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Popular culture and acquisitions
 9781315859552, 1315859556, 156024299X

Table of contents :
Content: Introduction / Allen Ellis --
Going against the grain : a rationale for the collection of popular materials in academic libraries / Barbara B. Moran --
Donors and the acquisition of popular culture materials / Lucy Shelton Caswell --
Collection division as an acquisition method : a case study / Nena Couch --
The time capsule as a way for the future to acquire popular culture items / William E. Jarvis --
Nancy Drew here to stay? The challenges to be found in the acquisition and retention of early twentieth century children's series books in an academic library setting / Gillian M. McCombs --
Developing a "focused" comic book collection in an academic library / Doug Highsmith --
An unsuitable job for a librarian? Collection development of mystery and detective fiction in academic libraries / Gina R. Overcash --
Uncovering the mysteries of popular recordings collection development / William L. Schurk --
Selection tools for popular romances / Nancy L. Buchanan --
From supermarket to library : tabloids in the permanent collection / Rebecca Stum Kelm --
A resource guide to studies in the theory and practice of popular culture librarianship / B. Lee Cooper.

Citation preview

Popular Culture and Acquisitions

Edited by

Allen Ellis

Popular Culture and Acquisitions

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Popular Culture and Acquisitions Allen Ellis Editor

Ö Routledge §

Taylor &Francis Croup NewYork London

Popular Culture and Acquisitions tins also been published as Vie Acquisitions Librarian, Number 8 1992. © 1992 by The llaworlh Press, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, micro­ film and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. First published 1992 by The Haworth Press. Inc.. 10 Alice Street. Binghamton. NY 13904-1580 This edition published 2013 by Routledge 711 Third Avenue, New York. NY 10017 2 Park Square. Milton Park, Abingdon.Oxon OXI4 4RN Routledge is an imprint o f the Taylor & Francis Group, an informa business L ib ra ry o f C o n g ress C ntnhighig-in-P ublieutiim Dnln

Popular culUtrc and acquisitions / Allen Ellis, editor, p. cm. “ Popular culture and acquisitions has also been published as The acquisitions librarian, number 8 1992.” includes bibliographical references. ISBN 1-56024-299-X (alk. paper) 1. Libraries-Spccial collcctions-Popular literature. 2. Libraries-Special collcctionsPopular culture. 3. Popular litcrature-Bibliography-Methodology. 4. Popular culturc-Bihliography-Methodology.5. Acquisitions (Libraries) I. Ellis, Allen Z688.P64P67 1992 025.2-dc20

92-17522 CIP

Dedicated to the memory of Brenda McCallum 1948-1992 Head Librarian Popular Culture Library Bowling Green State University 1986-1992

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Popular Culture and Acquisitions CONTENTS

Introduction Allen Ellis Going Against the Grain: A Rationale for the Collection of Popular Materials in Academic Libraries

Barbara B. Moran Donors and the Acquisition of Popular Culture Materials Lucy Shelton Caswell

Collecting Popular Culture Building Popular Culture Manuscript Collections A Horizontal Development Strategy Conclusion Collection Division as an Acquisition Method: A Case Study Nena Couch The Time Capsule as a Way for the Future to Acquire Popular Culture Items William E. Jarvis Introduction A Brief Time Capsules Background Four Millennial Time Capsules and Their Popular Cultural Deposits Selecting Popular Culture Items for Future “ Reacquisition” Conclusion

Nancy Drew Here to Stay? The Challenges to Be Found in the Acquisition and Retention of Early Twentieth C entury Children’s Series Books in an Academic L ibrary Setting Gillian M. McCombs 1. Pre-Acquisition 2. The Acquisition Process 3. Post-Acquisition Conclusion Developing a “ Focused” Comic Book Collection in an Academic Library Doug Highsmith An Unsuitable Job for a Librarian? Collection Development of Mystery and Detective Fiction in Academic Libraries Gina R. Overcash Introduction Parallels Between the Novel and the Detective Genre Histories of the Novel and the Detective Genre Collection Development in Academic Libraries Sources for Collection Development Conclusion Uncovering the Mysteries of Popular Recordings Collection Development William L. Schurk

47 49 52 53 56 59

69 69 71 72 75 82 84


Selection Tools for Popular Romances Nancy L. Buchanan


Definition of “ Popular Romance” Current Review Sources Older Titles Author Sources Category Sources Miscellaneous Sources Conclusion

100 102 103 106 110 111 112

From Superm arket to Library: Tabloids

in the Perm anent Collection Rebecca Sturm Kelm Chorus Historical Perspective Current Status of Tabloids Their Appeal to Advertisers Need for Tabloids in Libraries The Further Case for Tabloids inLibraries A Tool -for the Researcher Tabloids and Library Instruction Tabloids and Collection ManagementConcerns Conclusion

115 115 116 118 119 120 121 122 123 124 126

A Resource Guide to Studies in the Theory

and Practice of Popular C ulture L ibrarianship B. Lee Cooper Books Articles

131 131 141


Allen Ellis, MLS, is Associate Professor of Library Scrviccs at the W. Frank Steely Library of Northern Kentucky University in High­ land Heights. He is Area Chair of the Popular Culture Association’s Libraries and Popular Culture division and founder and former Chair of the Association of College and Research Libraries* Popular Culture and Libraries Discussion Group. Mr. Ellis serves on the editorial board of the journal Popular Culture in Libraries.

Introduction A llen E llis

It has been nearly thirty years since Ray B. Browne and others began kicking academia in its complacent derriere, resulting in, among other things, the Popular Culture Association, and a continually growing inter­ est in and demand for popular culture research materials. In the same time, Everyday America has seen the line between “ high” and “ low” culture endure a similar kicking-enough so that many types of materials and their content are much more critically and socially acceptable (comic books and rock music, as examples). It has been nearly twenty years since the library literature began to warn the profession that it had not done and was not doing its job in providing the information needs o f an emerging and rapidly growing clientele. It seemed that the warnings, suggestions, and calls-to-action o f Jack A. Clarke, Gordon Stevenson, Wayne Wiegand, B. Lee Cooper, William Schurk, Barbara Moran, and others (all well documented in the following articles) were falling on the ears o f a profession which cared little (or less) about supplying materials it had traditionally regarded (if at all) as trash. There were, of course, treasure troves such as the legendary Popu­ lar Culture Library at Bowling Green State University, and a smattering of such items in collections here and there, but as a whole, libraries and popular culture went together like Pepsi and Lucky Charms. Recent years, however, have seen the emergence of practicing librarians who recognize their responsibilities and have begun making inroads to the consciousness of the profession. Popular culture programs in professional conferences and the establishment of the ACRL Discussion Group on Popular Culture and Libraries (eleven members of which contributed to this volume), the Consortium of Popular Culture Collections in the Mid­ west, and the new Haworth Press publication, Popular Culture in Librar­ ies, attest to the fact that librarians did indeed hear the words o f Clarke, Stevenson et al., and were putting their interests and talents to work. © 1992 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.




There are many problems to be considered when dealing with Popular Culture and libraries, as emphasized by Barbara Moran’s general over­ view, and the succeeding articles address some of these problems: deal­ ing with donors, resource sharing, what to collect, for whom, and for what purposes, the importance o f collection development policies. The treatments of specific types o f materials, such as children’s series books, comic books, mystery and detective fiction, popular recordings, romance novels, and tabloids, address problems common to all popular culture materials, including the establishment of legitimacy, competition with collectors and fans, dealing with the sheer vastness of materials available, locating obscure acquisition or review sources, and problems of budgets, storage, and preservation. There is still much to be done to educate the library profession about the importance of collecting popular culture-witness Doug Highsmith’s anecdote of the author who couldn’t find a library to accept his research collection. Consider too the efforts o f the Library Professions’s quest for dignity, coupled with the prevalence of Pencilneck Journalism and its concomitant propensity toward articles o f the “ Zap! Pow! Comic Books in die Library?!!” ilk. One day there will be no reason for special vol­ umes devoted to popular culture, for all library materials will come to­ gether, an equitable whole, cradled in the soothing arms of the Library Bill of Rights. Until then, pass the Pepsi and Lucky Charms, as librarians such as tliis volume’s estimable contributors do what they have to do. Editor’s Note: A special note of thanks to the noted popular culture scholar, B. Lee Cooper, who quickly answered my last-minute request for this volume’s reference listing.

Going Against the Grain: A Rationale for the Collection of Popular Materials in Academic Libraries Barbara B. Moran

SUMMARY. Courses on popular culture topics are being taught on thousands of campuses and many scholars are doing research in this area. Because of unfamiliarity with popular materials, many aca­ demic librarians have been slow to respond to the needs of students and scholars working in this relatively new field of study. This article discusses some of the problems associated with the collec­ tion of popular materials by academic libraries and offers some suggestions on how to address these problems. In addition, the article provides reasons why libraries should begin to systematically collect popular culture materials despite the difficulties sometimes associated with such collection development. One cheats oneself, as a human being, if one has respect only for the style o f high culture.1 S u sa n Sontag There has long been an uneasy relationship between popular culture and libraries. Over a century ago public librarians were disputing whether novels should be included in public libraries. In most public libraries, Barbara B. Moran is Dean and Professor, School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB# 3360, 100 Manning Hall, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3360. This article was adapted from a speech given at the Beta Phi Mu Initiation, Graduate Library School, University of Arizona, March 1991. © 1992 by The Haworth Press, Inc. AH rights reserved.




however, despite the ongoing controversy between those who want to give the public what it wants (which often is popular material) and those who want to give them the classics, popular culture materials are found in all public libraries. Whether the material found there is representative enough of the expanse of popular culture could be disputed, but popular culture, or at least certain popular fiction genres, are accepted as appro­ priate for public library collections. On the other hand, in many academic libraries a lack o f enthusiasm about popular materials is evident. Academic librarians have been wary of collecting popular materials because it goes against the grain of what they have been taught. One o f the major emphases in education for librarianship is collection development; that is, given the limited budget with which most libraries have to cope, how can the best materials be chosen for a library? Academic librarians have typically defined best in terms o f elite culture; they consult reviews and lists of best books in the field before acquiring library materials. Most libraries have written col­ lection development statements which set forth the types of materials and the criteria by which materials are to be chosen. These practices lead to what Wayne Wiegand has called “ aesthetic conservatism.” 2 Traditional acquisition policies tend to narrow the scope o f library collections to professionally accepted literature; in other words, academic libraries have confined their collection-building to a traditionally defined, microscopic view o f culture. An examination of the topic o f the place o f popular culture materials in academic libraries needs to begin with definitions of popular culture and elite culture to set the parameters for the discussion. Unfortunately, the definitions can be as problematic as the topic itself. There is general agreement that popular culture is not elite culture, but beyond that things get murky. How does one distinguish between high, low, popular, mass and folk culture? In many instances, there are no clear demarcation points. Perhaps the best definition of popular culture is provided by Russel Nye, author of The Unembarrassed Muse. He writes that popular culture can be used to “ describe those productions, artistic and commer­ cial, designed for mass consumption and capable of reproduction, which appeal to and express the tastes and understanding of a significant por­ tion of the public, free o f control by minority standards. They tend to reflect the values, convictions, and patterns of thought generally dis­ persed through and approved by society.” 3 Lawrence W. Levine in his book, Highbrow/Lowbrow, points out that the practice of pigeonholing authors, composers and artists into cultural categories is relatively recent. For most of the 19th century, a wide vari-

Barbara B. Moran


ety o f art forms including Shakespearean drama, orchestral music, opera, painting and sculpture enjoyed both a wide popular appeal and a high cultural status.4 According to Levine, in the 19th century Americans o f all classes shared a public culture which was not hierarchically arranged. What would now be called high culture was enjoyed by Americans of all classes and educational levels. By the 20th century, levels o f culture became much more sharply defined. A growing chasm developed be­ tween serious and popular, between high and low. The reasons for this separation of a unified culture into a hierarchy were varied and complex. But, as Levine points out, one unfortunate consequence of the separation was that many educated individuals lost their ability to make independent judgments about the quality o f culture. If there is a tragedy in this development, it is not only that millions of Americans were now separated from exposure to such creators as Shakespeare, Beethoven and Verdi, whom they had enjoyed in various formats for much o f the nineteenth century, but also that the rigid cultural categories, once they were in place, made it so difficult for so long for so many to understand the value and the importance of the popular art forms that were all around them. Too many of those who considered themselves educated and cultured lost for a significant period-and many have not regained-their ability to discriminate independently, to sort things out for them­ selves and understand that simply because a form of expressive culture was widely accessible and highly popular it was not there­ fore devoid of any redeeming value or artistic merit.5 As Levine notes, it is now possible to describe a cultural continuum with lugh culture (or elite culture) on the top, and low culture on the bottom. Shakespeare and opera are no longer enjoyed by all classes as they were in the nineteenth century. Instead, it is considered that to enjoy Shakespeare, opera and other works o f high culture, it is necessary to be educated about the nuances and subtleties that make these “ great” works of art. On the oilier hand, low culture is accessible to anyone, educated or not; in fact, it is generally considered that any one with a certain amount of education has moved beyond this material. Low culture m ate­ rials, for example, true confession magazines, are written on an elementa­ ry reading level and do not demand a great deal o f sophistication to be understood. What is often dubbed “ mid-brow culture” is found in that area between high culture and low culture, but as mentioned earlier, the lines of demarcation are very fuzzy. Here are found the mysteries that an



educated person might take along for “ fun” reading on a vacation or certain popular television programs. For the purpose of this paper, high culture will be used to refer to elite culture and popular culture to refer to both mid-brow and low culture. Unfortunately, most librarians have never developed an appreciation for the purpose of popular culture materials in library collections. Of course, there are many librarians who are avid readers of a particular genre of popular culture, for instance mysteries or science fiction. Far fewer librarians are familiar with westerns, romances, occult or horror novels. And, viewing culture as a hierarchy, the lower the category, the less familiar it is likely to be. Low culture is terra incognita for most librarians. Very few librarians read such publications as true confession magazines, movie fan magazines, or The National Enquirer. Within each genre of popular culture, as would be expected, the better written repre­ sentatives are more likely to be read by librarians. For instance, P.D. James is more widely read by librarians than is Mickey Spillane. None of this is surprising. Most librarians come from middle class backgrounds and are relatively well educated. Their background and their education preclude an easy familiarity with low culture. Schools of Infor­ mation and Library Science have done little to widen their students’ horizons. There are very few librarians who have taken courses about popular materials and their place in a library collection. A study done a few years ago showed that fewer than 10% o f accredited master’s degree programs offered any type of course in popular culture or popular materi­ al and those that did offered them only occasionally.6 Nonetheless, academic librarians should be actively collecting popular culture materials. Despite the tightness of budgets, despite the lack of familiarity with the material, despite the problems associated with such collections, academic librarians should be working collectively to assure that collections of popular materials arc being amassed today that will be needed for the scholars of the future. Academic librarians must become active in such collection building for a number of reasons. One of the most important is that popular cul­ ture is being studied at more and more universities. It is not being stud­ ied as a curiosity but as a means of better understanding contemporary society. Going back to Nye’s definition o f popular culture as that which expresses “ the tastes and understanding of a significant portion of the public, free of control by minority standards.. . . [and] reflects] the val­ ues, convictions, and patterns of thought generally dispersed through and approved by society,” 7 popular culture as a field o f study can function as a barometer or a mirror o f contemporary society.

