John Boynton Kaiser papers, 1928-1971

Summary Information

At a Glance

Call No.:
Bib ID:
4078966 View CLIO record
Kaiser, John Boynton, 1887-1973
Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Physical Description:
4.5 linear feet (9 boxes)
English .
Other Finding Aids

Legacy Finding aid

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.



Files dealing with many aspects of Kaiser's professional life.

  • Series I: Library Administration, Personnel and Teaching Records, 1928-1958

  • Series II: Oakland Public Library and Newark Public Library

    This box consists of speeches, letters, reports and memoranda produced by John Boynton Kaiser while he was director of public libraries in Oakland, California, 1927-1943, and director of the Newark public library 1943-1958. The materials in this box dealing with personnel, budget and public relations, sheds light on the operation of these two library systems. Most of the documents were produced by Kaiser in his official capacity as director of the libraries. There are however, three folders of material relating to the "power of print", an article published in Overland monthly and Outwest Magazine (1931). In this article and in speeches he gave throughout his career, Kaiser argued that the librarian, by opening up the world of print, would provide his patrons with access to a storehouse of knowledge that would enrich all spheres of their lives.

    Unfortunately, that material in this box relating to the operations of the Oakland and Newark public library systems is incomplete. There is only three folders of Oakland material all of which were produced between 1933 and 1938. For material produced between 1927-1933 and 1938-1943 researchers will have to go to Oakland. Even for the 1933-1938 period there is obviously much material missing that might be found on the West coast. Similarly, the Newark material also has huge gaps, particularly after 1950. Many items that are missing from this collection probably can be located at Newark.

  • Series III: Other Institutions and Associations, 1945-1949

    The present collection of John Boynton Kaiser's Papers at Columbia is only a partial one, representing but some of the highlights in the career of a man whose Interests ranged from stamp-collecting, to roses to books, and, of course, to libraries. It was with the latter that the major portion of his career was concerned.

    Director of the Newark Public Library for fifteen years, from 1943 to 1958, and involved prior to that with library work in California, he wrote, spoke and lectured on all the ramifications of library administration, library personnel and library school training. An annotated bibliography of his published works was produced upon his retirement from the Newark Library. How ever much of his professional papers and lectures remained unpublished. Series III of the Columbia collection provides some insight into the manner in which Mr. Kaiser went about preparing his lectures, and in many instances outlines and rough drafts of parts of his speeches.

    There is nothing of a personal nature in this series, with the exception of one very brief scrap memo from his son with respect to bibliography for one of his speeches (See Folder 5c, Item 7/5c) which would indicate that he maintained a paternal as well as professional relationship there. One letter, to the President of Bambergers Store in the same folder (33/5e) speaks of visiting a rose display there with his wife, indicating that she traveled with him, and giving evidence in the letter itself of the inherent courtesy of the man, considerate enough to write complimenting the manager of a store in another country. This same consideration is reflected in other letters in this collection, wherein he wrote to managers of various hotels, expressing appreciation of the accommodations afforded him.

    The major concerns reflected in Series III are, however, professional. He was intensely interested in the problems of library personnel in all its aspects, and this is reflected in his letters, memoranda as well as speeches. It is also interesting to note his meticulous care of spending library funds, a matter clearly shown in his own expense sheets — he even kept his railroad tickets!

    N.B. Although there are probably many pictures available of Mr. Kaiser in Newark, the only one in this collection is in a newspaper article, Series III in which the demeanor appears to be one of intellect and restraint.

  • Series IV: Alumni Advisory Committee of the Columbia University School of Library Service, 1946-1959

    This series contains materials dealing with John B. Kaiser's work with the Alumni Advisory Committee of the Columbia University School of Library Service. The period covered is between the years 1946 and 1959. However, since Kaiser did most of his work in this connection between 1952 and 1957, the bulk of the papers fall between these years.

    The Alumni Advisory Committee was organized in 1952. It was a committee of five appointed by the New York State Library Association executive committee to serve as a two-way channel between the alumni group of the Albany Library School (1887-1926) and the Graduate School of Library Service of Columbia University, founded in 1926. Its first five members (its membership would vary in later years) were: Alice Jewett, Librarian, Mt. Vernon Public Library; Flora B. Ludington, Librarian, Mt. Vernon Public Library; Paul North Rice, New York Public Library; John S. Richards, Librarian, Seattle Public Library; and John Boynton Kaiser, Librarian, Newark Public Library, and Chairman of the Committee.

    The papers contained in Series IV relate to Kaiser's work with the Alumni Advisory Committee and his long affiliation with the School of Library Service of Columbia University. The Series consists of Polders I-XX in two boxes. It can generally be divided into three main types of papers: correspondence, 7 folders; professional papers, 12 folders; pamphlets and memorabilia, 1 folder.

    The overall arrangement is a chronological one, since a good deal of the papers are correspondence with Committee members and other professional people in many different libraries, papers that are relevant to a particular year's correspondence are in a folder adjacent to that correspondence! It seemed important to keep the order a chronological one in order to follow logically the activities of the Alumni Advisory Committee and its resulting accomplishments. And to some extent the order is a classified one in that events revolving around a particular activity take place in rapid succession within a limited period of time.

