This post inaugurates the first blog from the Librarian of the Yale Club of New York City – it is also my first foray into the blogosphere. Does anyone use the term “blogosphere” anymore? My spellcheck did not correct me, so it must be outdated. But I enter here with the aim of bringing to anyone who might be interested a glimpse into the workings of this century-old private library – a view from this Fourth Floor of the Yale Club of 50 Vanderbilt Avenue.
The Yale Club Of New York City is a private club in Manhattan that serves graduates of Yale, Dartmouth, The University of Virginia, and DKE fraternity members; those who have been rigorously trained in the hotels of New York staff its departments. I did not attend Yale, nor The University of Virginia, nor Dartmouth. I did not know any DKE Fraternity Members. I am not a hospitality professional.
It is safe to say, then, that I never expected to spend most of my days in in the wood-paneled library of the Yale Club of New York City. But, since September 8, 2014, I have been doing just that. I am a librarian by trade and British Literature and Film Scholar and teacher by training. I had long expected to find myself working in the hubbub of a public library or the cold but wonderful confines of a special collections library. When I applied for the post at the Yale Club, I was dividing my time between two such institutions – the Franklin Lakes Public Library in New Jersey, and the Library and Archives at Historic Hudson Valley in Pocantico Hills, NY. I responded to the Yale Club because it seemed finally an opportunity to bring together the two aspects of librarianship I love the most: the joy of working with a distinct and regular patron population, as at a small public library, and the excitement of working with a special collection, where treasures can be discovered everyday.
What the Yale Club’s resolutely private library has in common with a public library is that this library serves a particular community – but this community is defined by the members’ shared intellectual and educational backgrounds rather than the borders of a town. What the Yale Club Library has in common with a special collections library is, certainly, its large special collection of Yale Student publications — the largest outside of New Haven. But, in a very real sense, this nominally “traditional” lending library is a special collection that reflects one hundred years of changing literary tastes at the club. The collection contains both volumes purchased by previous librarians, and a significant number of gifts, donated by members over the years – many of which bear inscriptions and bookplates from their previous owners. What that means, both fortunately and unfortunately, is that our library has developed somewhat haphazardly – giving us extraordinary strengths in some areas, like twentieth-century American History, and surprising weaknesses in others, like New York History. Changes in technology and documentation procedures also mean that the records charting the development the collection have been mostly lost. All we have is the evidence of what is on the selves – and what is not. It is evidence that can be difficult to interpret, and very easy to misinterpret.
So, in an effort to document my tenure as the club’s librarian as fully as possible, I have turned to blogging. Here, I hope to record what I discover in the library, how the library community grows as I work with the Library Committee (more on that later!) to develop programming for our patrons, and how our collection continues to develop.
I have also set up a Twitter account, so that I can share tidbits and news. You can follow me @YCLibrarian.
~Christina Kasman, Librarian
The Yale Club of New York City