Barbara B. Moran


The development of this field has also been influenced by the example of cultural antliropology and its belief that all parts of a culture are wor­ thy of study. Culture relativism, the idea that no part of culture has-for purposes of understanding it-innate superiority over another has provided a useful framework for the study of non-elite culture.8 Ray Browne, director o f the Center for the Study of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, has pointed out the democra­ tizing effect of the study of popular culture.9 He states that most scholars have read but not paid enough attention to Emerson’s observation on the substance of true knowledge: The literature of the poor, the feelings of the child, the philosophy of the street, the meaning of household life, are the topics of the time. It is a great stride, it is a sign-is it not?-of new vigor when the extremities are made active when currents o f warm life run into the hands and the feet. I ask not for the great, the remote, the ro­ mantic; what is doing in Italy or Arabia; what is Greek art, or Pro­ vencal Minstrelsy; I embrace the common. I explore and sit at the feet of the familiar, the low. Give me insight into today, and you may have the antique and future worlds.10 Proponents of popular culture argue that true insight into any era of cul­ ture can be gained only when popular culture, as well as elite culture, is examined by scholars investigating that period of time. Popular culture scholars are proponents of inclusion rather than exclusion. As Nye writes: The classic definition o f culture as ‘‘the best that has been done or thought,” or as “ the upper ten-percent o f a society’s best accom­ plishments,” has been valuab!e-and will always be-as a means of preserving and transmitting the cultural heritage. But on the other hand, to rule out the rest of the broad spectrum of human cultural activity as an area for exploration is a far too restrictive act. Cer­ tainly, the culture of the majority o f society ought to be subjected to this kind of searching, intensive investigation by liistorians, liter­ ary critics, and humanists in general, if we are to know our modem, pluralistic, multileveled society.“ Popular culture has burgeoned as a field of study in higher education in the past two decades. Today, tens of thousands of courses on popular culture are being taught in America’s colleges and universities. There are thousands of scholars doing research on popular culture topics. At die



1991 conference of the Popular Culture Association in San Antonio, Texas, a record 2,100 academics gathered to discuss such diverse topics as comics, video games and Madonna. As popular culture has become a more important part o f the research and curriculum in institutions of higher education, popular materials have begun to appear in the collections o f the libraries in those institutions. Some libraries, such as those at Michigan State, Bowling Green State, and the University of Minnesota have important collections o f popular culture materials. Unfortunately, these libraries are the exception, not the rule. The needs of scholars in the field still outstrip what libraries are able to provide. Librarians who work with popular culture researchers often hear how difficult it is to find the library materials that are needed to do certain types of popular culture research. Scholars rarely have ac­ cess to the library resources they need. Some of these scholars have amassed personal collections o f materials related to their own research interests, but most have to rely on libraries for a large percentage of the material they study. Often, they are not able to find these materials, not only in their own home institutions but anywhere. Either libraries are not collecting the materials needed, or the ones that are have not publicized their collections. Since popular culture in its many aspects is now being taught and studied in thousands of colleges and universities, academic librarians are faced with the question of how they can most effectively support that study. If the mission of Hie academic library is to meet the educational and research needs of the faculty and students, librarians must begin to develop more comprehensive collections to support these interests, even if this collection development forces a change in the usual qualitative standards of acquisition. The collection of popular culture materials presents academic librari­ ans with a number of problems. One very large one is how the vast amount of popular culture material being produced each year can be collected. The mass and variety o f publication is almost overwhelming. Obviously, no library can collect more than a fraction o f the popular culture output. Liter-institutional cooperation in collection development is the most sensible way to proceed. Perhaps an expansion of the RLIN Conspectus could be envisioned with certain libraries having designated responsibility to collect a certain specific area o f popular culture in depth. For instance, fanzines are an important part of many types of popular culture study, especially in Uie areas of science fiction, fantasy, comics, and popular music. These publications are put out on an irregular basis by individuals or loosely organized groups. They start and stop publica­

Barbara B. Moran


tion frequently. Some libraries, especially the one at Bowling Green, do collect fanzines, but they are not being collected systematically. Since fanzines are an important resource for researchers studying particular areas of popular culture, they need to be collected and preserved. Ideally, a group of libraries might try to cooperatively collect fanzines, both for llie researchers of today and of tomorrow. Popular culture materials are also difficult to handle in any standard­ ized fashion. As one scholar in the field wrote recently: The nature of popular culture study requires the examination of materials that are often atypical, ephemeral, oversized (motion picture posters), under-sized (postage stamps), technologically ori­ ented (compact discs) and seldom cataloged in standard formats. From fads (hula hoops) to folktales, from antique radio programs to contemporary television commercials, from baseball broadcasts to taped interviews with children’s text writers-the requests are invariably mixed and seemingly unmanageable.12 Another problem is found in the highly ephemeral nature of much of the popular culture material. Most popular culture material was (and is) produced for mass consumption at the lowest price possible. Little thought was ever given to its permanence. If librarians do not make provisions for preservation o f this material, it will disappear. As serious scholars in the area know too well, much of it already has. Another difficulty is how to let scholars know where they can go to obtain certain types of popular culture. At first glance, that might appear to be a problem of the past since most libraries now can search OCLC or RLIN to see which libraries hold what material. Most libraries, how­ ever, do not have adequate bibliograpliic control over popular culture materials in the collection. In part, this is caused because many items of popular culture are hard to catalog and often are acquired as part of a collection that is never broken down and individually cataloged. It is also caused because many items of popular culture are found either as part of a special collection or are scattered throughout the collection, and thus have not been entered in any electronic database. As a result, scholars of popular culture have a great deal o f difficulty in locating the materials they need to do their research. In an initial attempt to link popular culture scholars and materials, the Center for the Study of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University and Oryx Press recently issued a book containing a list of popular culture collections in libraries in the United States.13 Unfortunately, the listings are not complete, and thus this vol-



ume just begins to address the linkage problem. However, there are plans to issue subsequent editions which will include more comprehensive information about popular culture collections. Incidentally, if any readers o f this article know that their own libraries contain popular culture col­ lections not described in that volume, they should contact the editors of Directory o f Popular Culture Collections so that the omission can be corrected in the next edition. These problems and others have to be dealt with. However, since popular culture is already entrenched as an area of study, librarians should get on with the business of collecting popular culture now and concurrently work out solutions to the problems associated with these unusual collections. Most of today’s libraries, because of budget restric­ tions, do not have the resources to do retrospective collection in the popular culture area. Retrospective collection building is very difficult anyway because of the ephemeral nature of the material. The majority of the retrospective collections o f popular culture materials are now in the hands of private collectors who have amassed these collections for their own enjoyment. Fans of certain popular culture areas have collected materials when no libraries have been interested. Many of these collec­ tors are receptive to the idea of giving or willing these collections to libraries which will pledge to preserve them. Librarians should be work­ ing with collectors of popular culture materials in encouraging them to donate their collections to libraries, so they can be used by scholars in years to come. AH libraries, should, however, be collecting present day materials for future scholars and building up contemporary collections in certain areas that can be the basis of tomorrow’s collections. Academic librarians need to be collecting with greater foresight. As Browne writes, librarians need to be “ archiving for the future” by asking questions such as “ What materials of the present are necessary for present-day understanding of ourselves and our society?” and “ What must be saved for the future so that people in the coming ages can correct our interpretations of ourselves-or at least can have their fun at trying to correct our interpreta­ tions ? ” 14 To further complicate things, librarians need to be thinking not just about high culture and low culture but also about mufticulture. Anyone attuned to academic controversy is well aware o f the disputes going on at many institutions of higher education about the place of multicultural studies in the curriculum. The hallmark of multiculturalism is diversity-a reflection of the reality that the United States is becoming a multicultural, multiracial society in a way that it had not been before. As a result of

Barbara B. Moran


this diversity of society, both on and off campus, demands have been made that more works by women, by minorities, and by non-westerners be included in the curriculum. Advocates of multicuituralism seek to replace the “ dead, white, European m ale” canon with a body of work more representative of the diversity of our society. Some academics see multicultural studies as a threat to the traditional canon (i.e., high culture) and bewail the deconstruction of tradition and the loss of a common culture o f classics known by every educated per­ son. Allan Bloom, for example, in his 1987 book, The Closing o f the American Mind, presented his views on the dangers o f multicuituralism.15 Dinesh D ’Souza has more recently discussed the impact of the demand for multicuituralism on certain campuses.16 Multicuituralism just adds one more dimension to the high culture/low culture dichotomy. Multicultural studies actually provide an interesting overlay that can be placed upon the cultural hierarchy running from low culture to high culture. The result o f that superimposition is a matrix with high culture in its usual place at the top, popular culture further down the continuum with multicultural strands running throughout at ail levels. In many ways, multicultural materials are easier for academic librari­ ans to deal with than popular culture materials, because in most cases those materials are still contained in book formats, not in the myriads of formats of popular culture materials. Librarians need to be aware of the curricular changes taking place on their own campuses and elsewhere and to begin to build collections to reflect this new diversity. The challenges of expanding the traditional view of collection devel­ opment in academic libraries will require librarians to undergo an attitudinal change. They will be forced to break out of the “ cultural ghetto” in which they have traditionally operated. Many librarians have already done this, but others are still bound by a narrow definition of culture, and their collections still are shaped from that perspective. In an age o f anticanonical and multicultural studies, collection developers most look be­ yond their traditional standards if they are to meet the needs o f all of their constituencies.

REFERENCES 1. Susan Sontag, Against Interpretation (New York: Dell, 1966), p. 287. 2. Wayne A. Wiegand, “ Popular Culture: A New Frontier for Academic Li­ braries,” Journal o f Academic Librarianship 5, no. 4 (September 1979), p. 200.

3. Russel B. Nye, “ Popular Culture as a Genre,” in Wayne A. Wiegand



(cd.), Popular Culture and the Library: Proceedings o f Symposium II (Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky, College of Library Science, 1978), p. 5. 4. Lawrence W. Levine, Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence o f Cultural Hierarchy in America (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1988). 5. Levine, p. 232. 6. Barbara B. Moran, “ Popular Culture and Library Education,” Journal o f Education fo r Library and Information Science 26, no. 1 (Summer 1985). 7. Nye, “ Popular Culture as Genre,” p. 5. 8. Nye, “ Notes for an Introduction to a Discussion of Popular Culture,” Journal o f Popular Culture 4, no. 4 (Spring, 1971), p. 1032. 9. Ray B. Browne, “ Libraries at the Crossroads: A Perspective on Libraries and Culture,” Drexel Library Quarterly 16, no. 3 (July 1980), p. 12. 10. Ralph Waldo Emerson, “ The American Scholar,” quoted in Browne, p. 12. 11. Nye, “ Notes,” p. 1038. 12. B. Lee Cooper, “ Somewhere Between Theory and Trivia: Library Service and Information Requests from Popular Culture Researchers,” Paper delivered at the Popular Culture Associate Conference, San Antonio, Texas, March 1991. 13. Christopher D. Geist et at., Directory o f Popular Culture Collections (Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1989). 14. Browne, p. 19. 15. Allan Bloom, The Closing o f the American Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987). 16. Dinesh D ’Souza, Illiberal Education: The Policies o f Race and Sex on Campus (New York: Free Press/Macmillan, 1991).

Donors and the Acquisition of Popular Culture Materials Lucy Shelton C asw ell

SUMMARY. In contrast to more traditional special collections, the nature of popular culture manuscript materials offers many opportu­ nities for a broadly based development strategy. These are not esoteric objects, but things which everyone has encountered. When the rationale for a research library to make such artifacts available to scholars is clearly stated and when the focus of the collection is well-defined, every department within the library can understand the importance of the effort and contribute towards its realization. After a brief review of the basis for collecting popular culture ma­ terials, this article examines the acquisition challenges facing librar­ ians as they work with potential donors of popular culture manu­ script materials. A horizontal library development strategy is then proposed.

The universe of difficulties encountered when collecting contemporary materials has been extensively documented. For example, in an excellent chapter titled “ Archival Choices: Managing the Historical Record in an Age of Abundance,” F. Gerald Ham describes the problems exemplified by the papers of former Illinois governor Otto Kemer, Jr.: bulk, redun­ dancy, missing data, and impermanence. To this list, he adds a fifth prob­ lem, that of structural bias in what is collected: “ . . . too much documen­ tation on certain aspects o f U. S. life and culture, and almost nothing on others.” 1 The list compiled by Frank W. Hoffman in the first chapter of his book Popular Culture and Libraries is similar. He cites the abundance of materials, ignorance o f librarians about popular culture materials, Lucy Shelton Caswell is Associate Professor and Curator of The Ohio State University Cartoon, Graphic, and Photographic Arts Research Library, 023L Wexner Center, 27 West 17th Avenue Mall, Columbus OH 43210-1393. © 1992 by The Haworth Press, Inc. AH rights reserved.




scarcity of review sources, biases against the materials, (lie rapidity with which materials go out of print, and limited distribution outlets.2 Neither author, however, considered the role of gifts-in-kind in building collec­ tions of popular culture manuscripts and the related need to raise finan­ cial support for such efforts. Since gifts-in-kind can be a major source of acquisitions for popular culture research collections, careful consideration must be given to articulating a collection development policy and to working with donors. After a brief review of the rationale for collecting popular culture materials, Uiis article will examine the acquisition challenges facing li­ brarians building popular culture collections as they work with poten­ tial donors of manuscript materials. A horizontal library development strategy is then proposed as a model for the acquisition of popular culture materials.

COLLECTING POPULAR CULTURE The Popular Culture Association was established in 1969 by scholars interested in studying “ . . . those productions, both artistic and commer­ cial, designed for mass consumption.” 3 Theoretical support for such scholarly activity has come from many fields. For example, in 1973 Umberto Eco proposed ” . . . that the whole of culture must be studied as a phenomenon of communication.” 4 As Barbara Moran explains, “ . . . scholars interested in the field believe that a given society’s values and beliefs are more accurately reflected in its popular artifacts than in its elite culture.” s Research libraries have traditionally collected the artifacts of “ high” or elite culture, and collecting such mundane things as illustrated post cards or cookbooks has been overlooked. Those libraries which do have collections of popular culture materials have sometimes acquired them unenthusiastically: The materials were part of a larger collection which the institution wanted for another purpose. Or the materials were collect­ ed and/or produced by someone whom die institution wanted to keep happy such as an alumnus/ae or a wealthy donor. A third reason has been Üiat collections could be acquired by donation at little direct cost to the institution. Occasionally popular culture materials have been acquired because the institution has a commitment to support research by provid­ ing primary source materials and is unable to compete with collectors in “ traditional” areas. Fortunately, there are research libraries committed to collecting popu­

Lucy Shelton Caswell


lar culture materials for positive reasons: to document American life and culture, and to support interdisciplinary research. As Edward C. Kemp has observed, “ Today’s scholar rarely gathers and maintains his own research files but relies on die special collections of a good library to provide unusually deep, rich source materials.” 6 For the purpose of this article, the assumption is that collections of popular culture materials will be handled as special collections, housed in secure locations and governed by restrictive use regulations dictated by preservation concerns. If the average time to process manuscripts and artifacts ranges from 25.2 to 47.0 hours per cubic foot,7 it is foolhardy for libraries not to have a well-defined collection development policy to guide such acquisitions. A clearly articulated policy statement will both deflect criticism (Why do we waste money on such things?) and enhance donations. No library can hope to collect ALL popular culture. By defin­ ing sensible parameters for its holdings, an institution can strengUien its own resources by focusing allocations on those areas which are priorities. The collection development policy forms die basis for solicitation of gifts-in-kind and cannot be written widiout thoughtful assessment o f the library. “ In conceiving a library . . . solicitation program, the librarian . . . must take time to become familiar widi his institution, to know and appreciate its needs, strengths, weaknesses, size, directions, staffing, and goals; to examine die present user community and to envision the poten­ tial depdi and scope o f future use; to assess available resources in funds, staff, and building; and to ascertain present and potential support from the board, staff, and community.” 8 The importance of this review cannot be overemphasized. Regrettably, prejudices against popular culture as scholarly pursuit do exist widiin the academy. Research collections of popular culture materials cannot be built without the strong support of library and university administrators and faculty. In addition, the popular culture librarian must be able to identify how his or her facility relates to die mission of die institution. Coinciding with die review of local resources and needs, an examina­ tion of related collections at other institutions should be undertaken. Being able to demonstrate that a given subject area and/or genre of mate­ rials is not being collected elsewhere can be powerful justification for die establishment of a local repository. Areas of possible cooperation with libraries holding similar materials should be explored. For example, Mardia M. Smith has described the coordinated acquisition of rare books by the University of Nordi Carolina-Chapel Hill and the University of Nordi Carolina-Greensboro and notes “ . . . diat the value and usefulness of their special collections have been enhanced” through their cooperation.9



Because few research collections o f popular culture manuscripts are in existence, many opportunities for cooperation are available. The librar­ ies which in 1990 formed the Consortium o f Popular Culture Libraries in the Midwest (Bowling Green State University, Michigan State Univer­ sity, and Ohio State University) hope that regional cooperation between other institutions collecting popular culture will be forthcoming. This group has undertaken collective collection evaluation, and " . . . this anal­ ysis of what the member libraries actually hold-as well as their aspira­ tions for future acquisitions-will assist member and non-member libraries alike in developing collections diat more thoroughly meet the needs of scholars now and in the future.” 10

BUILDING POPULAR CULTURE M ANUSCRIPT COLLECTIONS Once die parameters of a special collection of popular culture manu­ scripts have been established, the collection manager must review possi­ ble means for acquiring materials. Building a library widi gifts-in-kind can be done, but a careful plan of cultivation and solicitation is needed. Who are the major figures in die field? Are their papers available? Do diey have any links with the institution? Are there professional associa­ tions in the field? If so, are the association archives available? What can be done to establish the credibility of the library in this particular area of popular culture? Can programming be done to increase the library’s visi­ bility to die target group? Once diose questions have been answered, the next step is to contact die potential donor. The writer or artist who created the materials may still be living. If he or she is deceased, a member o f the immediate fami­ ly almost always is alive. This means that the librarian must deal with persons who have emotional ties to the materials, a factor which may complicate seemingly simple decisions. The care of the collection will be subject to die scrutiny of these persons, making the wording of gift deeds or purchase agreements extremely important. The creators of popular culture materials may not value their own work. For example, at die turn of die century, original newspaper car­ toons were discarded once the printing plates were made. The librarian may need to do “ consciousness raising” with potential donors in order for materials of interest such as business records or fan letters to be res­ cued from die trash. In addition, the papers of popular culture creators, excluding writers, are seldom marketed. Such persons need to be identi-

Lucy Shelton Caswell


fied by die collection manager, and cultivated over a long period o f time to build confidence in the repository in order that materials will be saved and eventually donated to the institution. One of the more significant tasks o f the collection manager is to urge die potential donor to include the disposition o f the collection in his or her will. Tact and sensitivity are vital when discussing this widi a donor, but the librarian should not shy away from raising tliis issue. All too often a greedy executor or quarreling family members may disperse a collection in spite of clear evidence diat its creator intended for it to be donated to a specific repository. Current tax law does not encourage the creator o f a body o f work to retain materials and donate diem to research libraries. Only the costs related to making the work (such as paper and ink, in the case o f a car­ toon) may be deducted when the work is donated; yet the estate of the creator will be taxed at the w ork’s market value. Collection managers should not pose as tax consultants, but they must be aware o f the impact of such regulations on potential donations o f popular culture materials. Popular culture materials are sometimes overvalued by collectors. Someone who has spent a lifetime accumulating Garfield ceramics may believe her treasures to be worth many times die current market value. A related problem is die shortage of qualified appraisers for popular culture materials. Too many are dealers with an eye out for themselves. Also, in some cases, prices may be difficult to determine because similar items are rarely sold. When a value can be assigned, a bargain sale may be a beneficial compromise for bodi die owner and the library. In a bar­ gain sale, the institution pays a portion of die appraised value and die seller takes the remainder as a charitable donation.

