New Member Books…and Old Member Books

A few weeks ago I posted about our improved Books by Members section in the library.  A shorter version of that post appeared as a small article in our Club’s monthly newsletter.  Guess what?  A LOT more members of this Club read the newsletter than read my blog.  That the newsletter is widely read by our members is good for the Club, so I am not complaining. In fact, until I really find my footing here, it’s probably better that it is just you three or four brave souls out there plug along with me.  But what was great to experience when the newsletter reached our members, more than six weeks after my blog post, was the almost overwhelming response from our member authors.

When I came in to work on Monday, my inbox was filled by a string of emails from members I had yet to meet.  All of them were members who, in most cases, were the author of more than one book they could donate to the Club.  One member donated FIFTEEN of his novels to Club’ collection.  Although I just created more space for our Books by Members, I suspect Debbie and I will soon need to create more.

However, not all of the books being added to our Books by Members section are new. Some date from the earliest days of our Clubhouse.

In my slow-going collection evaluation project, I just started working on the 600s section (after an enlightening summer spent in the theology section).  For those who don’t speak Dewey, that’s the technology and applied sciences section.  The 600s cover a broad range of topics, from medicine, to military engineering, to Martha Stewart’s cookbooks.

During my first “dust and discard” pass of the section, I came across a sadly disheveled, but interesting sounding book: English and American Tool Builders. The construction of the title was very different from the “Dictionary of Cool Tools!”-type titles that I had seen earlier in the section.  The title promised a text somewhere between a biographical dictionary and a history of Anglo-American engineering – something a little bit more academic and analytical than most of the other items we seem to have acquired in that area.  I was intrigued.

I gingerly carried the delicate book back to my office for a closer look: The book had been donated to the Club by Payson Merrill, class of ’65 [1865] a small bookplate on the front board informed me.  The book had been published in 1916 by Yale University Press.  It was written by Joseph Wickham Roe.  Joseph Wickham Roe was a Yale Sheffield Scientific School educated engineer.  He worked as commissioned officer and engineer in the First World War and consulted for the Navy in the Second World War.  In between those wars, he taught in the Department of Industrial Engineering at New York University.

The link to New York caught my attention – Roe was a Yale graduate who worked in New York. Chances were, he was a Yale Club member.  When I checked our membership directories, I found I was right.  Professor Roe was a member of the Club.  And so his book was, in a small way, miscataloged.  It should have been marked as a “Book by Member” and shelved with others of its kind.  If I had not liked the title, I probably would have discarded the book, as the condition was so poor and it was too brittle to be rebound.  Now, it will get a phase box – specially fitted to hold it together – and join other Books by Members.

I suspect there are dozens of books by members that are scattered throughout the Club that have not been cataloged as such. The idea has been in the back of my mind as I evaluated the collection over the past several months, and now I have evidence to support my hypothesis.  The knowledge adds another level of interest to my collection evaluation project.  In working through our stacks, we are not only making the collection more useful for our members, we are also contributing to the preservation of Club history.  Let the treasure hunt continue!

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