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COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
EDWARD T. TAYLOR, Colorado, Chairman
JOHN TABER, New York
WILLIAM P. LAMBERTSON, Kansas
J. WILLIAM DITTER, Pennsylvania
ALBERT E, CARTER, California
ROBERT F. RICH, Pennsylvania
CHARLES A, PLUMLEY, Vermont
EVERETT M. DIRKSEN, Mlinois
KARL STEFAN, Nebraska
DUDLEY A. WHITE, Ohio
MARCELLUS C. SHEILD, Clerk
SUBCOMMITTEE ON LEGISLATIVE ESTABLISHMENT
LOUIS C. RABAUT, Michigan, Chairman
ROBERT F. RICH, Pennsylvania
LEGISLATIVE ESTABLISHMENT APPROPRIATION BILL,
FISCAL YEAR, 1940
HEARINGS CONDUCTED BY THE SUBCOMMITTEE, LOUIS C. RABAUT,
MONDAY, JANUARY 30, 1939.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
STATEMENTS OF DR. HERBERT PUTNAM, LIBRARIAN; MARTIN
A. ROBERTS, CHIEF ASSISTANT LIBRARIAN; JOHN T. VANCE,
Mr. RABAUT. Gentlemen, we are ready to take up the legislative
Doctor, we shall be glad to have from you a general statement
RETIREMENT OF DR. PUTNAM AS LIBRARIAN
Dr Putnam. Mr. Chairman, I feel rather solemn.
The President has not yet named my successor, so it is I who have
it came to last September and we had before us the problem of framing estimates, we had to look forward a bit. My successor was not there, the man who would be studying our situation and then trying to estimate what was needed for the future. We had to frame the estimates for a year that does not begin until July, and then carries through until the following July. So that my successor cannot submit any request that can become effective until July 1940.
Now, if he had arrived at any time since last July, he would be confronted by a situation. He would find the greatest plant for library purposes anywhere in the world; double the size, and I think more than double the efficiency as a plant, of any other establishment for library purposes.
He would find the largest collection of material in any library in the world; 542 million printed books and three or four million items in the special group collections-manuscripts and maps and music and fine arts, including prints.
He would find a considerable personnel. But when he came to regard the material, he would find a large fraction of that in a condition unsuited for use; books in paper covers; books in ill repair that ought to be treated before they are handled, before we could safely send one of them over here to the Capitol. The use of a book in paper covers or in ill repair means a greater expense for binding or repair later.
Now, he would find an arrears of binding which, if you should appropriate for it now, would require an outlay of some one million dollars. He would find arrears in printing. For some years we have not been able to print administrative schedules and handbooks necessary in the administration and service of the library.
He would find that we are way in arrears in the treatment of material in catalogs and classification. The arrears there have been piling up and piling up. It is easy to figure them. If you will consider that we add each year about 200,000 printed books and pamphlets, irrespective of those other groups, and that we are able to catalog only about 150,000 or 160,000 of them, it is easy to figure just how much this accumulation amounts to. Naturally you will ask, why have we not dealt with such situation before and brought ourselves abreast of the current? The reasons have been several. In the first place, we had no adequate accommodation for the personnel in the present building. The catalog division has been so congested that they work elbow to elbow, piling up things on their desks, unable to handle them systematically.
The material could not be got at. Much of it, tons of it, were piled in the cellars, on the floor. Hundreds of thousands of other items were on the shelves, but two or three deep, rendering access difficult.
If we had asked you for the personnel, we could not adequately have used it. That whole problem dealing with these arrears must, we felt during the past 10 years, be treated later in a large way.
RATE OF INCREASE OF LIBRARY
If you will consider not merely the 200,000 additions that we get each year, but the fact that during the past 10 years, when you began to provide for the Annex Building, we have added 2,000,000 items to our collection, 2,000,000 printed books and pamphlets, irrespective of the manuscripts and maps and music and prints, which run up into the hundreds of thousands -2,000,000 volumes is rather a considerable library. There are not half a dozen libraries in this country larger than that.