A H O R IZO N T A L D E V E L O P M E N T ST R A T E G Y Historically, special collections and building problems have been al­ most the only reasons a library undertook development campaigns. Most special collections must rely on development. As mentioned previously, desired materials may seldom be marketed; they may be available only as gifts-in-kind. Sometimes budgetary constraints are such that operating funds for special collections must come from endowments. Every sub­ ject area librarian knows that fill-in journals are occasionally impossi­ ble to acquire except as gifts. W ith an expanded view of library devel­ opment, die network for potential gifts will also increase. Within any defined area of collecting interest, the range o f gifts is limited only by



the imagination of the librarian in charge and the approval of the appro­ priate administrator. The benefits of staff-wide awareness of development programs can perhaps be better understood through a brief assessment of the function of development in special collections. For many the idea of library development-donor cultivation, organized solicitation of gifts-in-kind and money, and programming to highlight the library’s holdings-is also new. Unfortunately those librarians involved with special collections have sometimes been the only ones to perceive a stake in the library’s devel­ opment effort. Robin N. Downes outlines several general principles for library devel­ opment: 1. . . . fund-raising must be a principal charge to the university li­ brary administration. 2. . . . the library must be treated as a coequal with the colleges when university-wide fund-raising campaigns are conducted. 3. . . . when such university-wide campaigns result in expanded aca­ demic programs, a percentage of the gifts should be allocated to library support. 4. . . . libraries must be equipped to contribute as equals with the col­ leges to the arduous, frustrating, and complex tasks of publicizing to the support community their role and value in the educadonal process. 5. . . . a library development officer. . . [should be] budgetedin the library. 6. . . . the organization of a special collections department should be re-examined as to its contribution to education programs and its relationship to fund-raising. 7. . . . the organization of die traditional friends association should be changed to more directly relate its efforts to fund-raising." For the popular culture manuscript repository, Downes’ sixd» point is the most relevant. The collection development policy is again of central importance. It must articulate the contribution of primary popular culture research materials to die educational mission of the institution. Careful orientation should occur both for the librarian (to understand the develop­ ment fund’s policies and procedures) and for the development officer (to understand the library’s functions and needs). Everyone involved in li­ brary development must be comfortable in articulating the mission of the popular culture library.

Lucy Shelton Caswell


Downes’ itinerary for fund-raising is largely a vertical model, involving library and university administration. By adopting a horizontally structured library development strategy in addition to a vertical model, everyone re­ lated to the library would, to a greater or lesser degree, be made aware of die development potential of his or her task. When popular culture materi­ als and living donors are involved, the “ payoff” can be immediate. For example, there can be a direct relationship between serials catalog­ ing and development: A large collection of die work of one of the grand­ fathers of die comic book was presented to a library. Although it was im­ possible to organize the collection completely by the time of his next visit to campus, showing some progress in caring for it was imperative. A spe­ cial arrangement with serials cataloging allowed a portion of the collec­ tion to be rush cataloged. The donor was delighted when a search of the library’s on-line catalog revealed fifty matches; in fact, he requested the print-out as a souvenir to take home. Such good will has a ripple-effect. Donor number one told another prospective donor about the impressive computer cataloging system. Horizontal library development need not in­ volve new staff or additional expenditures. What is required is intentional cooperation toward reaching a joint goal. Anticipation, commitment, and persistence are characteristics of a successful horizontally structured library development program. Anticipa­ tion requires the popular culture librarian to understand clearly his or her institutional priorities in order to be ready when an opportunity presents itself. Being ready is an active posture. Donors will not come unless there is an attraction; hence innovative programming, clean and attractive facilities, and courteous and responsive staff are all ultimately related to development. Although it may seem trite and unnecessary to discuss the need for commitment, the popular culture manuscripts librarian cannot be tepid about his or her job. Neither potential donors of collections and money nor library administrators who allocate resources will respond to half­ hearted proposals. Telling the popular culture library’s story is a neverending task. It is critical to recount with enthusiasm what is where in the library and why; what is unusual, unique and special; and what is needed by the library and why. Students, faculty, and alumni have taken the academic library for granted for too long, and the idea of collecting pop­ ular culture materials may be foreign to them. Library employees must continuously find ways to remind these groups of the centrality of the library-and of primary popular culture research materials-to the academic enterprise, and, therefore, why they should contribute their time, talents, money, and personal collections (when appropriate) to the library.



An information network should be encouraged. If, for example, a circulation clerk knows of a collection o f silent movie posters, a call to die person responsible for popular culture materials may bring important and useful materials to die library witii no direct costs. This type o f refer­ ral happens routinely in many libraries. The point is to raise the collec­ tive awareness of the staff so than it happens more often with a higher success rate. Anyone involved with special collections knows that persistence is the key to a successful development effort. Like water wearing away stone, die curator continuously writes, calls, schedules special events, and odierwise reminds potential donors of how wonderful the library is. Such donor cultivation can be most effective when several library staff mem­ bers share the responsibilities. In fact, some donors may be interested in contributing to several areas of the library. A long perspective is helpful in ail areas of librarianship, but in development it is a necessity. Some­ one in the journalism department may have a young colleague amassing a collection of primary source material which falls within the collecting interests of die library. This young person should be considered a poten­ tial donor and cultivated, even though the gift is diirly or forty years away. Another strategy might be to offer specific library services to the targeted constituency. Many popular culture creators are novice library users, and having a phone number to call to ask factual questions (Who was the first woman editorial cartoonist in the USA?) or get preservation information (What kind o f boxes should I use for storing my work?) can gain friends for the library. Not all academic librarians are comfortable with an active develop­ ment stance. Some feel it is beneadi their dignity to hustle for a donation. Others have protective instincts (sometimes justified, sometimes misguid­ ed) so that diey do not feel comfortable participating in the information network mentioned earlier. Many will not enjoy the entrepreneurial chal­ lenge. There will never be total support within a library system for a horizon­ tally structured development strategy. Even so, the potential for exploit­ ing die finite donor and dollar resources available to any given academic library is enormous when library faculty, staff, and student assistants come together with friends groups in a successful development program. This is especially true for popular culture materials and for funding to benefit their repositories. Once again, however, a clearly defined collec­ tion development policy is crucial. Decisions about what is to be added to the library’s holdings must not be made by a development officer or

Lucy Shelton Caswell


tlie director of the friends group. Only the librarian charged with respon­ sibility for a particular collection should be given this authority. Those collecting popular culture materials will soon discover that die acquisition of gifts-in-kind is much easier than raising money to process newly-acquired collections or support an endowment. Many superb col­ lections of popular culture materials have been built by individuals of modest means. Such persons are often eager to place their collections where they will be cared for and used, but they cannot donate funds to catalog diem. In addition to individual donors, Streit has suggested seed grants from die university, corporate and foundation donors, and government grants as possible sources of funds.12 Operating funds are, however, difficult to raise. “ If die library accepted die collection, it should be able to take care o f it,” is a widely held view. Certainly no library should accept any special collection widiout also accepting the responsibility for organizing it and making the materials available. Outside funding is nonetheless frequently needed for special collections to be processed in a timely fashion. The repository would eventually complete the task, but grant funds enable the work to be done sooner. Suggesting a nonroutine project such as cataloging a group o f related collections may make a proposal more attractive to prospective funding agencies.

CO NCLU SIO N “ In die past generation, popular culture has attained a new legitimacy in American universities. Popular culture is now studied more often, in more different courses, in more departments, and with more sympathy than before.” 13 Libraries must evaluate their role in supporting the study o f popular culture and some will conclude that collections o f popular culture materials must be purposefully acquired and organized for re­ searchers. The nature of popular culture manuscript materials offers many oppor­ tunities for a horizontal development strategy. These are not esoteric objects, but diings which everyone has encountered. W hen die rationale for a research library to make such artifacts available to scholars is clear­ ly stated and when the focus o f die collection is well-defined, every department within the library can understand the importance o f die effort and contribute towards its realization. The fringe benefits o f working with living donors, such as the pleasure o f meeting a famous magazine illustrator, can also be shared witii library colleagues and members o f



friends organizations. Through institutional cooperation, the impact o f individual popular culture manuscripts collections can be enhanced and the effort to provide research materials to document our society will be successful.

REFERENCES 1. F. Gerald Ham, “ Archival Choices: Managing the Historical Record in an Age of Abundance,” in Archival Choices, ed. Nancy E. Peace (Lexington MA: Lexington Books, 1984), 133-134. 2. Frank W. Hoffmann, Popular Culture and Libraries (Hamden CT: Shoe String Press, 1984), 17-18. 3. Gordon Stevenson, “ The Wayward Scholar: Resources and Research in Popular Culture,” Library Trends, 25 (April 1977): 784. 4. Umberto Eco, “ Social Life as a Sign System,” in Structuralism: An In­ troduction, ed. David Robey (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 61. 5. Barbara B. Moran, “ Popular Culture and Its Challenge to the Academic Library,” in Twentieth-Century Popular Culture in Museums and Libraries, ed. Fred E. H. Schroeder (Bowling Green OH: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1981), 179. 6. Edward C. Kemp, Manuscript Solicitation fo r Libraries, Special Collec­ tions, Museums, and Archives (Littleton CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1978), 7. 7. Terry Abraham, Stephen E. Balzarini, and Anne Frantilla, “ What is Back­ log Is Prologue: A Measurement of Archival Processing,” American Archivist 48 (Winter 1985): 39. 8. Kemp, 11. 9. Martha M. Smith, “ Cooperative Collection Development for Rare Books Among Neighboring Academic Libraries,” College & Research Libraries, 46 (Mar. 1985): 166. 10. “ Consortium of Popular Culture Collections in the Midwest Prospectus,” Ohio State University Libraries, 1990, 4. 11. Robin N. Downes, “ Integrating Fund-Raising into the Administration of University Libraries: Goals, Plans, Strategies,” in Library Fund-Raising: Vital Margin fo r Excellence, ed. Sul Lee (Ann Arbor MI: Pierian Press, 1984), 44. 12. Samuel Allen Streit, “ All That Glitters: Fund Raising for Special Collec­ tions in Academic Libraries,” Rare Books & Manuscripts Librarianship, 3 (Spring 1988): 35-38. 13. Michael Schudson, “ The New Validation of Popular Culture: Sense and Sentimentality in Academia,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 4 (March 1987): 51.

Collection Division as an Acquisition Method: A Case Study Nena Couch

SUM M ARY. This article examines the cooperative acquisition and division o f a twentieth-century manuscripts collection by two geo­ graphically distant university special collections, and the possibility of such a project as a model for other archives. The Library o f the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute of The Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio) and the Institute on the Federal Theatre Project and New Deal Culture at George Mason University (Fairfax, Virginia) worked cooperatively to acquire the Robert Breen Collection which was divided between the two insti­ tutions. Mr. B reen’s professional activities in theatre and the docu­ mentation of diose activities fall into two distinct sections which made such a division possible and logical given the strengths o f the two institutes.

Cooperation among archives has been, and continues to be, a topic of interest for archivists as cooperation among libraries has been for librari­ ans. Many of the cooperative efforts described in the pertinent library literature are programs at the national or regional levels: programs which are large-scale, often involving multiple collections, and including such collection management issues as development, preservation, and biblioNena Couch is Curator/Assistant Professor, the Library of the Jerome Law­ rence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute at The Ohio State University. Ms. Couch received the Master of Library Science degree from Vanderbilt University and the Master of Music degree in Musicology from George Peabody College for Teachers. Address correspondence to the author at: 1430 Lincoln Tower, 1800 Cannon Drive, Columbus, OH 43210-1230. © 1992 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.




graphic access. An example of a cooperative archival effort on a smaller and more focused scale was undertaken in 1974 by the Ohio Historical Society and the Columbus Jewish Federation to develop a collection which would provide a history o f Columbus Jewry. The Columbus Jew­ ish Federation was responsible for development of the collection in locat­ ing materials and negotiating with potential donors, both individuals and groups, for deposit of those materials. The Ohio Historical Society was responsible for processing and preservation of material as well as techni­ cal support for transcription of oral histories which were conducted.1This project is an interesting example of two organizations cooperating to develop a subject collection to be housed and administered by one of the organizations. This article discusses a collaborative project undertaken by the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute of the Ohio State University and die Institute on the Federal Theatre Project and New Deal Culture at George Mason University which involves cooperation between two institutions with a different twist-the deliberate division o f a collec­ tion. It is hoped diat this project may serve as a model for the appropri­ ate acquisition and handling of other collections. In 1986 representatives of the Theatre Research Institute of the Ohio State University and the Institute on the Federal Theatre Project and New Deal Culture at George Mason University, as well as representatives of odier institutions, were contacted by die family and friends o f Robert Breen regarding the disposition of a large collection which he had amassed and which documented his career in the theatre as actor, direc­ tor, producer, and administrator. Robert Breen became active in theatre in the 1930’s and first came on the national theatre scene in 1935 by serving as associate director o f Federal Theatre No. 1, the Chicago arm of the Federal Theatre Project. This experience with the Federal Theatre Project and die governmental interference which affected it led Breen to believe that even if the government subsidized theatre, it should in no way attempt or be able to control the artistic result of that subsidy. Fol­ lowing service in the U.S. Air Force from 1942-1944 during which he met and began work with Robert Porterfield of the Barter Theatre in Virginia, Robert, his wife and partner Wilva Davis Breen, and Porterfield put forth the National Theatre Foundation plan. This proposal, inspired by what Breen perceived as the European tradition of public support without government restraints, was to establish an endowment for the performing arts. Read into the Congressional Rec­ ord, it was accepted for the plan of operation for the American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA) which had been chartered, but not funded,

