairs and Policy, located in HawleyHall on the Downtown Campus--which serves the original two schools alongwith the School of Criminal Justice, and the School of Social Welfare.)

Space continued to be a problem even though the library had acquiredadditional buildings in the 1960s to accommodate some of the collectionand staff.  It came as a great relief, then, when in the late 1960smost of the university moved to the new uptown campus.  The librarybegan to make the move to the new campus in 1966, and an official dedicationceremony was held in 1968.  The library's space problem persisted,however, and a plan to relieve it by adding 165,000 square feet of spaceby 1974 was never realized because of fiscal constraints.

During the latter half of the 1960s, librarians throughout the StateUniversity system began to lobby for full faculty status on par with theteaching faculty.  Although they never attained true parity with thoseprofessionals, in 1968 SUNY librarians were rewarded for their effortswhen they achieved faculty status with promotion, recognized professionalservice, and the ranks of Assistant Librarian, Associate Librarian, andLibrarian.  A fourth rank, Senior Assistant Librarian, was createdin 1977.

Firmly established as a research institution, the University Librariescontinued to make impressive strides during the 1970s and 1980s, particularlyin the areas of computerization, online information retrieval, and networking. An automated circulation system built upon the machine-readable shelf-list(called Library Circulation System and later Library Control System [LCS])was started in 1972, and in 1984 the libraries implemented an integratedpublic access catalog and circulation system designed by the GEAC corporationcalled Gemini.  In 1974 the University Libraries began to use thecataloging of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC).  It becamea member of the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) in 1973, the Associationof Research Libraries (ARL) in 1975, and the Research Libraries Group (RLG)in 1984.

The 1990s is proving to be another time of change for the UniversityLibraries, as it tries to keep pace with  rapidly evolving informationtechnologies.  A new GEAC system, Advance, replaced Gemini in 1994,and the university looks forward to the completion of a new library annexdesigned to accommodate digital-based information systems.

Prior to the late 1960s the title Librarian was used by the head ofthe libraries and the term Library was used to designate the facility. In the late 1960s the terms Director and Libraries came into use but theywere used along with the older terms until the beginning of the 1970s whenthe use of Director and Libraries became firmly established.  Thefollowing is a list of Librarians and Directors, whose terms coincidedwith the years covered by the records, along with the dates they begantheir term:  Mary Cobb, 1916; Alice Hastings, 1956; Jonathan Ashton(Interim), 1970; circa James Schmidt, 1972; John Farley (Acting), 1979; JosephZ. Nitecki, 1980; Sharon Bonk (Acting), 1988; Meredith Butler, 1989.

The records of the Office of the Director are comprised of a variety of documents, including correspondence, meeting minutes and agendas, reports, surveys, financial records, published articles, newsletters, grant applications, manuals, and vendors' promotional materials. The records were generated and collected as the director monitored and participated in the activities of the libraries' units, committees, and advisory groups; interacted with agents outside of the libraries; and reported to administrative superiors. The records begin in 1916, the year the library got its first professionally trained librarian, but the bulk of the collection dates from after 1962, when the school became the State University of New York at Albany and the resources began to be made available to dramatically expand staffing and collections.

The collection is partially unprocessed and is likely disorganized. Individual items may be difficult to find.

All items in this collection were transferred to the University Libraries, M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives.

Processed by: Eric Reichert and Geoffrey A. Huth

Collection record created by: This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on

Published: 2018-09-24 23:10:04 -0400

Encoded in EAD by Eric Reichert and Geoffrey A. Huth, 1989 July 28

Archival materials can be view in-person during business hours in our reading room, located on the top floor of the Science Library on the Uptown Campus.

We can also deliver digital scans for remote research for a fee.

Access to this collection is restricted because it is partially unprocessed. Portions of the collection may contain recent administrative records and/or personally identifiable information. Please contact an archivist for more information.

Copyright Statement

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Researchers do not have permission to publish or disseminate material from these collections without permission from an archivist and/or the copyright holder.

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Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, University Libraries, Office of the Director Records, 1916-1993. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the University Libraries, Office of the Director Records).