So it has been piling up. Somebody may ask you some timeonce the question was asked in Congress in my 40 years, only once Why are we maintaining that great white elephant across the way? The answer requires some analysis.
No library of good sense would maintain or try to get everything in print, and try to maintain it. That is, no other library. But it has always been considered that at one place in this country, for the benefit of scholars, of students, of any investigator; for the benefit of the scientists, too, it was worth while to secure and maintain indefinitely practically every item that at some time or other had been thought worth while to print.
But consider the service that the National Government is performing in providing such a place and such an accommodation. That is one reason for keeping up the collection and not trying to reduce it, not trying to limit acquisition.
SOURCE OF MATERIAL
Much of this material, the larger part of it, comes to us by gift. That is something to consider. We buy only about 40,000 printed books and pamphlets a year. We get perhaps 30,000 from copyright, and also maps and the prints and music; but a very large portion of our accession is the result of direct gift.
There is this mass to be dealt with. I have been feeling for 10 years past that any attempt to secure attention to it until it could be taken up in a large way, ought to be deferred.
Now, that is true of the binding, the treatment of the books physically. Your own committee, in one of your reports, stated:
We have had the situation of arrears in binding called to our attention, but we have thought it better to defer any large provision for them until more ample accommodation for the work could be provided in the annex.
Now you are providing it. There is marvelous accommodation for the branch printing office and bindery there. The Public Printer is providing superb machinery for it, all ready to go ahead, but we cannot go ahead unless you provide the appropriations out of which we are enabled to do the work, because the work is charged to us, against the appropriation.
The arrears are not merely in connection with the printed books and pamphlets, but they exist in every one of the special divisions. Every one is behind.
That was the situation that I foresaw for my successor who would come in and examine our collections; and presumably he would have the judgment, as a professional librarian, to challenge them. He would talk with the chiefs of divisions. He would find this arrears. He would be perfectly free to say to them, "Well, what is the reason
for all this? Why has not this been brought to the attention of Congress?” And they would be free to answer: "Mr. Putnam would not let us. Mr. Putnam would not let us make out a case any larger than could be justified for the exigencies of the moment.” And that is quite true. I have to take the responsibility.
ADEQUACY OF SERVICE
But now you have got this marvelous plant which is attracting attention all over the world, and you have got a great collection. That is developing normally. But the treatment of the material, in order to make it useful to the reader, is behind. The actual service to the reader limps. I mean, we are not doing in our reading rooms and in the service to Congress, all that we should; and we are not doing all that we should for the various Government agencies. Among them there are 50 or 60 or 70 of these emergency agencies that are depending on us. We are not doing all we can for them, or for the general public.
SERVICE TO OTHER LIBRARIES
Then there is another, larger thing, that we are by no means adequately doing, and that is the service to other libraries in this country. For the first time, as I have indicated to those of you who were over there inspecting our Card Division for the first time in the history of libraries, you are developing there a service which is undertaking once and for all to catalog and classify a book and make the results available to other libraries in these printed cards.
True, the card seems in itself a trivial thing, but think of what it represents. One thousand libraries each get a copy of a book. Until recent times, each one of those thousand libraries was cataloging that book for itself and classifying it. For 2 to 5 cents, they can get copies of these cards. What they pay us offsets the outlay for printing these extra copies and for distributing them and handling the orders. It does not repay us for the cost of cataloging and of classifying, but that we should have to do anyway. We would have to print 100 copies of each card for our own purposes. But think of the results to these other libraries. There are already 6,500 libraries that are buying these cards from us, and the number is added to every year.
Nothing that has ever been done in the interest of libraries as a whole compares with what you are doing in enabling us to let them have the byproducts of our work in this form. And it is not costing the Treasury a cent, because what we do for them is offset by the fees that they pay for the cards.
Each year over $250,000 is paid in; so that as regards that service, it is a self-supporting unit in the Library, one of the self-supporting units, the other being the Copyright Office. The two together annually cover into the Treasury nearly $600,000; $598,000 this past year.
I was going to say that it is an obligation on the Government to do this service for other libraries; but in any event, it is an enormous service, and it ranks with the other services that you feel warranted in maintaining from the Public Treasury.