Nena Couch


by Congress in 1935. Thus in 1946, ANTA became active with Robert Breen as its executive secretary from 1946-1951. During his tenure, ANTA was active in the support of regional theatres by providing training in regional theatre administration, acting as a placement ser­ vice, and assisting playwrights and die regional theatres by submitting new plays to theatres hungry for original productions. ANTA’s Experi­ mental Theatre included such productions as Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo starring Charles Laughton. Under ANTA’s sponsorship, the State Deparunent cooperated in the American Ballet Theatre tour to Europe. Robert Breen’s continuing efforts to obtain government funding for dieatre were first steps toward die establishment of the National En­ dowment for the Arts. Following his departure from ANTA, Breen undertook to obtain, with financial backer Blevins Davis, the rights to produce DuBose Heyward’s and George and Ira Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Having established a not-for-profit organization, Everyman Opera, Breen proceeded to direct what has been considered by some to be the definitive production of Porgy and Bess: one which ran from 1952-1956, and toured 29 countries on five continents. As the first major U.S. artistic production in die Sovi­ et Union after World War II, Porgy and Bess was immortalized, although unfairly trivialized, in Truman Capote’s The Muses Are Heard. The casts of Porgy and Bess during those four years included many of the out­ standing black performers of the time, Leontyne Price, William Warfield, Cab Calloway, as well as a number whose names are not as well known, but who possessed great talent and glorious voices. Following the return of Porgy and Bess to die States in 1956, Breen suffered a series of professional reverses from which he never recovered. A plan to keep these talented black performers working together in a repertory company which would perform Porgy and Bess, Carmen Jones, and Free and Easy (also known as Blues Opera), died when Free and Easy, a Harold Arlen-Yip Harburg work based on the Countee Cullen novel, closed in Paris. Breen was unsuccessful in his bid to direct the film version of Porgy and Bess and likewise unsuccessful in his related lawsuit against Samuel Goldwyn. In die ensuing years, he developed many theatre and film ideas, but none came to fruition. Thus this creative artist was forgotten years before his death in 1990, and his accomplishments put aside even to the extent that his involve­ ment in ANTA is not mentioned in the recent book on the National En­ dowment for die Arts by Livingston Biddle, Our Government and the Arts. It is quite likely diat his inability to successfully promote his later projects is due in great part to his unfailing commitment to the integrity



of his artistic vision, which took precedence over the constraints of the production budget. Yet had this man done nothing besides either ANTA or Porgy and Bess, his acliievements in die support of good regional theatre and talent­ ed African-American performers would still be great and worthy of rec­ ognition. This is the conviction which brought the OSU and George Mason representatives together with the Breen family in October 1986. Members of the family had raised the possibility of dividing the material between the two institutions-an idea wliich the two schools opposed initially, until representatives were able to actually examine the material. The proposed division of die Porgy and Bess and other post-1952 career materials to die Ohio State University where Breen himself deposited Porgy and Bess materials in 1956, and the Federal Theatre Project and American National Theatre and Academy materials to George Mason because of die Federal Theatre Project collection on deposit there from the Library of Congress, was actually not an artificial division at all but radier a logical one. By the nature of the materials and because of Breen’s enthusiasm for documentation, the organizational archives of ANTA and the materials o f his personal career as actor, director, produc­ er, were already divided. It became apparent that the small overlap in­ volved could be handled by the cooperative effort of the two institutions. In some ways these institutions would seem unlikely partners-administratively different, one extremely large and the other much smaller, geographically distant. Yet the similarities are more compelling: both have institutes widiin their structures specializing in subject areas related to the collection which could sponsor symposia and other activities-the Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute at OSU and the Institute on the Federal Theatre Project and New Deal Culture at George Mason. Bodi Institutes are active scholarly entities. The Theatre Research Insti­ tute serves as a collection repository as well, and die Institute on the Federal Theatre Project has played a critical role in the preservation of, and dissemination of information about, a major national collection. The personnel involved have parallel counterparts-each Institute has a director (administrator in the case o f George Mason) who is a faculty member in die subject area of the Institute. In addition to the institute directors, there are also counterparts in the library systems, the Theatre Research Institute curator and the archivist at George Mason University. Both Institutes have built-in forums for dissemination of information about collections in their regular publica­ tions: Federal One by the Institute on the Federal Theatre Project and Theatre Studies and a newsletter by the Theatre Research Institute.

Nena Couch


Cooperative collection-related activities have historically played a significant role in the development of both the Theatre Research Institute and die Institute for the Federal Theatre Project. The Theatre Research Institute and other OSU Libraries special collections have worked cooper­ atively with Michigan State University and Bowling Green State Univer­ sity special collections. This cooperation has resulted in formalized col­ laboration, the Consortium of Popular Culture Collections in the Midwest, whose focus is on collection development, access, preservation and promo­ tion of research and includes trade and exchange of materials, inter-consor­ tium loan, and donor referral when appropriate. And both the Theatre Re­ search Institute and the Institute on die Federal Theatre Project have had extensive experience in developing programs, both local and national, based on collection materials. The Institute on the Federal Theatre Project has actual experience with split collections as well, the Federal Theatre Project collection itself being divided, materials relating to process being housed in the National Archives and those relating to product at George Mason. And indeed, collaboration was the crux of the matter for the Breen family. In (heir commitment to make known the extensive effect of Robert’s work on theatre today, they were very interested in making this material easily accessible to students, especially in the interdisciplinary studies to which this material lends itself—certainly theatre, opera and music as well as international relations, cultural exchange, social history, black studies, and the concept o f national theatre and its relationship to the development of the National Endowment for the Arts. The greatest similarity of all between these institutes lies in their commitment, sup­ ported by their institutions, to make knowledge o f Breen’s work known Uirough exhibits, symposia, publications and promotion o f the collection, and to make the Breen material accessible to researchers. After meeting jointly with die Breen family, representatives of the two schools returned to tiieir institutions and, with great use o f long distance phone service, proceeded to develop proposals to present to the family. Although separate proposals went from the two institutions, the primary points of both were the same: to preserve the materials, to index and catalog materials and make those finding aids and catalogs available, to ensure the availability and accessibility o f the material to the public as quickly as possible, to cooperatively and individually plan special pro­ gramming such as exhibits both single and joint, symposia, and interdis­ ciplinary lectures, to pursue funding possibilities outside the institutions to allow for even further promotion o f materials and for preservation purposes, and to develop oral history programs. There are two areas



which are o f particular interest in terms of cooperative effort since one institution, George Mason, has a strength in oral history while OSU has a strength in preservation. As part o f its program to preserve Federal Theatre Project history, George Mason University initiated an extensive oral history program. The Ohio State University Libraries established a preservation office in 1984 and has actively supported development in that area for all library materials with particular attention given to special collections. In these areas, each institution has benefitted from the other’s expertise. After acceptance of die two proposals by the family, the collection was jointly examined by the FTP administrator Lorraine Brown of George Mason and by Ncna Couch, curator o f the Theatre Research Institute, who agreed upon a preliminary division o f materials. With the OSU Libraries preservation officer whose expertise greatly facilitated the transfer of materials, the Theatre Research Institute curator did the final packing of material and the necessary reboxing. Upon receipt of die material at Ohio State, the first step was to fumi­ gate everything. Much of this material had been stored in die basement of die Breen’s apartment above the old Hudson Theatre in New York, and was inhabited by New York denizens that were not welcome in Columbus. Following fumigation, the work of preparing a list o f materi­ als at the folder level was begun, starting with material diat had been stored in the Breen’s office rather than the basement. While much of the material from the basement (a significant portion of which is newsprint) does duplicate the office material, other unique treasures had also been housed there. All the office and basement materials have been listed although it is d e a r diat it will not be possible to retain all the water- and pest-damaged papers. In addition to correspondence, clippings, books, scripts, music scores, photographs, scene and costume designs, theatre ground plans, posters, lobby cards, and scrapbooks, the portion of the Breen collection at Ohio State includes audiotapes, 16 and 35 mm. film, costumes, and even Porgy’s cart and pushers. The collection provides what a preservation officer might view as an insurmountable opportunity in terms of the diversity o f formats and con­ ditions represented. The paper materials are generally highly acidic and brittle, and present a major problem for retention. The long-term hope is to microfilm this material; however, outside funding will be necessary for diis project. Besides the hard use received during the production, the costumes were unfortunately caught in a flood in the basement and are damaged, beyond hope in some cases. On the positive side, tiiere is an historic costume collection at OSU, whose curator has experience in

Nena Couch


working with water-damaged materials, so he has been available for consultation and assistance. The audiotapes and fdms are o f performances, rehearsals, and recitals given in Europe by the Porgy and Bess cast, and contain some wonderful performances. There are also rehearsal audiotapes for Free and Easy. The audiotapes themselves are in good condition, but the splices have deterio­ rated. The Theatre Research Institute has begun a project to repair the splices and copy these audiotapes onto cassettes. The film is generally in good condition although some splices are in need o f repair. With die exception of one film, all is safety film, and again, as a cooperative ef­ fort, George Mason University transferred that fdm to safety film. The goal for die film is to copy both 16 and 35 mm. to videotape for use by researchers. As use copies are created, copies will be placed at both OSU and GMU to enhance public access. Since the ANTA material is in simi­ larly poor condition, it is probable that the first joint grant-seeking ven­ ture will be funding for die preservation needs of the collections. Since both Institutes have IBM personal computers and Dbase D3+, both have created database structures to accommodate the information needed for a quick listing to gain some control over the collections. Al­ though there are common fields in the structures developed in the two locations, they are not identical due to the nature of the materials: essen­ tially an organization archives at George Mason and a personal collection at Ohio State. However, disks and printouts have been swapped so that each will be able to search the other’s holdings. The Theatre Research Institute database provides a folder-level listing, library codes, original box number, genres, dates, subject category, contents and memo fields. At this time everything is searchable except for the memo field and the quick access gained to the collection has been most gratifying. In fact, by using the Breen database, the Theatre Research Institute was able to efficiently support research by Hollis Alpert in his preparation of The Life and Times o f Porgy and Bess (Knopf, 1990) on the history o f Porgy and Bess even though the collection had not been fully processed. Both Institutes have begun conducting oral history interviews: George Mason on audio and videotape, and OSU on audiotape. Most o f the inter­ views thus far have been with Porgy and Bess company members. These are interviews conducted by both Institutes since our feeling is that some of this material may be helpful in fund-raising purposes, and if die opera Porgy and Bess is not generally known in its entirety, at least some spe­ cial songs from the show are widely known to a popular audience, both in the United States and abroad. At OSU, programming to promote the collection began immediately.



As a perennial favorite, Porgy and Bess made the circuit in a new jazz version which appeared at Ohio State with William Warfield, Porgy in the Breen production, narrating. For the occasion, the Theatre Research Institute assisted the auditorium management with research and an exhibit was mounted in the Institute’s exhibit space to promote the performance. And in connection with die concert, some o f die films of the tour have been shown. In the spring of 1991 a conference was sponsored by the Theatre Research Institute and Black Studies and held at OSU which used this production of Porgy and Bess as a springboard. This project may be seen thus far as being in three phases: 1. what has been accomplished: the joint acquisition o f the collection, even though separate proposals were submitted as well as separate gift agreement forms for the two institutions. 2. current activities: the processing which is necessarily a more indi­ vidual activity. An area which still needs to be confronted in order to create joint catalogs of the collection is a mutually acceptable standard of description. At this time the present database structures are being used to gain quick control over the collection, but do not provide a permanent solution. 3. future possibilities: projects which are under discussion such as joint exhibits, grant-seeking, publications, promotion of the col­ lections, symposia, lectures, and presentations both subject specific and interdisciplinary. In many ways this collaborative approach to a special collection is much more difficult than having sole responsibility; however, it is clear diat in cooperating and sharing the strengtiis of the institutions, it will be possible to fulfill the expectations which the donors have-expectations to which they are entitled. It is die conviction o f the institute personnel involved dial this joint acquisition and programming will result in greater rewards for all concerned. While deliberate division of a collection would not be the appropriate decision in many cases, this method has proven to be a very satisfactory solution for the Robert Breen Collection. Although diis collection is unique in its specific content, it is very typical in structure as a twentieth century American manuscripts collection o f a professional with interests in many facets and organizations in his field. As is true with many pro­ fessionals who are active witii particular organizations and whose inter­ ests are often project-driven and therefore somewhat compartmentalized, Robert Breen’s activities were for the most part quite distinct from one

Nena Couch


another, and his personal collection lent itself to an easy division. Since both institutions had strengths which would well serve the portions of the collection acquired, diat division was also logical. This cooperative ac­ quisition may therefore provide a model for other similar collections, and may serve archives, donors, and researchers well.

REFERENCE 1. Marc Lee Raphael, “ The Genesis of a Communal History: The Columbus Jewish History Project,” American Jewish Archives (April 1977): 53-69.

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The Time Capsule as a Way for the Future to Acquire Popular Culture Items William E. Jarvis

SUMMARY. Time capsules are presented as an ideal way to char­ acterize the ephemeral, popular cultural media “ software” of any era. By preserving selected artifacts and descriptions and interpreta­ tions of those items in time capsules a wide variety of popular subcultures, unconventional and unofficial views, practices, and publications can be transmitted directly into die future widiout the editing of (our) contemporary official cultural authorities. Four millennial time capsules’ contents are briefly considered, as well as die typical contents of centennial time capsules. Suggestions are made as to how time capsules can be used as unique cultural con­ veyances, rather than merely be missed opportunities. The inadequate representation of popular culture in time capsules is illustrated, and general guidelines are suggested for increased popular cultural representation in new time capsules. INTRODUCTION

Popular culture, as well as its opposite, has been defined in a variety of ways.1The concept includes a wide range of written, pictorial, sound, and ephemeral materials. The focus in this study is on item selection, interpretation, and preservation of library materials, although as students of popular culture have noted, the concept of “ popular culture in li­ braries” involves as much an expansion of our concept of a collection as it does just the mere inclusion of a “ trashy” or “ lower” title among serious, “ critically acclaimed” literature. Consider how one might readily select and preserve a substantial range William E. Jarvis is Head, Acquisitions/Serials Unit, at Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA 99164-5610. © 1992 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.




of popular culture items, using, perhaps, a number of time capsules. One could use as a guide to selection, for example, die Oryx Press Directory o f Popular Culture Collections, which lists a variety of eminently collect­ able popular culture items, “ library materials” and otherwise. Including a wide variety of similar materials in time capsules would be one way to assist future “ acquisitions” of such items. Time capsules can be valuable ways to preserve popular cultural item selections for ‘‘reacquisition’ ’ by future recipients. Time capsule contents can be botii high and popular cultural media and realia. Both the very act of sealing time capsules and the selection of their contents can character­ ize an age or an occasion. Time capsules can contain more than informational media, such as: pictures, writings, and sound recordings. However, non-information me­ dia, artifacts, “ realia” are not the focus of this analysis. Archival informational media can provide to future interpreters of our “ past” age the ephemeral “ cultural software” of a now gone culture and time. The study of ancient (or even just pre-twentieth century) popular culture suffers from a lack of sufficient primary materials. The ephemeral character of much popular cultural material, especially paper-based writ­ ings and pictures makes for succinct research articles, but also leaves many blanks in our montage of past popular cultural practices. The selec­ tion and preservation of a wide variety of popular cultural materials is one of the primary concerns of librarians and archivists of popular cultur­ al collections. Time capsules can aid future generations of popular culture curators, archivists, and librarians. Consider how restricted most of our ephemeral popular cultural mate­ rial is-the amount of popular ephemera available from, say, the year 1700, or even later, when compared to twentieth century materials. While today’s material is produced in great quantity, modern print and film technologies are not very durable. Time capsules have the potential to be everyperson’s “ archive” to the future, without the mediation of “ high culture’s” critics or the “ transformational error” of paper media either “ culturally,” deliberately discarded or physically disintegrated by failure to preserve. Technically, of course, time capsules are more akin to manu­ script special collections, not archival record groups.2 A BRIEF TIME CAPSULES BACKGROUND Time capsule characteristics and origins have been well defined else­ where.3 A time capsule is defined as a repository which has deliberately

