I have been writing a lot recently about our Collection Development Policy here at the Yale Club Library. That policy grew out of our Mission Statement:
The Mission of the Yale Club Library is to provide a quiet refuge for those seeking the intellectual stimulation and spirit that books and the written word can provide in a space that fosters their contemplation and enjoyment. The Library should capture the essence of the Yale educational experience while also reflecting the distinctive interests of its members. We aim to meet evolving reader needs and to keep abreast of trends in the library and publishing worlds. ~Approved by the Library Committee, 2013
To me, the most salient point of the mission is the role of the Yale Club community in shaping the library: “The Library should capture the essence of the Yale educational experience while also reflecting the distinctive interests of its members.” The Yale Club Library collection is managed by a librarian and the Library Committee, but it is very much the product of the Yale Club community.
Certainly, the Committee and I aim to purchase the most exciting new releases and to fill in important gaps in the collection on our own, but the greatest proportion of my purchasing dollars goes towards member requests for particular items. Many books that line the shelves were donated by members – some famous (like Henry Holt) and some less so but still important to the club (like lawyer Harry L. Osterweis, brother of revered Yale debate coach, Rollin G. Osterweis). Yale Club members, in other words, have a library built by their community as it grew and changed over the last one hundred years.
The most satisfying way I am able to participate in this community building activity as Librarian is in Yale Club Library’s tradition of collecting all books published by its members. We have a smart and active membership here at the club, and it has been my pleasure in the ten months since I started this job to accept more than two dozen books by members into the collection.
To better bring attention to our member books, we keep a display case in the lobby of the club with the most recent donations available for everyone who visits the club to see. For several months, the library committee and I ceded the display case to the Centennial Celebration — but we are back now, and we have an amazing array of books that have entered the collection since the winter. Even in this small collection, we can see the remarkable range of work produced by our members – the novels of sci-fi and suspense novels of David Katz (Round Trip and Conspiracy) sit next to the memoirs of Peter Wolf (My New Orleans, Gone Away) and Lucienne Carasso-Bulow (Growing up Jewish in Alexandria), which are beside Paul Kaplan’s guide to Jewish New York and Phyllis Lee Levin’s study of John Quincy Adams.
After a few months of display in the lobby, we move the books to our Member Book section of the Library and they circulate normally, and actively. Last week, we moved the three very full shelves of Member Books to their new home by our fireplace (don’t worry, bibliophiles, we do not light it) where the collection has a little bit more room to grow, and a little bit more of the distinction it deserves.