Scope and arrangement
The Catalog Preservation Project Records pertain to the rehabilitation and preservation of the Public Card Catalog of The Research Libraries of The New York Public Library. The collection documents institutional investigation of this matter, as well as the resulting decisions to close the catalog at the end of 1971, to rehabilitate the cards, to publish the catalog retrospectively, and to create, maintain and periodically publish prospectively a machine readable catalog of post-1971 acquisitions.
The records span the years 1942 to 1983, with a concentration on the period in the 1960's when the issue of rehabilitating and preserving the card catalog was studied in depth, as well as the period in the 1970's and early 1980's when the retrospective and prospective catalogs were created. The collection measures 4.16 linear feet and consists of reports, minutes, memoranda (both typed and handwritten), correspondence, publicity material and photocopies of newspapers clippings, together with some actual examples of cards from the catalog.
This material illuminates the process by which the decision to rehabilitate and preserve the card catalog was made, and shows how that decision was implemented. The records also reveal institutional thinking on questions ranging from cataloging theory (particularly the problem of conforming NYPL subject headings to those of the Library of Congress) to the use of outside consultants and ways to obtain outside funding. There is also documentation of interaction and coordination among the several Library departments and divisions that worked together to achieve a common institutional goal.
The Catalog Preservation Project Records are arranged in four series:
Series 1 contains the files relating to the Catalog Preservation Project maintained by James W. Henderson. Mr. Henderson, who began his employment with the NYPL in 1947, was the Chief of the Reference Department from 1963-1972, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of The Research Libraries from 1972-1977 and the Director of Project RETRO from 1978 until the last volumes of the retrospective catalog were published in 1983.
Series consists of memoranda, correspondence and reports created or received by Mr. Henderson regarding the impetus for the Catalog Preservation Project generally, and the implementation of Project RETRO specifically.
Series 2. Genesis of Catalog Preservation Project assembles the memoranda, committee minutes and reports from the 1960's and early 1970's which address and resolve the issue of how to rehabilitate and preserve the Public Catalog.
Series 3. Prospective Catalog collects memoranda and reports relating to the development, in the late 1960's to 1972, of the machine readable catalog to be published in book form for acquisitions made after the card catalog was closed in 1971.
Series 4. Retrospective Catalog assembles the correspondence, memoranda, reports and publicity materials relating to the creation and publication of the retrospective catalog, titled Dictionary Catalog of the Research Libraries of the New York Public Library - 1911-1971.