William E. Jarvis


sealed artifacts, media, or messages intentionally targeted for retrieval at a pre-specified date. Technically, then, they are distinct both from a posteriori archaeological deposits and traditional a priori foundation or cornerstone deposits which, although deliberately sealed, are not pre­ specified with a target date for their unsealing.4 Time capsules differ only in degree from those standard archival and manuscript deposits “ sealed” away for a specified time. Burial is not essential for a time capsule deposit, although isolation from touch and view seem to be die norm. The term has become a metaphor for many wider experiences than tliis “ history in a can” narrower definition, since almost anything can be termed a “ time capsule.” 5 Our archaeological retrieval of informational media is usually limited to examples of finds from fields such as epigraphy, clay tablets, papyrii, and a curious assortment o f metallic documents from the Near East.6 There are several questions to be addressed here: What has been going into time capsules, large and small, official and unofficial, and what should go into them? Also, what is likely to be thought about the time capsules themselves, their senders, and their contents, most especially die priceless, ephemeral, popular cultural primary materials included in them? And finally, how can the hermeneutical options of retrievers be maxi­ mized by senders? The popular culture aspects o f the time capsule vessels and ceremonies-as distinct from their contents-has been characterized as being at least as important as those contents. And, contents are, of course, linked to such overall characteristics of time capsules as, sending dates, intended span of the information-transfer (which can limit preservation attempts), and the character of send-off ceremonials (which are often based on ancient foundation stone traditions).7 Some Distinctive Time Capsules Not all time capsules are dull, routine relics in a can-in fact, there are a number of especially idiosyncratic time capsules. Time capsules can commemorate noted individuals with their contents, or even celebrate corporate milestones with an unusual capsule design (such as the Maytag washing machine time capsule). So Marilyn Monroe, Winston Churchill, Martin Lutiier King, the Maytag Corporation, and the manufacturers of 1957 Plymouth automobiles have repositories which make historical statements.8 (If this variety of deposits seems a jumble to us, what will its future recipients think o f it?) These capsules serve as examples of innovative time capsules “ sendings.” Not only can any individual or



group transmit its feelings and works to the future, but it is even possible to conceive of a series of dme capsules from the same sender over a period of time. Innovative Messages to the Future: Predictions, Declarations Although present since c. 3000 C.E. in Mesopotamian foundation deposits, the modem time capsule (since Diehm’s 1876-1976 Century Safe) has featured messages addressed to a specific period of recipients.9 This is an obvious consequence of the target dating of modem time cap­ sules. The messages may be explicit descriptions of life in the senders’ time, usually compared to an hypothesized future. The best may be those with a touch of intended irony, hopefully matching the retrievers’ per­ spective on “ ancient” aspirations. Note especially Einstein’s letter in the Book o f Record}0 Predictions of what the future will be like are always interesting, and presumably recipients will enjoy reading them. Some capsutes may be composed largely of such messages (Art Park/Rice Tree Time Capsule 1974-2974)." Humor and Time Capsule Interpretation Humor is an especially valuable commodity to send to the future, but also a difficult perspective to convey, especially over longer time spans, and hence to more culturally disparate recipients. Some electronic mail users, encountering a similar problem, even utilize statements such as “ (humor intended)” in their messages. Curiously, this can tend to make broad, low-comedy humor seem dry-or sarcastic, more perhaps like Rus­ sell Baker than, say, Plautus. For example, consider the title, Yes Minis­ ter: the Diaries o f a Cabinet Minister, Rt. Hon. James Hacker, M.P.n This satirical work of fiction is in the microfilm collection of the BBC Time Capsule. Will it be read as satire in two thousand years? Will that matter? Although the chances are greater that the overall spirit of the work may be interpreted as a satire, it is less likely diat all of the allu­ sions and send-ups will be. It is, of course, impossible to predetermine the interpretations) of a time capsule’s contents. Intended or unintended humor may result when a time capsule is sealed or opened. In fact, some people find it difficult to take any aspects of time capsule studies seriously. Serious students of many popular culture topics report encountering similar attitudes from time to time. This cultural attitude has its healthy aspects, of course, but it seems almost de rigour that any popular press feature on time capsules

William E. Jarvis


be written exclusively tongue-in-cheek. Perhaps the pompousness of traditional cornerstone or time capsule ceremonies invites some o f this dismissive humor. Building an “A ncient” Bibliographic Collection Twentieth century time capsule senders have been item selecting what may survive to be ancient bibliographic collections of popular and aca­ demic, official, high formal culture. The pictorial media contained in these capsules will also convey something o f the feel of life in our times. What is being collected now for preservation over the millennia? The notes below are not comprehensive lists o f items contained in each cap­ sule. Rather, they are samples of some of the more interesting popular culture media, and some non-media artifacts, which may be o f interpre­ tive value to future recipients several millennia from now.

FOUR M IL L E N N IA L TIM E CAPSULES AN D TH EIR POPULAR CULTURAL D EPO SITS Of seven known “ millennial” time capsules, five have significant encyclopedic scope contents. Four are briefly discussed below. These large, millennial, encyclopedic time capsules are relevant to the popular culture time capsule discussion in two ways. First of all, they are such long-term capsules that their contents are potentially o f great cultural significance, popular and otherwise. Also, these capsules are very official, consensus productions, bound to reflect more official, high, or formal cultural emphases. The salient features o f four o f these are briefly categorized below. Generally speaking, of course, their targeted retrieval in two to six mil­ lennia from now is a very significant feature of all their contents, most especially for interpretations of any popular culture items. Fewer popular cultural items survive millennia, even fewer with any contemporary attri­ butions associated by their makers or senders. So selections such as cheap imitation pearl necklaces, businessmen’s notebooks, etc., may well have more value to future “ trans-millennial” recipients rather than objets d ’ari or formal written treatises because o f the likelihood that business­ m en’s notebooks are less likely to be preserved. The descriptive catalogs which sometimes accompany items may be of interpretive value to the openers of capsules.13



Oglethorpe University Crypt o f Civilization, 1940-8113 C.E. Perhaps the grandest of modem time capsules is the Crypt of Civiliza­ tion at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia. Finally sealed in May 1940, it is supposed to remain sealed for 6173 years.14 This two thousand cubic feet room is older in conception than any other twentieth century time capsule, and is targeted for the longest fixed duration of a terrestrially-located time capsule. ( The 1938 Westinghouse Time Capsule done for the 1939 New York World’s Fair appears to have been conceptually derived from the Crypt, although completed before it.) Oglethorpe’s is the first of what one ethnologist calls “ microcosm” time capsules. Its contents include nearly eight hundred works, with two hun­ dred fiction titles. This is an account of one hundred years of popular cultural activities, but the Crypt, like so many other time capsules is heavy on relics, encyclopedias, and official records. While it is true that books, encyclopedias, magazines, and visuals will present some aspects of popular life and culture, time capsules need more vigorous, extensive, unedited records of popular culture in order to adequately convey a “ slice of life” from our age. Westinghouse Time Capsules The two Westinghouse Time Capsules sealed in 1938 and 1965 re­ spectively were part of the publicity for the two New York World’s Fairs held in the park at Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York.16 The 1938 Time Capsule, for which the term “ time capsule” was coined, is buried ten feet from Time Capsule n. Both are seven and a half feet long and contain many microfilmed books and magazines as well as odier objects. The 1964-1965 capsule’s contents seem curiously dated already-perhaps because of the relics of then-contemporary fads. Time capsules may seem unwieldy historical repositories because they immortalize fads. From a popular culture perspective, however, time capsules are superb reposito­ ries for just that reason.17 Although the 1938 Time Capsule contains a large number of books and magazines, including some in the popular culture area, its most note­ worthy bibliographic deposit is not microfilmed, but is instead a notewor­ thy artifact of physical bibliography: The Book o f Record o f the Time Capsule ofCupaloy: Deemed Capable of Resisting the Effects of Time for Five Thousand Years-Preserving an Account of Universal Achievements-Embedded in the Grounds o f the New York World’s Fair 1939.li This work, printed with the Village No. 2 type designed by F.W. Goudy,

William E. Jarvis


consists of many chapters devoted to teaching basic phonetic English, magnetically locating the capsule, a somewhat pretentious formal pream­ ble wliich seems more addressed to contemporary senders, and Uiree letters to die future. Thomas Mann, Robert Mileken, and Albert Einstein each address die potential recipients of the year 6939. Witii the possible exception of the chapter recounting “ The Fable o f the Nortiiwind and the Sun,” it is not especially popular culture oriented. Some three thousand copies of this “ ancient book” were distributed to libraries worldwide as a finding aid. A wide selection of magazines from a 1938 newsstand rack might give to die future some of die flavor o f diat period o f the Twentieth Century. The contents of twenty-two thousand pages o f microfilm include: small articles of common use, textiles and materials, miscellaneous items, an essay on microfilm, and a newsreel. The microfilm essay (really an ency­ clopedic compendium) includes various books, encyclopedia articles, and 37 magazine titles of one issue each. True Confessions, October 1938, and Love Story, September 3, 1938, share space with Vogue, September 1, 1938, and Amazing Stories, October 1938. (More “ serious” periodi­ cals also grace the list.) The full “ Complete List of Contents” occupies eighteen pages in G. Edward Pendray’s 1939 Smithsonian Institution Report article, “ The Story of the Time Capsule.” BBC Time Capsule, 1982-3982 C.E. The book devoted to tiiis time capsule lists selecUons and discusses some of the rationale and processes by wliich selections were made.19 Music, photographs, books, miscellaneous papers and documents, tele­ vision programmes (the published broadcast lists), cassettes, audio discs, newspapers and magazines, commercials, and objects were the categories included in this capsule. The books were microfilmed on approximately ten Uiousand frames. The stated rationales for book selection were to send as much “ formal” knowledge as possible and also to “ convey something of die flavor of life in Britain in 1982 and of our beliefs. . . ,” 20 In addition to over one hundred non-fiction works, otiier titles included Shakespeare and Shaw, “ serious” fiction, the ten paperback best sellers of 1982, selected popular fiction, and several ro­ mantic novels (titles unannounced so as not to offend the excluded). Magazine coverage also included popular and serious titles, but the BBC Time Capsule was not meant solely to convey the popular or unof­ ficial side of British life in 1982. Still, die BBC Time Capsule Commit­



tee did make the item selections for what is in part at least a popular culture collection. SELECTING POPULAR CULTURE ITEMS FOR FUTURE “REACQUISITION” There are two basic considerations about using centennial memento time capsules as popular cultural deposits. The first is the archtypical, standard, very stylized range of deposited contents, attributions, and intended communication spans of such c. 100 year time capsules.21 Coins, newspapers, brief greetings, memorabilia focused on a narrow group of institutional senders, and other conventional artifacts similar to the con­ tents, form, and function of ancient foundation deposits and traditional cornerstones are the norm. Secondly, they are an opportunity to bury many samples of contemporary life. Popular Cultural Opportunities in Centennial-Type Capsules There really are very few examples of good popular culture time cap­ sules. Each popular culture time capsule should probably be seen as a unique special collection of historical records from a unique individual subculture, group, or type of activity. Since the very act of sponsorship seems to narrow the spectrum of opinion expressed in a capsule, it is probably optimal to seek comprehensiveness of popular cultural expres­ sion not in one or even a few capsules but rather in a great number of them. Many time capsules are missed opportunities to convey something of unofficial, popular, particular-point-of-view senders quite distinct from the narrower, formal, antiseptic contents and attributions often sent by institutional officials. It is not difficult to conceive of unconventional, vernacular, popular cultural messages or contents that might be sent in time capsules. It is perhaps somewhat more difficult to develop any definitive catalog of such offbeat missives to the future, precisely because of their open-ended, unofficial nature. Rejected novel manuscripts, the views of unconvention­ al people, video footage of what adolescents and others actually do with their time, or think of the events of their age, are all ripe for inclusion in time capsules. Narrow sponsorship, low cost time capsules like 100-year-or-so exam­ ples are ideal ways to “ sound off” to die future, and avoid bowdlerized,

William E. Jarvis


prospographical, censored limitations about an ages’ life and thought. (Any group offended by any odier group’s item selections or messages can always opt to send dieir own entry into die hermeneutical babel of future interpretation.) Spontaneous, Broad Spectrum, Low Selectivity Gathering Plans There are a variety o f related techniques to use when “ sending” con­ tents, and most especially popular culture contents in a time capsule. Wear-patterns, often thought of in relation to non-media artifacts, can be helpful in the interpretation o f the popularity of a certain topic in a dic­ tionary or collection of books. So used media artifacts can convey valu­ able interpretational clues. A well-thumbed magazine attests to its popu­ larity, at least with somebody. Including personally annotated books and notebooks as well as the contents of carrybags, wallets, and pockets can be useful. Such selections should be spontaneous, i.e., not chosen in advance by the donor, in order to be good samples. That is “ low selec­ tivity.” The 1938 Westinghouse Time Capsule microfilms o f the contents of a street-side magazine stand are a good example o f a broad spectrum item selection process, but is any spectrum broad enough to convey a full view of contemporary life? Probably no one dme capsule can begin to convey a wide-spectrum of contemporary life, although a prolific, persis­ tent sealing of capsules, provided sponsorship is not restrictive, might better achieve that goal.

CONCLUSION Time capsules are popular cultural phenomena in three basic ways. The time capsule vessels and ceremonies are popular cultural phenomena in and of themselves. Also, the supply o f items, images, words, and meanings which make up the contents of time capsules are ways for future popular researchers to acquire popular cultural materials. Finally, the item selection processes diat go on when contents are picked out are in themselves significant ways to analyze our own popular cultural pat­ terns in our own time, from our own theoretical research perspectives. The ephemeral character o f contemporary information media (on an ar­ chaeological time scale) and the shorter term tendencies to discard popu­ lar culture “ records” make time capsules an interesting possibility for viewing die popular culture of die past captured in them. Certainly the



time capsules discussed above, and especially dieir contents aid die ac­ quisition and study of popular culture. The many lost opportunities for “ do-it-yourself” historical record deposits should be utilized by expo­ nents of popular cultural texts, artifacts, and attributions which are not likely to be fully, accurately (or even cursorily) represented by die arbi­ ters of high, official, formal culture in time capsule deposits. The creative use of time capsules for the future’s acquisition of popular cultural items is a vastly under-utilized field o f endeavor. The tendency for popular cultural items to be discarded and especially for writing and other infor­ mation media not to be preserved can be midgated by wide-scale use of time capsule deposits o f such materials. It is the unedited feel o f our contemporary life that we must transmit to posterity. REFERENCES 1. A variety of closely related definitions of popular culture have been of­ fered in the professional library literature. For a brief summary and list of cita­ tions see Ellis, A. and D. Highsmith, “ Popular culture and libraries,” College and Research Library News 51:410-413 (May, 1990); See Hoffmann, F.W., Pop­ ular Culture and Libraries (Hamden, CT: Library Professional Publications), 1984, pp. vii-9 for a treatment of scope and definition, and pp. 16-20 for item selection and preservation aspects; See also Clarke, J. “ Popular culture in librar­ ies,” College and Research Libraries 34:215-218 (May, 1973), where popular culture is defined as “ . . . the literature, art, and music produced for mass con­ sumption . . .” and is contrasted to “ high cultures"; Geist, C.D. et al., eds., Di­ rectory of Popular Culture Collections (Phoenix, AZ: Oryx Press), 1989 is a good illustration of the breadth of possible contributions a series of popular cul­ ture time capsules could make to future acquisition of such items. 2. Gracy, D.B, II, Archives and Manuscripts: Arrangement and Description, Basic Manual Series (Chicago, IL: Society of American Archivists), 1977, pp. 2-3. “ Manuscript” and “ archival” collections are distinguished here; archeological explanation as a general methodological concern is treated by Watson, P.J., S.A. LeBlanc, and C.L. Redman, Archeological Explanation (New York: Columbia University Press), 1984, p. 275. 3. Jarvis, W.E., s.v. “ Time Capsules,” Encyclopedia of Library and Infor­ mation Science, v. 43, Supplement 8,1988; Durians, B., “ The dialectics of time capsules,” ASA Edinburgh, April 2-5, 1990: Anthropology and the Future; Durrans, B., “ Posterity and paradox: some uses of time capsules,” nts., 1991. Jarvis approaches time capsule phenomena from an archival or auxiliary sciences of history perspective, while Durrans tends toward ethnological analysis of cultur­ al motivation. These two authors define the conceptual dimension of contempo­ rary, comparative time capsule studies. Durrans is Deputy Keeper, Museum of Mankind, British Museum.

