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Trustees' Collections Committee

Board of Trustees

Minutes of the March 3, 2010 Meeting

Minutes of Meeting
Trustees’ Collections Committee Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The meeting of the Boston Public Library Collections Committee was held at the Boston Public Library, Trustees’ Room, Johnson Building, 3rd floor, 700 Boylston Street, Boston, MA on Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 12 Noon.  

Present at the meeting were:  Committee Chairman Brian Clancy; Ms. Betsy Hall;
Ms. Elizabeth Snyder; Jarvis P. Kellogg, Esq.; Ms. Susan Glover; Mr. Stuart Walker; and Mr. Jamie McGlone, Clerk of the Board.

Chairman Brian Clancy presided.                

Chairman Clancy addressed the first item on the order of business pertaining to the review and approval of Minutes for the Collections Committee Meeting held on November 10, 2009.  Following discussion, on a motion duly made and seconded, the Minutes of the Collections Committee Meeting held on November 10, 2009 were approved. 

Chairman Clancy noted an observation by Mr. Stuart Walker regarding the establishment of a Sub-Committee of the Collections Committee to review the Collections Committee Charter to explore the Collections Committee future mission, governance and purpose at the last Collections Committee on November 10, 2009. 

The Chairman noted that, as a policy for the committee in the future, all motions that are going to be voted on by the Collections Committee will have to be provided in advance of the meeting to allow members to review and study the language for what is being put forward for their consideration.    

The Chairman concurred that in response to the discussion at the last meeting it is a good time to take a fresh look at the Collections Committee Charter after two years.  The Chair further noted that Mr. Bob Pemberton, who had agreed to Chair the Strategy Sub-Committee conveyed subsequently, that he had a better understanding of the Boston Public Library Compass:  Principles for Excellence initiative and that the right time to undertake a review of the Collections Committee would be once the Compass Principles for Excellence are published and in synch with the Boston Public Library’s emerging strategic framework.    

Ms. Susan Glover reported on the initiatives of the Collection Development Sub-Committee noting a fast track de-accession was recently made when the Internet Archive, which is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization, offered to take over the Boston Public Library’s Sound Archives vinyl record collection totaling 250,000 records at not cost to the BPL and that they would digitize the Massachusetts labels first using federal stimulus money that they have already received.

Ms. Glover further noted that the Internet Archive would also make the Sound Archives collection available both on the Boston Public Library and Internet Archive websites for downloading and noted the benefits of this offer include that the collection will be accessible to the public coupled with the Internet Archive housing the physical collection itself in appropriate storage conditions.

Mr. Brian Clancy noted that in the event that the Internet Archive decided to deaccession the Sound Archives collection in the future the collection would automatically revert back to the Boston Public Library. 

Ms. Glover underscored that due diligence was undertaken for the Sound Archives Collection with a number of institutions and dealers to see if they might be interested in the collection for purchase and or storage, including the Library of Congress, and interestingly enough even several of the local institutions that had given the BPL their vinyl record collections years ago did not want them returned. It was later concluded by BPL staff that the Internet Archive proposal was the best option if the current terms could be finalized.

Ms. Susan Glover provided an update on the ongoing review of the Boston Public Library’s two copies of the Audubon elephant folio of the Birds of North America recalling that the BPL has two incomplete copies of this remarkable book in our collection.  In total we have 433 of the 435 plates that constitute a complete volume.  The missing plates are #91 (the American Swallow-tailed Kite/Swallow-tailed Hawk) and #236 (the Great Horned Owl) and in addition we have 79 instances in which we have two versions of individual plates. 

Meanwhile, efforts are underway to complete this master copy by acquiring quality versions of plates #91 and #236 which would be a significant achievement and a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the library’s overall special collections.

Ms. Susan Glover reported the Boston Public Library has been offered three manuscript travel diaries by Thomas G. Appleton, a founding Trustee of the Boston Public Library.  They are from Appleton’s 1833-34 maiden voyage to Europe that he took following graduation from Harvard and a postgraduate year studying law in the company of Oliver Wendell Holmes. 

The first, Journal of a Passage of the Atlantic in the year 1833, describes the voyage and the first days in England.  The second volume, A Month in England during the Month of May 1833, details the rest of his stay on the island, including his happiness at leaving “stupid” London, and his arrival and early days in France.  The third volume begins in Germany and carries through Switzerland, Austria, Italy, and the return to France.  All diaries were intended to be read by the family and were sent home for that purpose as they were finished.

The first volume contains 63 leaves in addition to 9 pencil drawings, with a few guide-book clippings and some pressed flowers.  The second volume has 49 leaves while the third contains 192 leaves.

