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Series I: Public Library Inquiry
At a Glance
Arranged. Collection is in 2 series and several subseries in each.
Correspondence, documents, memoranda, reports, and clippings of book reviews. The correspondence is chiefly with public, university, and special libraries, and with foundations and other organizations. There is correspondence with several leading American librarians, such as Carleton Joeckel, Joseph Wheeler, and Charles C. Williamson. About one half of the collection contains the field reports, interview reports, questionnaires, vocational interest blanks, and related materials used for one Inquiry study by Oliver Garceau"Library Government and Politics", which was published by the Columbia University Press in 1949 as THE PUBLIC LIBRARY IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS. The manuscript of a report for the Russell Sage Foundation"The Nature of Public Communication", 1955, was added.
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This collection has no restrictions.
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Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Robert D. Leigh papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.
Ownership and Custodial History
Transferred from the School of Library Service, 1974, 1981 & 1985 (originally given by R.D. Leigh in 1960).
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Source of acquisition--School if Library Service. Method of acquisition--Transfer; Date of acquisition--1974. Accession number--M-1974.
About the Finding Aid / Processing Information
Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Cataloged BRC 8/28/74. Processed JLW 09/27/85.
The papers of Robert D. Leigh, on which I worked, were those pertaining to the Public Library Inquiry that he organized and headed while at Columbia. I received a large number of loose papers, folders, and bound volumes, dating between 1947 and 1953. These papers were of a mixed nature, official, semiofficial, and personal, yet were all related to the Inquiry, itself. Many were the actual working material of the Project.
Although these papers were in a disorganized state, upon further examination they fell into cohesive groups and a natural order, which followed closely the progression of the Inquiry. The papers included correspondence, official documents of the Inquiry, statistical data, rough drafts of reports, memoranda, and a missive number of clippings of reviews. The bound volumes contained Inquiry documents and several reports relating closely to the project.
In working with Dr. Leigh's correspondence, I found eighty-two pieces, dating between September 1949 and March 1952, all pertaining to the study. The letters were exchanged with institutions, for the most part - public library systems, university libraries, and government offices - and with individuals, in some cases. Although some contained personal references, all were basically on the subject of the Inquiry and were most logically arranged in chronological order.
There was among the papers, a large portion that were Inquiry documents, statements of goals, progress reports, and memoranda to the staff. Included among these I found several pieces which were working papers of the project - data sheets and charts, evaluations and rough drafts - all handwritten. In this group, I was able to follow the Principle of Provenance, leaving the basic original order, with a few minor adjustments. These were numbered in folders.
The greatest bulk of papers was a massive number of clipped reviews, dating from February 1947 to Winter 1951. These, I sorted chronologically and arranged by year. In addition, I designated separate folders for the collections of reviews on related reports which had been clipped and pasted on manila folders. These were arranged alphabetically, according to the various authors.
Finally, I found ten bound volumes. Of these, two were Inquiry documents, in temporary bindings. These were removed, placed in folders and integrated appropriately, in this case, among the official documents, in chronological sequence. The other volumes, containing reports relating to the Inquiry, were in permanent bindings. They were labelled accordingly, numbered, and added at the conclusion of the collection.
Although the collection was disorganized upon initial examination, it fell quickly into an order of its own., resembling the original progression of the project. In many cases, I was able to observe the Principle of Provenance. This part of the Robert D. Leigh Papers comprises two boxes of material, which move in logical sequence through the various steps of the Public Library Inquiry.
November 2020 PDF replaced with full finding aid, YH
History / Biographical Note
Biographical / Historical
Director of the Inquiry, 1947-1950 & author (Columbia University M.A. 1915, Ph.D. 1927). The Public Library Inquiry was a comprehensive survey of the American public library system by the Social Science Research Council.