William E. Jarvis


4. Jarvis, 1988, pp. 331, 333. 5. Everything from a stuck drawer, sunken ship, buried town, a year’s an­ thology of Time magazine articles, or an efficiently managed record group has been characterized as a “ time capsule.” The term has become a loosely-used metaphor for any characterization of a specific period of time. It was originally coined by G. Edward Pendray for the 1938 Westinghouse Time Capsule for the New York World’s Fair, replacing an earlier suggestion, “ time bomb"! See Jarvis, (988, p. 338 for a fuller discussion of the origin of the term. 6. For a fascinating review of the obscure world of ancient metallic docu­ ments see Wright, H.C., “ Metallic documents of antiquity,” Brigham Young University Studies 10(4): 451-411 (Summer, 1970; also his “ Ancient burials of metallic foundation documents in stone boxes,” University of Illinois GSLIS Occasional Papers no. 157, Dec., 1982. Not all of these documents were secured in comerstone-like foundation deposits-some sacred texts were apparently buried when cultic practices were being suppressed by invaders or by the authorities. 7. Jarvis, 1988, pp. 347-348. 8. Remington, F., “ Filing cabinets for posterity, ” 77h'h£, May, 1954,pp. 16-17. The 1957 Plymouth burial in Tulsa, OK is scheduled for excavation in the year 2007. Grossman, L.M., “ Future generations won’t forget videos, Bic pens, or catalogs,” Wall Street Journal August 20, 1987, pp. 1, 12, Re Maytag’s time capsule; Elder, W. “ Our own epic of man,” Mad, January, 1956; “ Time is on Marilyn’s side, Boston Herald, December 18, 1987, p. 11; Povich, E.S., “ The Liberty Bell will be gently rung and 50 state replicas, along with church bells across the nation, will peal at noon Jan. 19 to celebrate the second annual Martin Luther King holiday,” United Press International, Washington, January 8, 1987, DIALOG File 261, online H 0328444; “ Churchill ‘Library’ in 5 Inch Time Cap­ sule,” Library Journal, 92:182, January 15, 1967. 9. President James A. Garfield's Memorial Journal: Giving a Short Sketch o f His Life, from His Childhood to His Death. With Sketches and Portraits o f All the Presidents o f the United States from Washington to Arthur, (Mrs. Charles F. Deihm, ed.) C.F. Diehm, New York, 1882, pp. 194-200; Centennial Safe, title of two handouts of the Office of the Architect of the Capitol: [1 p., n.d.] and (7 pp.] by the Art and Reference Division, June, 1976. It was originally known as “ The Century Safe,” but today we refer to it as “ The Centennial Safe.” 10. Book o f Record o f the Time Capsule o f Cupaloy, Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, New York, 1938, pp. 48-49. 11. “ Rice/Tree Burial Project, {by] Agnes Denes, Artpark 1977-1979,” Artpark 1979 Visual Arts Catalogue (Artpark, Lewiston, N.Y. [1979]). 12. Moncrieff, A. Messages to the Future: the Story o f the BBC Time Capsule (London: Futura Books), 1984, p. 91. 13. The Official Record o f Time Capsule Expo '70: a Gift to the People o f the Future from the People o f the Present Day (Kodama, Japan: Matsuchita Electri­ cal Industrial Co.), 1980. This book chronicles the state of the art 1970 project and its wealth of contents; s.v. “ Ise Shrine,” Kodansha Encyclopedia o f Japan,



1983. The Japanese time capsule phenomena can be seen as rooted in ancient “ replication of building” rituals, such as the Ise Shrine. 14. Brewer, D.E., “ Oglethorpe Crypt sealed amid gloomy forecast,” Atlanta Journal, May 26, 1940, p.l; Jacobs, T., “ Today-tomorrow: Archeology in A.D. 8113 . . . ; Scientific American, November, 1936, pp. 260-261; “ 8113 A.D.,” Scientific American, November, 1936, p. 259. This brief editorial note by Orson Munn urges support for Jacob’s project; Peters, T.K., “ The story of the Crypt of Civilization,” Oglethorpe University Bulletin, 25:1-32, January, 1940. “ For 8113 A.D.: Oglethorpe University builds a crypt to preserve culture of 1936,” Literary Digest, October 31,1936, pp. 19-20. T.K. Peters in his Oglethorpe Bulletin arti­ cle credits G. Edward Pendray as the author of this unsigned science section note from the Literary Digest; Jarvis, W.E., “ Do not open until 8113 A.D.: The Ogle­ thorpe Crypt and Other Time Capsules,” World's Fair, Winter, 1985, pp. 1-4. This article is apparently the first published discussion of the priority aspects of the 1935-40 time capsule building period, with the exception of the brief com­ ments of T.K. Peters and Thomwell Jacobs; selected correspondence of T.K. Peters, Oglethorpe University Crypt project archivist, and G. Edward Pendray, Assistant to the President, Westinghouse Electrical and Manufacturing Company, January 5, 1940 and February 9, 1940. Courtesy of Oglethorpe University; For a more detailed discussion of the modem time capsule’s origins, see Jarvis, 1988, pp. 338,340; an Oglethorpe University pamphlet entitled “ Crypt of Civilization” [n.d.] contains an inventory of die Crypt’s contents; Peters, T.K., “ The preserva­ tion of history in the Crypt of Civilization,” Journal o f the Society o f Motion Picture Engineers, 44:206-211, 1940, describes some audio-visual media preservational aspects and also provides some background on Mr. Peters, the Crypt project’s technical archivist. 15. For a discussion of “ space-time” capsules, see Jarvis, 1988, pp. 348-349; See also Dunrans, 1990, 1991, for the microcosm definition. 16. Hyman, S.E. and S.C. McKelway, “ Onward and upward with Business and Science,” New Yorker, Dec. 5, 1953, pp. 194,196-206, 209-216, 219; Pendray, G.E., “ The story of the time capsule,” Smithsonian Institution Annu­ al Report, Washington, D.C., 1939, pp. 5333-553; “ Archeologist reverses job: buries relics of today,” Science News Letter, Oct. 5, 1940, p. 222. The West­ inghouse Time Capsules, a brochure of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation [n.d.]; “ Remains to be seen,” Newsweek, Sept. 28, 1964, p. 92; “ Talk of the town column-notes and comment,” New Yorker, Oct. 30, 1965, p. 47; “American City magazine article in 5,000 year time capsule,” The American City 80:123, Feb. 1965; see also the 1965 supplemental one leaf prepared for insertion in The Book o f Record. This one page provides basic data about the 1964-65 “ twin,” (called “ Time Capsule II” ) of the 1938 “ Time Capsule I” ; Harrison, H.A., “ 20-year perspective on World’s Fair,” New York Times, July 11, 1985, sec. c, p. 3. 17. Harrison; also see Hoffman, “ Fads,” pp. 282-291, for a general discus­ sion of fads. 18. Book o f Record; Goudy, F.W., A H alf Century o f Type Design and Typog­

William E. Jarvis


raphy, 2 vols. (New York: The Typophiles), 2: 195-196, 1946. A catalogue raisonee. 19. Moncrieff, p. 84. 20. Moncrieff. 21. Here are a num ber of citations detailing ancient ritual practices that persist in today’s time capsule ceremonials: Mulford, H.B., "Adventures with corner­ stones,” Hobbies, June, 1952, pp. 60-61, 75-80; Mulford, H.B. ‘‘Noah also laid cornerstones,” School and Society, 71:84-85, Feb. 11,1950. Ellis, R.S., Founda­ tion Deposits in Ancient Mesopotamia (New Haven and London: Yale University Press), 1968; Eliade, M., ed., s.v. “ Foundation rites,” Encyclopedia o f Religion, 1987; Burdick, L.D., Foundation Rites (New York: The Abbey Press), 1901; Sturgis, R., ed., s.v. “ Cornerstone,” A Dictionary o f Architecture and Building, (NY: Macmillan), 1901-02; Clarke, S. and R. Engelback, Ancient Egyptian Ma­ sonry: The Building Craft, (London: Oxford University Press), 1930, pp. 60-61; Mulford, H.B., “ Research on cornerstones,” Wilson Library Bulletin, 26:66-67, 1950; Leach, M., ed., s.v. “ Building Ceremonies,” Funk and Wagnall’s Stan­ dard Dictionary o f Folklore, Mythology, and Legend, 1949-50; Perrot, G. and C. Chipiez, A History o f Art in Chaldea and Assyria (New York: A.C. Armstrong and Son), 1:311-322, 1884, Tr., W. Armstrong.

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Nancy Drew Here to Stay? The Challenges to Be Found in the Acquisition and Retention of Early Twentieth Century Children’s Series Books in an Academic Library Setting Gillian M. McCombs

SUMMARY. There are a number o f unusual problems to face when collecting in the area of popular culture. The study o f chil­ dren’s literature itself has only recently come of age as a respect­ able topic for research and there are many preconceived notions about the intellectual content of this material, especially the series books. This article details how some of these issues were resolved when the Historical Children’s Collection at the University at Alba­ ny, State University o f New York, was added to the Special Collec­ tions Department in 1987, and documents some of the challenges to be found when attempting to assimilate this kind of material into standard library processes.

The field of popular culture is no longer new or regarded with as much suspicion as in 1973, when Jack A. Clarke wrote his seminal arti­ cle addressing many of the issues to be faced in the collecting of library resources to support a popular culture curriculum.1There are today many well-established and reputable collections o f popular culture. These range from the noteworthy general popular culture collections, such as the George H. Hess collection at the University o f Minnesota, the Center for Gillian M. McCombs is Assistant Director for Technical Services at the Uni­ versity Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12222. © 1992 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.




the Study of Popular Culture’s Library and Audio Center at Bowling Green State University and the Russell B. Nye Popular Culture Collec­ tion at Michigan State University, to the Gerald J. McIntosh Dime Novel Collection at die University of Arkansas and the Kerlan Collection, spe­ cializing in children’s books, also at Minnesota. Many of these collec­ tions are housed in the Rare Book and Special Collection Departments of academic libraries. The 1990s, however, are becoming known as the decade of hard choices. Popular culture seems to have found its legitimate niche in so­ ciological history just at a time when pruning o f collections and depart­ ments rather than expanding them seems to be the watchword, and fewer options are available for relieving Uie pressure on traditional disciplines. In Twentieth Century Popular Culture in Museums and Libraries, Fred Schroeder has an interesting chapter entitled “ How to Acquire, Acces­ sion, Catalog and Research a Popular Culture Collection for Your Muse­ um of History, Technology or Art for $97 per Year.” 2 Unfortunately for most of us, the work of supporting a popular culture collection is neiUier as cheap or as simple as outlined in that chapter. The issues surrounding the acquisition of popular culture materials fall generally into three categories: pre-acquisition, the acquisition process itself, and post-acquisition. The many varieties of popular culture each bring with them their own unique set of problems. The discussion here will be limited to the area of historical children’s literature, specifically girls’ and boys’ series books o f the early twentieth century, therein the ‘Nancy Drew’ of the title. The books we read as a child “ more than any others, retain forever the special sheen of the ‘fields of praise’ Dylan Thomas celebrates in his paean to youth and innocence, ‘Fern Hill.’ Yet these very books are all too often lost or forgotten, ultra-perishable because undervalued or taken for granted.” 3 Since the 1920s these treasures have been collected and preserved at the University at Albany, State University of New York, and known in their entirety as the Historical Children’s Collection. The special emphasis of this collection is inexpensive children’s books of a popular nature, with girls’ and boys’ series books forming a large enough nucleus to merit notice for their research potential.4 The total collection contains some 7,000 titles, chiefly books of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Originally developed to support the teaching of courses in children’s literature in die then School o f Library Science at Albany, the collection was enriched in the 1970s by Uie acquisition of books from Jackson Davis, an alumnus o f Uie library school and Uie son of a local physician, H. Jackson Davis, who was an avid book collector

Gillian M. McCombs


with a special interest in children’s book illustration. The original purpose of die collection-to provide reading copies of old children's books and magazines not readily available on contemporary library shelves-continues to this day. In 1988, under the sponsorship of the Hudson Mohawk Library Asso­ ciation, faculty members from the School o f Information Science and Policy and the University Libraries at the University at Albany, were awarded a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts Decentral­ ization Grant Program to promote this collection by means o f an exhibit, catalog, and lecture series.5 The collection was also the beneficiary o f a University at Albany grant awarded in 1987 through the Faculty Research Awards Program for the purpose of providing bibliographic access to the books.6 MARC records for these works are now available in the library’s online catalog, Gemini, and are available nationally through OCLC and RLIN. The Historical Children’s Collection has Uius been a rich proving ground in which to work through and resolve many o f the issues sur­ rounding (lie acquisition o f popular culture materials.

1. PRE-ACQUISITION The first concern in the pre-acquisition process at Albany, was not what titles to select, what editions to choose, but rather, how to gain support for the acquisition o f popular culture as a genre. As stated by Barbara Moran in Collection Building, “ librarians beginning to collect in the field of popular culture are faced with problems not faced by li­ brarians who begin to collect for new courses in more traditional fields.” 7 At Albany there was a ready-made collection. The emphasis was first on how to prevent it from being dispersed, how to ensure its consid­ eration as a scholarly resource, and then how to make it generally avail­ able to local and regional patrons. The Collection was fortunate in having its own lobbyists-faculty members in the School of Information Science and Policy who had built up the Collection, used it as the basis for regu­ larly scheduled courses, and faculty members in other units on campus who were aware of the sociological, historical and literary value o f the Collection. However, in 1987, when a decision had to be made on wheth­ er to discard the Collection (not officially cataloged or accessioned) or house it elsewhere, these disparate units had to be united in order to show common cause and to persuade university administrators that in­ deed the Collection was not a foundling, but rather a “ jewel in the crown” (cf. Dr. John Gillespie o f the C.W. Post Center of Long Island



University who was called in to assess die intellectual value of the col­ lection). Budgetary support for these materials needs to be established. The field is a broad area of study which straddles many of die traditional disciplines. Oftentimes, die materials selected are items which previously would not have been considered suitable for an academic institution. Li­ brarians need to use odier tools Uian book reviews or retrospective collec­ tion lists, since much o f die material being collected is primary source material. As Wayne Wiegand documents, “ Academic librarians . . . scan reviews to distinguish the ‘best’ literature in the various disciplines and dien they buy it.” 8 It is also true, though, diat a little goes a long way in purchasing boys’ and girls’ series books. The expert collector knows when to pay 25 cents in a garage sale, buy a job lot at an auction for 50 cents, and when to pay $10.00 for a copy o f a Nancy Drew title with an original cover and original plates. Desiderata lists are easy to draw up and carry around on the off chance of running into a treasure trove. However, bibliographers not used to working in this area will need to develop different ways of looking at this subject area. Library administrators are also recognizing die marketability of popu­ lar culture collections, especially childrens’ collections, when working with Alumni Associations and Library Development Funds. Many older alumni either have collections themselves they would like to donate, or are very happy to specify that dieir monetary donations be allocated to die Children’s Collection. As at Bowling Green, “ the popular culture library and sound recordings archives have become a haven for collec­ tors, leisure patrons, and parents of prospective students. The two special resource areas have become showcases within the university library sys­ tem, and their reputation has spread nationwide.” 9 Naturally all gifts and donations must follow gift procedures established for odier materials, and be reviewed ahead of time by bibliographers. An excellent set o f criteria for reviewing gift collections can be found in Managing Special Collec­ tions.'0 A firm application of these criteria will prevent duplication and verify condition. Attics and basements, where the majority of these books have lain for many years, are not die best storage places for books, the one providing extremes of heat and the other providing extremes of damp. Many o f Uiese items were designed to have a limited life, not considered candidates for indefinite preservation. Popular books, because they are just that, have suffered the ravages o f being well-used, “ energetically loved to death, or left outside in the rain.” 11 One o f the chief problems

Gillian M. McCombs


is the quality of the paper used, often poor quality wood pulp. Size pro­ vides another challenge. Many of these books, especially primers and Tom Thumb books, are very small, and have been roughly treated through being lost in larger collections, or not having strong protective covers. The acceptance of some duplicates, however, has proved to be an excellent way to replace some of the more fragile (read ‘worn out’) items in die Collection, and to provide ‘circulating copies’ o f non-circulating items. It is extremely important that acquisitions policies and collecting areas be defined, especially when collecting popular culture, which has a ten­ dency to ‘grow like Topsy.’ “ Widi die exception of the budget, no other document is so critical to die development o f a special collection as the acquisition policy, and yet far too frequently it is diis document which so many libraries lack, even in some renowned collections” (Scham).12 This was facilitated at Albany firstly, by fiscal constraints-there was no money to buy the ‘classics’-and secondly by the early decision to make diis collection both a resource for the teaching of children’s literature at die library school and a matrix collection for books not usually represent­ ed in traditional children’s literature collections. Lack of focus and lack of definition are considered by Scham to be die collection builder’s deadliest enemies. He goes on to describe how to establish general objectives for a collection, and then how to determine collecting priorities and their dimensions. A statement such as ‘‘The Happy Library does not collect material in the areas of A: B: C, etc.,” will prove its worth in helping to turn away unwanted gift collections. From a mainstream point of view, this particular collecting area has two strokes against it:—it is ‘popular culture,’ and also children’s litera­ ture, often known derisorily as ‘kiddy lit.’ Over die years there has been a particular bias against die representation of these books in libraries. As cited in Popular Culture and Libraries,13 the main groups in this move­ ment to ban popular books from libraries were the Boy Scouts o f Ameri­ ca, die American Library Association, die American Booksellers Associa­ tion, teachers and PTA groups. They highlighted three areas for criticism: die poor quality of the prose, the propensity for cxaggeradon and sensa­ tionalism, and the factory-line mediod of creation. The Nancy Drew series was only one of several series censored by public libraries as not considered suitable reading matter for children or young adults. In the Wilson Bulletin of January, 1929, there appeared a list of “ NOT TO BE CIRCULATED” books, prepared by Mary Root, identifying those series “ not circulated by standardized libraries.” 14 On this list are the works of Horatio Alger, Howard Garis’ Uncle Wiggily series, the Bobbsey Twins



(Laura Lee Hope), Tom Swift (Victor Appleton), Burt Standish’s Frank Merriwell and Dick Merriwell series, Alice B. Emerson’s Ruth Fielding series, to name a few of the most celebrated examples. At Albany, during the same time period, there was a collection of books in the Library School known as the ‘black star’ books, which included some of the same titles. This collection was specifically used to show what should not be offered in die public library, a ‘know diine enemy’ collection. The banning of diese books from ‘proper’ library shelves despite their enor­ mous popularity means, of course, that they found shelter elsewhere-often ending up in attics-and frequently later discarded by those oblivious to their significance. This tradition persists today. An informal survey o f public libraries within a 35 mile radius of Albany indicated that 4 out o f 5 libraries did not own any Nancy Drew books. According to Rudolph Bold of Queens Borough Public Library, Harlequin Romances (called the “ Nancy Drew for the menopausal set” ), suffer from the same exclusion or censorship.15 This trend is consistent with the desire to provide only edifying, educa­ tional or religious material for children to read, and with applying a pliilosophy of literary esthetics rather dian humanistic tolerance. “ In recent years, however, [the] critics have had to contend with a growing number of apologists for die series books . . . A significant number of scholars have urged die serious study o f these materials as a means of better understanding ourselves. An increasing number o f libraries—particu­ larly in academic settings-have attempted to develop representative col­ lections of series books for research purposes.” 16 Contacts at the public libraries can often provide useful in diverting these books to the popular culture collection, since they frequently show up in the periodic book sale catchment process. 2. TH E ACQ U ISITIO N PRO CESS The three main avenues for acquiring children’s series books are dona­ tions, book sales and dealers’ catalogs. None of these avenues is easily tailored to the regular acquisitions process in an academic library. Most institutions have special procedures for die handling of gift collections. At the University at Albany, information on each item is put into the automated acquisitions system (Geac), by the Collection Development Department, in the form of order records. The books are then checked in by die Acquisitions Department like any other book, and sent to be cata­ loged. However, gifts are usually at the bottom of the processing priority list, and can take some time to make dieir way dirough the system.