When Appleton returned to America, he became very active in the Boston Public Library, serving as a founding Trustee from its inception until his death.  Interestingly, upon Appleton’s death, a half-brother donated these volumes to the library, apparently without the authority to do so. 

As a result all three volumes contain the BPL bookplate and the notation “Given by Nathan Appleton, Dec. 24, 1884.”  Volume I has the penciled inscription, “Without authority; subsequently given back to the family.”  Volume II is inscribed “Returned at the request of Executor R. H. Dana Ex.”  The third volume states, “Claimed by executor of T.G.A.”

All three volumes are in very good condition and they are being offered by Carmen D. Valentino of Philadelphia for $30,000.   

Ms. Glover shared copies of the Acquisition Evaluation Framework from the Collection Development Sub-Committee pertaining to the Thomas G. Appleton manuscript travel diaries recommending their purchase by the Boston Public Library.  She also indicated that the library has the required restricted Trust Funds available that are earmarked solely for purchasing materials for the Rare Books Collection. 

The Committee addressed the possible public perception around the utilization of Trust Funds during the current difficult economic times but underscored that the Trust Funds earmarked for the purchase are indeed dedicated to and are exclusively available for purchases of this nature.  Further, it was noted the purchase reflects a commitment to the library’s fiduciary obligation to fulfill its mission and donor requirements for the acquisition of special collections.  Following further discussion, on a motion duly made and seconded, it was

VOTED:  “to approve the purchase of Thomas G. Appleton’s 1833-34 maiden voyages to Europe three manuscript travel diaries as recommended by the Boston Public Library Collection Development Sub-Committee

The Chairman asked that the Minutes reflect that subsequent to the Collections Committee vote of approval to acquire the Thomas G. Appleton’s diaries the Clerk of the Board received two email votes of approval on the purchase of the manuscripts.

Chairman Brian Clancy reported that Merrill Lynch has graciously offered to provide funding for a World Views Exhibit of the Boston Public Library travel posters.  Slated to open April 2010 in the McKim Changing Exhibits Room, the exhibit will be linked to the Lowell Lecture Series of world renowned travel writers, including Paul Theroux, which is a wonderful example of connecting access to the library’s collection with community outreach activities.  There will also be an online component of this exhibit.   

            On the preservation front, Mr. Stuart Walker and Ms. Betsy Hall noted the exciting announcement by Ms. Vivian K. Spiro, Chair, Associates of the Boston Public Library at the Trustees Meeting on February 17, 2010 that the Associates successfully helped secure a $500,000 donation that will be expended over three years to continue and expand the Library’s conservation efforts. 

The Associates have long been dedicated to supporting the Library’s preservation and conservation needs, for example last year through the efforts of the Associates the Library received an anonymous donation of $100,000 to describe, conserve, and digitize the Library’s significant collection of anti-slavery materials. 

This same donor, through the Boston Foundation, has made the most recent generous gift to hire a Preservation Officer to manage and coordinate the long term preservation of the Library’s diverse and extensive collection of tangible and digital assets.  The grant will also support further fundraising and public relations activities focused on preservation. 

Ms. Spiro had also noted special appreciation to the team of President Amy Ryan, Ms. Susan Glover, Mr. Stuart Walker and Mr. Tom Blake who worked closely with the Associates to secure this exceptional generous donation.  This was followed by a prolonged round of applause. 

Mr. Stuart Walker reported the Boston Public Library is continuing its partnership with the North Bennet Street School in the North End.  Mr. Walker has been invited to serve on the Advisors Committee for the Book Printing program coupled with continuing with the third annual assignment of an intern in the BPL Conservation Laboratory graciously funded by the Associates of the Boston Public Library. 

On the outreach front, Mr. Walker will be presenting a program at the Andover Public Library on preserving family documents and photographs and participating in a program at the Adams Street Branch Library entitled The Big Read discussing the “slow fires” of paper decay, the loss of information, and the challenges of preservation of our cultural heritage. 

Ms. Susan Glover provided an update on the McKim IID Restoration project noting that engineering consultants have worked in concert with the staff of the Boston Public Library to develop a program for the next phase of the renovation of the McKim building. To that end, the City of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development has been charged with giving leadership to the initiative. 

Additionally, on March 9, 2010 at 11:00 a.m. the Massachusetts Library Association and the Massachusetts School Library Association are sponsoring their annual rally at the State House for Legislative Day.  This is an opportunity for library supporters from all over the state to come out in support of library funding. There being no other business, the Collections Committee Meeting adjourned at 1:30 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Jamie McGlone
Clerk to the Trustees