    Much of the work of the Alumni Advisory Committee in the mid-50's involved preparation for an accreditation survey of the School of Library Service conducted by the American Library Association. By keeping the papers in their natural order, one can see the progress the Committee made towards the survey, beginning with the formation of a Survey Advisory Committee and ending with the completed report of the American Library Association and the accreditation.

    Following is a listing of Folders 1-20 and their contents. The one exception is item 17, which is a black binder too large to be in a folder. It is numbered so as to keep the papers in their natural order in the box. A complete list of correspondents would be enormous and of little use. For a listing of the most important of Kaiser's correspondents, see Series III.

  • Series V: New York State Library School Association, Inc.

    The correspondence, minutes, memoranda, printed materials, etc. of John B. Kaiser, president of the alumina association of the Hew York State library School, deal with meetings, conventions, bequests, the American Library Association, and his membership in the advisory council of the Columbia University School of library Service (which the Kew York State Library School had become in 1926).


Arranged. Collection is in 5 series.

Using the Collection

Other Finding Aids

Legacy Finding aid

Restrictions on Access

You will need to make an appointment in advance to use this collection material in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room. You can schedule an appointment once you've submitted your request through your Special Collections Research Account.

This collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least three business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

This collection has no restrictions.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); John Boynton Kaiser papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.


Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact for more information.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Source of acquisition--Kaiser, John B. Method of acquisition--Gift; Date of acquisition--1973. Accession number--M-73.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Cataloged Christina Hilton Fenn 07/--/1989.

The papers of John Boynton Kaiser arrived at the Special Collections Division of Columbia University" in late 1973 in a number of corrugated cardboard cartons. The material had no formal order or arrangement; similar materials were, however, generally bundled together. For example, the materials, having to do with his activity as director of the Newark Public library were piled together as were the materials having to do with his teaching activities. Four persons from Prof. Tauber's Archives Management course cooperated on the project of preparing this collection for use. Each one undertook to describe and arrange such material as fell into well defined phases or activities in Kaiser's life. The four major areas appeared to be teaching records, speeches and letters as library director, other speeches and publications, and committee activities.

In general, even this preliminary assignment of […] to bear out Schellenberg's contention that private records can be described effectively in relation to their provenance and arranged into series which can then be dealt with collectively.

The material consists solely of textual records; there is not what one would call three dimensional memorabilia nor are three photographs or maps.

After each area has been preliminarily arranged, described, and inventoried it will be possible to coordinate these separate lists into a comprehensive listing of the Kaiser papers and open the collection for use.

The collection is an incomplete one as it does not cover the entire scope of Kaiser's activities and work. We may suppose that a great deal of Kaiser material is held by the public libraries of Oakland and Newark and in other places.

There are apparently no stipulations' or restrictions attached to the collection and it will be available to qualified persons subject to the privileges and rules of the Division of Special Collections of Columbia University.

The material which I arranged consists of two containers of teaching records produced by Kaiser while teaching courser in library Administration at the University of California in 1938 and 1940, at the University of Chicago in 1939, and at Columbia University in 1945 and 1958. There is also about half a container of material relating to Kaiser's work on the Newark Public Library position classification and salary survey in 1943-1945 and also general materials on the personnel aspect of library administration.

HR 8/74.

Revision Description

November 2020 PDF replaced with full finding aid, YH

Biographical / Historical

John Boynton Kaiser was born in Cleveland on January 1, 1887 and died on September 30, 1973. He was a graduate of the New York State Library School at Albany and obtained a BLS in 1910 and an MLS in 1917. He also earned a degree in international law from the University of Illinois in 1912.

Kaiser worked in the public libraries of Tacoma, Washington, Iowa City, Iowa, Oakland, California, and Newark, New Jersey. Of the last two he was director, being at Oakland from 1927-1943 and at Newark from 1943-1958.

He taught classes in library administration at the University of Illinois, University of Chicago, Rutgers, University of California at Berkeley as well as at Columbia.

Kaiser was president of the Pacific Northwest Library Association from 1917-1918. He served as president of the California Library Association from 1932-1933 and was president of the Hew Jersey Library Association from 1948-1949. He served a3 vice-president of the American Library Association in 1949-1950. From 1960-1963, Kaiser was the executive director of the American Documentation Institute (also known as the American Society for Information Science). He served as president of the New York State Library School Association from 1947-1973.

He contributed to professional books and journals, writing on the subjects of library administration, finance, and personnel. He also compiled bibliographies in the field of philately. He edited the April 1958 issue of Library Trends on the "Legal Aspects of Library Administration." Upon his retirement in 1950 the Newark Public Library prepared, An Annotated Bibliography of the writings of John Boynton Kaiser Published 1911 to 1958 which shows not only his professional interests but also his activity as a philatelist.

Subject Headings

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