Gillian M. McCombs


The purchase of books at garage sales, Goodwill and Salvation Army stores, public library sales and estate auctions can also be fraught with difficulty. Long gone for many public institutions is the freedom of hav­ ing a petty cash fund. State fiscal constraints require invoices and con­ tract-approved vendors. Prepayment processes are cumbersome and timeconsuming. Flexibility is needed to allow bibliographers to make the 25 cent decision, and steals are often missed because o f auditor necessary purchasing regulations. An excellent chapter detailing the best ways to build a popular culture collection was written by William Schurk, librari­ an at the Bowling Green Library. 17 Purchasing books from dealers’ catalogs poses the same kind o f prob­ lem. The item in question is often gone by the time the selec­ tion/acquisition/payment process has been completed. Many catalogs of series books are geared to the private collector in whose hands still lie many of the most important collections. In most cases, they require pre­ payment, again a time-consuming and sometimes impossible process when dealing with budgetary bureaucracy. The Acquisitions Department must learn flexibility in order to facilitate expeditious and timely pur­ chase of popular culture materials.

3. POST-ACQ UISITION The problems that need to be faced once the material is in the library and has gone dirough the acquisition process, divide themselves into 6 areas; location, condition, realia, cataloging, circulation and processing: /. Location. Should these materials be housed in Special Collections/ Rare Books, the circulating stacks, or a unique home such as a seminarium room? There are arguments in favor of both scattering it diroughout the collection and keeping it in one central specialized location. Few universities have popular culture departments, and as pointed out earlier, this subject crosses most traditional domains. At Albany, since the collecüon had begun as a discrete entity, there was already a precedent for housing die collection in one place. At the time when the collection needed to be moved from its dien place of rapid decay, (above the radia­ tors in the Thomas E. Dewey Graduate Library for Public Affairs and Policy), die Special Collection Reading Room was being renovated, its mission rewritten. The timing was right to house the collection where access could be controlled, climate control was exercised, and opportuni­ ties afforded for discussion groups and hands-on seminars with die books readily available.



ii. Condition. Much of the material available is brittle, badly worn from use, dog eared, dirty, mildewy, falling apart. Ironically, although some of these books were purchased by libraries, this has not always facilitated their preservation. As stated by Peggy Sullivan, “ Librarians, myself among (hem, have those crazy habits o f sprinkling books with ownership stamps, slapping pockets or labels in them and on them, and letting people use them.” 18 Decisions must be made on whether to retain the same format and repair, whether to microfdm or preservation photo­ copy. If reformatting occurs, changes must be made in the cataloging records, since collectors may be vastly disappointed if they receive a m icrofilm copy instead o f the original. Some series books come with valuable covers, should diey be detached, retained, housed separately? Covers are ephemeral, deteriorate rapidly and are prime candidates for dormitory souvenirs. Original formats often have considerable arlifactual and sentimental value. The Bobbsey Twins, rebound in standard library bindings, with original covers gone, will retain only textual value. The study of series books on microfilm may not appeal to many popular culture enthusiasts. Hi. Realia. Many books will house a variety o f realia, such as valen­ tines (the University at Albany art exhibit included two mounted collages of Victorian valentines found in die books), clippings, inscriptions andmy favorite-a handwritten itemized bill for a dress, dated 1897, and charging $3.00 for sewing plus lace and ribbons. Are these to be item­ ized, a cataloged, collected, housed separately, dirown out? How to retain the link between the original book and its realia? Another concern is that popular culture as a genre is heavily reliant on media other then print for its transmittal. Betsy J. Blosser and Gretchen Lagana describe specific ways of handling other than print forms o f popular culture in the Special Collections department of an academic library.19 iv. Cataloging. Collections of children’s books are primarily fiction. Much fiction cataloging is limited to the basics, such as the provision of audior, title, illustrator, pagination, etc. The early twentiedi century series books do not, for die most part, qualify for genuine rare-book cataloging. There is, neverdieless, a real need for subject access to this material. Where can one find fictional treatment of twins, rodeos, fantasy, gardens and so on? To take care of this need, a variety o f specialized databases are springing up, each with their own control vocabulary. At Albany, Professor David Mitchell of the school o f Information Science and Poli­ cy, is creating a thesaurus specifically for this collection. While many fields of study have a thesaurus, there has never been one specifically designed for the study and analysis of children’s literature of the past.

Gillian M. McCombs


This thesaurus will make it possible for libraries to index collections so that researchers in many academic disciplines can find children’s books documenting social attitudes, cultural values and historical themes. As Barbara Moran points out, “ Acquisition is actually only the first step in providing resources; after materials are acquired, much work remains to be done to make this material fully accessible. Dependable bibliographies and checklists of popular culture material should be constructed. Methods of readily indexing and classifying large collections o f primary source materials should be developed.” “ Should special classification schemes be used, or should the collection be classified according to die main scheme o f die library? This question posed additional problems at Albany. Although not officially cataloged, the collection had been classified according to an internally devised classification scheme for both historical and contemporary children’s collections. It was given a Y designation, so as to fit widiin the LC classification scheme used diroughout the library. This very basic sys­ tem was ill-suited to handle the problems created when multiple editions within the series were classified (dates and letters were added), and the Cutter system proved almost useless when faced with many titles begin­ ning “ Nancy Drew and the Mystery o f . . . , ” or “ The Bobbsey Twins . . . ” Gordon Stevenson argues in favor of special classification schemes in order to better “ show the structure of the field, its frequently discrete subdivisions, the relationship o f its various parts and its relationship to other disciplines.” 21 v. Circulation. Circulation policies, including Inter-library Loan (ILL), are something that need to be diought through before national cataloging records are available, and ILL is flooded with requests for a very differ­ ent type of material than is usually loaned. The surge of interest in popu­ lar culture has occurred at a time when libraries are cutting back in funds that are available for acquisition and services that are subsidized. Access to a popular culture collection usually increases ILL statistics consider­ ably. This certainly happened at the University at Albany, where, in the first year that cataloging records were available on OCLC and RLIN for these books, the number o f Special Collections items sent out on Inter-library Loan more than doubled. A lot o f traffic is generated just by col­ lectors comparing editions with items in their own coilecdons. Since the collection at Albany started as a general reading collection, and had always been available to die public, die question o f whether or not to loan has always been open-ended, even though the books are now housed in the Special Collections Department. Loan is dependent mostly upon the condition of the item requested. Some libraries, such as Bowling



Green and the Nye Collection, will not send any books or materials on Inter-Library Loan, though they will provide photocopies. Much of Uiis material is fragile, not intended to last, and not able to survive too many UPS or jiffy bag trips. Although conditions for loan may be pre-established, such as requiring that items be handled only in the borrowing library, there is no way to enforce these requirements once the item has left the host library. v/. Processing. The processing o f these books will be dependent upon a successful resolution of many of the other issues discussed here. Will they circulate, where will they be housed, is the realia housed/processed separately, and are individual decisions (at what level and by whom) made on the condition of die books and the appropriate method of preser­ vation. The items cannot be processed until diese decisions are made. Should diey have spine labels, book pockets, bar codes? Is physical iden­ tification and control more important than artifactual value? At what point will processing decisions be made? On point of receipt, or at the end of the line in the Finishing Department, by a bibliographer, preserva­ tion librarian or processing clerk? At Albany, the books are reviewed by the selector on receipt and cataloging/processing decisions marked on a flag that stays with the book until its final destination in the Special Collections Room. Each library must detennine how and when these decisions are made, and try to give diem the special treatment Uiey de­ serve, but at the same time attempting to mainstream them as much as possible, since anything out o f the ordinary has a tendency to take a more dilatory route.

CONCLUSION The acquisition and retention of popular culture materials will continue to generate discussion for librarians and patrons alike. In some ways, the mission of an academic library-which ties its collecting areas closely to support of the curriculum-facilitates Uie collecting of popular culture when courses are being taught that need these resources. Public libraries, on the other hand, may find themselves unable to reverse the policy decisions that govern their services and enable them to build popular culture collections. However, because libraries tend to be conservative in nature, hampered by die acquisitions procedures and collecting impera­ tives of the past, academic librarians may have difficulties in coming to grips with some of die issues raised in this article. As Barbara Moran said, “ librarians should get on with the business o f collecting popular

Gillian M. McCombs


culture now and concurrently work out solutions to the problem s associ­ ated with these unusual collections” “ or they will find them selves in the position of having missed the boat. It is a good sign that the A ssociation o f College and R esearch Libraries, in D ecem ber 1988, under the leader­ ship o f A llen Ellis, established its own Popular C ulture D iscussion Group as a forum in w hich to share information on how to best provide die support needed for die field o f popular culture. Meanwhile, it is guaran­ teed that challenges and surprises will continue to abound. “ A s long as you’re a friend o f Nancy Drew, you’ll run into exciting m ysteries.” 23

REFERENCES 1. Jack A. Clarke, “ Popular Culture in Libraries,” College & Research Li­ braries, 34 (May 1973), pp. 215-218. 2. Fred E. H. Schroeder, ed., Twentieth-Century Popular Culture in Museums and Libraries, Bowling Green: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1981. 3. Millicent Lenz and Gillian McCombs, “ The Pleasure Reading Books of Yesteryear,” Wilson Libraiy Bulletin, April 1988, V. 62, No. 8, pp. 15-16. 4. Carolyn W. Field, ed., Special Collections in Children's Literature, Chica­ go, 111.: ALA, 1982. 5. New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Plan, grant to orga­ nize a series of exhibits and lectures using materials from the Historical Chil­ dren’s Collection, program entitled “ Youth Books of Yore,” 1987. 6. Faculty Research Award Program, University at Albany, State University of New York, grant to upgrade bibliographical access to the Historical Children’s Collection. 7. Barbara Moran, “ The Popular Culture Collection Quandary: A Survey of Faculty Needs,” Collection Building, 5 (Spring 1983), p. 13. 8. Wayne Wiegand, “ Popular Culture: A New Frontier for Academic Librar­ ies,” Journal o f Academic Librarianship, 5 (Sept. 1979), p. 200. 9. William L. Schurk, “ The Popular Culture Library,” in Frank W. Hoff­ mann, ed., Popular Culture and Libraries, Hamden, CT: The Shoe String Press, 1984, p. 40. 10. A. M. Scham, Managing Special Collections, New York: Neal-Schuman, 1987, p. 113-114. I t. Peggy Sullivan, introduction to Special Collections in Children’sLitera­ ture. p. xi. 12. A.M. Scham, ibid, p. 1. 13. Frank Hoffmann, Popular Culture and Libraries, p. 107. 14. Mary E.S. Root, “ Not to Be Circulated: A L ist. . . of Books in Series Not Circulated by Standardized Libraries,” Wilson Bulletin, 3 (Jan. 1929), p. 446. 15. Rudolph Bold, “ Trash in the Library,” Library Journal (May 15, 1980), pp. 1138-1139.



16. Frank Hoffmann, Popular Culture and Libraries, pp. 110-111. 17. William L. Schurk, “ The Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University,” Popular Culture and the Library: Proceedings o f Symposium II, ed. by Wayne Wiegand, Lexington, Ky.: University of Kentucky College of Libraiy Science, 1978. 18. Peggy Sullivan, op. cit., p. xii. 19. Betsy J. Blosser, Gretchen Lagana, “ Popular Culture in the Rare Book and Special Collections Department, Journal o f Popular Culture, 23 (Fall, 1989), pp. 125-137. 20. Barbara Moran, op. cit., p. 17. 21. Gordon Stevenson, “ Popular Culture and the Academic Librarian,” in Popular Culture and the Library: Proceedings o f Symposium II, p. 44. 22. Barbara Moran, “ Popular Culture and its Challenge to the Academic Library,” in Twentieth Century Popular Culture in Museums and Libraries, p. 185. 23. Carolyn Keene, The Secret o f the Wooden Lady, New York: Grossett & Dunlap, 1950, p. 212.

Developing a “ Focused”

Comic Book Collection in an Academic Library Doug Highsmith

SUMMARY. Although an increasing number of academic libraries have recognized the value of including comic books in their collec­ tions, most have not acquired their materials in a truly systematic manner. This article discusses various conceptual bases which can be used in the development of a “ focused” comic book collec­ tion-one which complements, enhances or supports existing collec­ tion strengths or research interests (such as acquiring western comic books for a library with significant holdings in that genre of litera­ ture). Also discussed are some strategies involved in and resources available to support the development of such a focused collection.

In the Bibliographic Note at the end of his recently-published book Comic Books and America, 1945-1954, author William W. Savage, Jr. makes some interesting observations about the general value to researchers of exist ing library comic book holdings. He states, *‘Anyone contemplating die use of comic books to illuminate aspects of the American experience since the 1930s faces difficulty. . . Libraries that do possess [comic books] cannot be said to have acquired Uieir holdings in any systematic manner . . . The best and most complete collections of comic books are in private hands and generally inaccessible to researchers. Therefore, anyone inter­ ested in the study of comic books had best be prepared to become a collector; and anyone interested in becoming a collector had best be prepared for inordinate expenditures of time and money.” 1 Doug Highsmith is Chair, Department of Public Services, California State University, Fullerton. © 1992 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.




Although comic books are by most indications gaining increasing acceptance as appropriate materials for libraries to acquire and house, Mr. Savage’s comments are, unfortunately, all too accurate. The public library with the latest issues o f X-Men, Batman, Walt Disney Comics and Sto­ ries, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is still the exception rather than die rule. Rarer still is the academic institution which has undertaken the not-insignificant task of acquiring, preserving, and providing access to comic books-although an increasing number o f academic libraries can boast of housing at least some examples of this All-American four-color art form. But if, as Mr. Savage observed, diose libraries which do house comic books generally haven’t “ acquired their holdings in any systematic man­ ner,” can they be said to truly have comic book collections? Is there some point at which mere “ holdings” becomes a true "collection,” and is this a relevant distinction in regards to comic books in libraries? Before addressing these issues, it is probably wordiwhile to consider what is meant by “ comic book.” The comic book is a story­ telling/communications medium', one which traditionally combines graph­ ic art with narrative prose. By its very nature it is a medium which has the potential to be utilized to tell virtually any kind of story in any genre (although clearly some genres work much better in this medium Uian do odiers), as well as telling non-fiction narratives. The modern-day comic book has been in existence since the early 1930s. It is considered to be essentially American in origin, although comic books are published and enjoy widespread popularity in many countries around the world. While it is perceived by many as an intrinsically juvenile medium, there are in fact no inherent limits in regards to either the types of stories which can and do appear in the medium or the segments of the population towards whom these stories can be and are targeted. Although the exact number of individual comic books published since 1933 worldwide is probably not known, a collection o f 50,000 or more comic books could not be considered comprehensive or definitive, even in terms of U.S.-published comic books alone. So the library which sets out to actively build a comic book collection widiout any established parameters for what it hopes/intends to acquire is facing a very daunting task indeed. Given the reality of limited library resources and the fact Uiat it is still far from accepted in the minds of many (both librarians and non-librari­ ans) that comic books have any place in an academic library, libraries which have or wish to have comic holdings need to be able to enunciate clearly both die value o f comic books to academic libraries in general

Doug Highsmith


and Uie unique value, scope, and purpose of their collection in particular. This can be most readily accomplished when comic books are being acquired because they meet some pre-established criteria as to thematic content, format, creative personnel, publisher, publication date, or other identifiable basis-in other words because there is a focus of some kind to die holdings. Holdings acquired in such a way would constitute a true “ collection,” and would address die concern researchers and scholars such as Mr. Savage might have about die lack of “ systematic manner” in die acquisition of comic books by libraries. Criteria for acquiring comic books are in most cases going to be dif­ ferent for academic libraries than for public libraries. Public libraries which have decided to add comic books to the materials Uiey are making available to patrons are likely to concentrate on initiating subscriptions to or otherwise acquiring recent issues o f currently in-demand titles (such as the aforementioned Batman, X-Men, etc.). Addressing how to obtain “ current production” may also be a reason­ able starting point for academic libraries. The comic book industry at die start of the 1990s is both economically sound and creatively vibrant. Particularly given Uie growing importance of new formats such as graph­ ic novels and the increasing willingness o f comic book creators and pub­ lishers to test and expand the limits o f what are considered appropriate subjects for treatment in die comic book medium, it certainly would not be advisable for academic libraries simply to ignore what is currently being published. Presumably, though, academic libraries are primarily interested in acquiring materials wliich support research and/or teaching, or in some way complement, improve or enhance existing library hold­ ings. Thus academic libraries would want to have selection criteria which cover the acquisition of bodi current and “ back-issue” comic books. Theoretically, such criteria could be something as basic as “ getting as much as we can as cheaply as we can” (which is, to one extent or anoth­ er, the approach taken by many individual collectors). W ith Uiis as the goal, acquiring current comics (if necessary by subscription, but ideally by publisher donation) is probably the centerpiece of the collection devel­ opment plan. This, however, is a goal that very few libraries could realis­ tically embrace. When one factors in die costs o f processing, storage and preservation, and access, a plan whose primary emphasis is on simple quantity or size of collection will probably lose much of its attractiveness for most libraries. Unless a library truly wants to compete directly with the likes of Bowling Green State University, Michigan State University, or Ohio State University, it is better advised to acquire books-both those currently being published and “ back issues’’-w hich meet more narrowly-



focused selection criteria. This is especially true if a library has money available through a grant, a bequest, or some other one-time source and is not sure that there will be any substantial commitment of ongoing funds to continue to build the collection. There is, however, one recent development that should be mentioned which could in fact make it quite easy and relatively inexpensive to purchase at least some vintage comic books, albeit not in their original format. A company named Micro-Color International has recently an­ nounced that they are offering full-color microfiche reprints of extended runs of some vintage 1940s DC comic books (DC being the publisher of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and many other famous characters). Clearly should Uiis project prove to be a financial success, it would be much more feasible for libraries to contemplate comprehensive collection of at least those comic books included in the microfiche project. Any drawbacks to having the comics in microfiche rather than in the original paper would have to be left to the individual library to assess. But even should this project prove to be extremely successful, academ­ ic libraries will still need to develop well thought-out collection criteria. A comprehensive list o f all conceivable collecting criteria is beyond die scope of diis article (or at least beyond the imagination o f the author), but among die general criteria which could serve as reasonable starting points for developing a focused collection are: 1. Collecting a “ representative” set of comics which cover a variety of eras (e.g., Golden Age, Silver Age, Pre-Comics Code, 1980s, etc.) and/or a variety of genres (super-hero, horror, funny animal, war, teen humor, etc.). This might be described as the “ sampler approach.” 2. Concentrating on a particular time period (e.g., 1950-55: the “ E.C./ Pre-Comics Code” era), or on a specific genre (e.g., acquiring western comic books to enhance/complement other collections in western fiction or history). 3. Acquiring books which contain the work o f particular artists (Carl Barks, Jack Kirby, Frank Frazetta, etc.) or specific writers (e.g., Stan Lee, Alan Moore, SF notables Alfred Bester or Ed Hamilton or even the pre-Mike Hammer Mickey Spillane). 4. Acquiring comic books which reflect particular themes, trends or developments in American life and/or popular culture, such as: a. Changes in the depiction and treatment o f African-Americans in comic books from the 1930s to the present day.

Doug Highsmith


b. Advertising content in comic books o f various eras. c. How depictions o f the foreign “ enemy” (both military and political) differ in comic books o f World War n , the Korean War, the Cold War, Viet Nam, and the Post-Cold War/Post-War in the G ulf world of today. d. How death has been treated in comic books over die years. Each of die above-suggested bases for building a comic book collec­ tion presents its own set of problems and challenges. Before discussing some of these problems in greater detail, it would be appropriate to men­ tion a recently-published book which is certainly germane to the whole area of comic books in libraries. The book is Comics Librarianship: a Handbook by Randall W. Scott o f Michigan State University. This book provides an excellent overview of all areas related to acquisition, catalog­ ing, access, and preservation o f comic books for libraries, as well as a directory of Comics Research Libraries. There is also a chapter on “ Sug­ gested Research Topics.” Many o f the potential research topics listed indicate other possible bases for building comic book collections. Another chapter in Mr. Scott’s book is entitled “ Being the Comics Expert.” This title reflects one of the basic issues all libraries which decide to build a comic book collection will have to address; there must be a librarian or other member o f the library staff who is prepared to be or to become the library’s comic book “ expert.” The library should not underestimate how time-consuming and labor-intensive this job can be, particularly when die collection is first being acquired and processed. Once the decision to have a coinic book collection is made and a comics “ expert” widi primary responsibility for building the collection is identified, the library dien needs to develop the collection policy. The actual policy will depend upon a number o f factors. The curricular em­ phases of the institution, the research interests of the relevant faculty, existing strengths and weakness of the library’s collection, the facilities available to house and to provide access to the comic book collection, the budget available to build and to maintain the collection, and the presence, if any, of other libraries with comic book holdings in the immediate area are among die basic factors which should be taken into account. But diere are some additional considerations for academic libraries which plan on building a comic book collection; 1. Although die purpose of this article is to indicate die need to devel­ op a comic book collection based upon a set of specific focused criteria, libraries are nonetheless warned against making such focuses too specific. This is due to the fact that the number o f reference books and other



resource which provide in-depth thematic or subject-specific content analyses of comic books is still quite limited, although that number is increasing. Indeed, there is currently a relative boom in the publication of books about comic books. In addition to the aforementioned Comics Librarianship and Comics and America, 1945-1954, the past year or so has seen the publications of other significant works such as Ron Goulart’s Ency­ clopedia o f American Comics, and Ernst Gerber’s mammoth Photo-Jour­ nal Guide to the Comics. These and other recent publications can take their place alongside such previous works as Robert Overstreet’s annual Comic Book Price Guide (which must still rank as the primary reference work for libraries about American comic books), Jacobs’ and Jones’ The Comic Book Heroes: From the Silver Age to Today, and the unfortunate­ ly never-completed Steranko History o f Comics. While one cannot yet completely fill a good-sized bookcase with significant books about comic books, the amount of unoccupied shelfspace is diminishing fairly rapidly. These and odier such books would be of considerable help in develop­ ing a comic book collection using relatively broad-based criteria, such as the aforementioned collection in a distinct genre such as western comics, or in a specific time period, or by publisher or creative personnel. They would, however, be of much more limited value for a library embarking upon building a theme-based collection along the lines of acquiring com­ ic books which present vivid depictions o f foreign “ enemies” during the many wars and crises die United States has faced in the past 55-plus years. Even those books which have “ history” or “ encyclopedia” in their titles generally do not offer extensive discussion of or detailed biblio­ graphic information about these types o f specific themes or trends. At present, subject-specific access to the comic book medium is extremely limited, and successfully building a collection along such lines would require either substantial personal knowledge on the part of the comics “ expert,” or the identification from the campus or local community of someone with such expertise and the willingness to share it. Libraries should find a comfortable middle ground in developing dieir collection guidelines. Criteria should be sufficiently precise that it is possible to detennine whether a particular comic book should be included in die collection. However, the focus should not be so narrow that it is impossible to successfully build a collection of any size or significance. 2. One thing the library’s comic book “ expert” will obviously have to know or learn is how to acquire those comics which fit into the li­ brary’s collection profile. Assuming that the library has selected a suffi­

Doug Highsmith


ciently broad focus for its collection, a fairly close study o f the biblio­ graphic and publication data provided in the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, in conjunction with consultation with other sources of infor­ mation such as some of the books mentioned previously, should help identify desirable titles and/or issues. Assuming there are funds available to spend on purchasing such com­ ics, the first place to look for them is probably at local comic book spe­ cialty shops (listed in the yellow pages o f most phone books under “ comic books” ). Quite often the proprietors of such shops will be will­ ing to seek out comics on behalf of the customer (i.e., the library) if they themselves do not have the books in stock. The comics specialty shop can also be of great use to die library and its “ expert” in a number of odier ways, serving as die source for: (a) information about upcoming comic book conventions, where needed back issue comics can also be sought out (NOTE: admission to such conventions is not free; die library should decide beforehand if it is willing to reimburse registration or admissions fees for its “ expert” or other representative), (b) publications aimed at the comic book industry and comics shop retailers and/or at comic book collectors. Such publications include the comics industry weekly trade magazine, the Comics Buyer’s Guide. This publication contains news of current developments in die industry, occasional articles of research or scholarly interest (if not necessarily scholarly approach), a lengthy letters column, and advertisements of books available for sale or wanted for purchase. The library might consider not only scanning the ads section for wanted comics available for sale, but also advertising its want list or writing letters informing fans of its collection and soliciting contributions or information which would help in determining which comics it would want to acquire. The Buyers Guide is, of course, avail­ able via subscription, and libraries actively building comic book collec­ tions would be well advised to consider such a subscripdon. (c) Last but not least, die comics specialty shop stocks an extensive, if not necessarily exhaustive, selection of current comics-frequently available at a modest discount below cover price. A useful publication available at many com­ ics shops which provides a very diorough listing of soon-to-be-published comic books and related items (including books about comic books) is die monddy catalog of forthcoming comic books and comics-related publications called Previews. This is published by Diamond Comics Distributors, one of die largest comic book wholesalers/distributors in the U.S. Regular (rips (weekly is suggested) to one or more local comics shops is probably the best way for the library’s comics expert to stay abreast



of current trends in and upcoming plans for the comic book industry. Comics shops, along with any local comic book clubs which may exist, are also the best ways to meet local collectors who might both serve as resource persons for some of the more detailed information needed about comics and/or who might be potential contributors (through sale or dona­ tion) to the library’s collection. 3. For most if not all libraries, donations must play a major role in the building o f dieir comic book collections. Already suggested are ways to solicit contributions both from individual local collectors and from col­ lectors throughout the country. Issues die library should address before soliciting substantial donations are whether it is able to pay for the costs (including insurance) involved with shipping the collection to die library and whedier it will pay partially or fully for having the collection ap­ praised for tax purposes. Consideration should also be given for both donations and for purchas­ es as to minimum and preferable standards o f physical condition and completeness. For individual collectors, comic books in near-perfect or mint condition are generally in very high demand at very high prices, while incomplete or damaged comics generally hold very little interest. Depending upon the scope of its collection and the anticipated uses fore­ seen, a library may want to specifically solicit back issues in lesser con­ dition-keeping in mind the additional problems this will mean in regards to preservation and storage, and probably access. Donations of current publications arc obviously best sought directly from the publishers. Libraries wishing to solicit donations from publishers may wish to first contact libraries that have already established such an arrangement for advice on how best to approach comic book publishers. 4. Building a collection based on narrow or focused criteria would in theory substantially limit if not completely eliminate the question of what to do with unwanted books (i.e., those outside the library’s collecting scope or focus), as they would never have been accepted in the first place. In actuality, though, building a collection along fairly specific lines means, if anything, that the library is probably more rather than less likely to have to deal with “ unwanted” comic books, particularly if donations play a significant role in building the collection. Unless such unwanted books are in extremely poor physical condition, they should not just be thrown away. At the very least, they can be in­ cluded in the library’s annual book sale. Preferably, though, they might be used in trade with dealers or collectors in exchange for comics that the library does want. The library, however, may have some constraints imposed upon it in terms of how “ state” or “ university” property can

Doug Highsmith


be disposed. Another, and possibly better, option is for the library to cooperate with other libraries with comic book collections by sending unwanted books to a library that wants them. The recently-announced consortium of Midwestern academic libraries with a substantial interest in popular cullure-Bowling Green, Ohio State and Michigan State-w ili perhaps serve as an impetus towards further interlibrary cooperation, one outgrowth of which may be a network o f interested libraries that ex­ change such things as unwanted or duplicated comic books. A final quote from the Bibliographic Note at the end o f William Savage’s Comic Books and America, 1945-1954 offers an appropriate way to end diis article, as it illustrates what happened when what was arguably a ready-made “ focused” collection was offered to one library. Mr. Savage writes, “ The comic books cited in this volume were begged, borrowed or bought (and usually that) from dealers in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and California over a period o f ten years. At die conclusion o f die study, I offered my collection of comics to the library of my choice, only to receive a firm refusal. I now intend to store the books for transmission to my heirs as a hedge against inflation. Perhaps, if my heirs should require no such hedge, they may at some later date ask whether scholar­ ship cares to be served yet.” 2

REFERENCES 1. William W. Savage, Jr., Comic Books and America, 1945-1954, (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990), pp. 143-144. 2. ibid, p. 148.

BIBLIOGRAPHY A. BOOKS Gerber, Ernst. The Photo-Journal Guide to Comic Books, vol. 1-3. Minden, NV: Gerber Publishing, 1989-. Goulart, Ron (ed.). The Encyclopedia of American Comics. New York: Facts on File, 1990. Jacobs, Will and Gerald Jones. The Comic Book Heroes: from the Silver Age to the Present. New York: Crown, 1985. Savage, William W., Jr. Comic Books and America, 1945-1954. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1990.



Scott, Randall W. Comics Librarianship: a Handbook. Jefferson, N.C. & Lon­ don: McFarland & Co., 1990. Steranko, James. The Sleranko History o f Comics, vol. 1 & 2. Reading, PA: Supergraphics, 1970 and 1972. B. SERIALS Comics Buyer's Guide, 1971- (weekly). Iola, WI: Krause Publications (former title: Buyer’s Guide fo r Comics Fandom). Overstreet, Robert M. The Official Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, 1970 (annual). New York: House of Collectibles & Cleveland, TN: Overstreet Publications.

An Unsuitable Job for a Librarian? Collection Development of Mystery and Detective Fiction in Academic Libraries Gina R. Overcash

SUMMARY. Mystery and detective fiction, once considered inap­ propriate for an academic library collection, has gained increasing respect in recent years. This paper traces the development o f the genre, highlighting its parallels with the development o f the novel form. It also examines (lie changing critical opinion o f the genre, explores the increasing rejection of the categorization o f these works, provides evidence of increasing scholarly acceptance, and discusses the role of librarians in the collection development of this type of fiction. As a center of learning on college and university campuses, the academic library must keep pace with the changing critical views of mystery and detective fiction. To ignore its movement into main­ stream fiction would be to perform a disservice to its institution, its faculty and students, and to the genre itself.

INTRODUCTION The title of this paper, an allusion to P. D. Jam es’s 1972 novel An Un­ suitable Job fo r a Woman,' reflects the ambivalent attitude of many librarians about the collection development of mystery and detective fiction in an academic library. Many characters in James’s novel assert that private detective Cordelia Gray’s profession is one better practiced by men. In the course o f her work, James proves otherwise. The job is Gina R. Overcash is Humanities Reference Librarian, Ralph Brown Draughon Library, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849-5606. © 1992 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.