GROLIER CLUB RG1 Series III: Records of the Librarian-Executive Director
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Grolier Club Records of the Librarian/Director, 1884-2004

Grolier Club Institutional Records, Record Group 1, Series 3: Records of the Librarian/Director 1884-2004.

 OCLC/RLIN ID No. (Unique ID):
NYGG05-A10010 / OCLC 79458531


 Bulk Dates:

54 boxes; 27 linear feet

This collection is comprised of the records, correspondence, and other professional materials of past Grolier Club Librarians.

 Access Restrictions:
Access to materials in this collection is restricted for 10 years after date of creation. Materials in box 33, folder 2 is restricted until 2042. Materials in box 38 identified as restricted cannot be consulted without permission from the Club Librarian, Director or their designee. Copyright restrictions may apply; please contact repository for requests for copying and for authorization to publish, quote, or reproduce the materials.  

 Preferred Citation:
[Description and date of item], [Box/folder number], Grolier Club Records of the Librarian/Director, 1884-2004, The Grolier Club of New York.

About the Finding Aid:
This finding aid was prepared by Sophia Dahab in Microsoft Word at the Grolier Club, June 2015.

Materials in this collection were generated by employees and/or members of the Grolier Club during the normal course of library business.

Access Points:
Grolier Club
Grolier Club. Library
Drake, Alexander W. (Alexander Wilson), 1843-1916
Chew, Beverly, 1850-1924
Lawrence, Richard Hoe
Kent, Henry Watson, 1866-1948
Granniss, Ruth S. (Ruth Shepard), 1872-1954
McKay, George L. (George Leslie), 1895-1976
Davidson, Alexander, Jr.
Bender, J. Terry (John Terry)
Austin, Gabriel
Simmonds, Harvey
Nikirk, Robert
Antonetti, Martin
Holzenberg, Eric
Peña, J. Fernando
Constantinou, Meghan
Asaf, Allen
Higgs, Kimball

Acquisitions (Libraries)

Biographical/Historical Note:
The Grolier Club was established on January 23, 1884 by a group of nine prominent New York City book and graphic art enthusiasts with the object, as stated its constitution, “to foster the study, collecting, and appreciation of books and works on paper, their art, history, production, and commerce.” As an institution devoted to the history of the book and the book arts, the creation and maintenance of a library was, from the very beginning, of priority.  Initially a modest cooperative reference library for use exclusively by members, the library quickly grew into something much greater and larger.  After moving from its first home in the few rented rooms on Madison Avenue to the Clubhouse on East 32nd Street, then finally to its current home at 47 East 60th Street in 1917, the Library began to open its doors to the public. Under the guidance of Ruth Shepard Granniss, and through the generosity of its membership, the library’s holdings almost quadrupled from 8,000 to just over 30,000 volumes in the span of 40 years.  Presently, the Grolier Club library boasts more than 100,000 volumes on the history and art of the book, and is home to one of the largest collection of auction and bookdealer catalogs. 

In the first years following the establishment of the Grolier Club, the library was overseen by founder A.W. Drake, who served as honorary librarian from 1884-1887.  He was succeeded by Beverly Chew, and later by Richard Hoe Lawrence from 1892-1903.  It was under Lawrence that the Club hired its first professional librarian, Henry Watson Kent.  Kent, who had been a member of the first class (1887) of Melvil Dewey’s School of Library Service at Columbia University, began working at the Club in 1900 as Assistant Librarian under Lawrence and officially took over the position of Librarian in 1903. Kent, with the help of Lawrence, devised a unique classification scheme for the library that is still in use today.

Kent resigned in April 1905 to accept a position at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he served as Secretary. During his last year at the Club, Ruth Shepard Granniss, a graduate of the Pratt Institute Library School, had been hired as a cataloger. In 1906, after having been in charge of the library since Kent’s resignation, she was officially appointed Librarian. Granniss held the position for nearly 40 years, until her retirement in April of 1944, and to this day remains the Grolier Club’s longest serving librarian. It was her tenure that set the precedent for the following years of the Club Librarian also being the Club Director.   

After Granniss’ departure, George Leslie McKay, who had joined the staff as Curator in 1924 and assisted Granniss in the library, became Librarian while also retaining his duties as Curator.  A graduate of the Library School of the New York Public Library and a prolific bibliographer in his own right, McKay retired at the end of 1958 in order to finish his catalogue of the Robert Louis Stevenson collection at the Beinecke Library.

McKay’s successor, Alexander Davidson, came from a career as a dealer in Americana, having been an associate in the firm of Lathrop C. Harper. Davidson had been an active member of the Grolier Club since 1936, serving on the council twice before being appointed librarian. He suffered a stroke in 1960, preventing him from being able to fulfil his duties as librarian and forcing him to retire. 

J. Terry Bender took over the post in 1961, leaving his position as Chief of the Division of Special Collections and Keeper of Rare Books at Stanford University.  Upon Bender’s resignation in 1964, Gabriel Austin, who began as Curator in 1963, took over the position, serving for five years.  In 1969, Austin left to head the book department at Sotheby Parke-Bernet.

Harvey Simmonds briefly served as Librarian from November 1969 to January 1970, and upon his departure the vacancy was filled by Robert Nikirk.  During the twenty years that Nikirk served as Librarian, the Grolier Club underwent a series of renovations, expansions, and changes, not least of which includes the hiring of a professional cataloguer, Allen Asaf, in 1983 and – soon after – the Library’s acquisition of a computer and participation in RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network).  Nikirk passed away in September of 1990.  Today, the Club honors his memory and legacy through the annual Nikirk Lecture Series. 

Martin Antonetti succeeded Nikirk as Librarian the following spring, serving until 1997 when he resigned to accept a position at Smith College and Eric Holzenberg, who had been employed as cataloger since 1994, took over as Librarian.  In 2003, though the work of catalogers Michael North (1997-1999) and Fernando Peña (2001-2002), the Grolier Club launched its first online catalog.  The following year, as the Library’s collections continued to grow and more and more researchers began using them, the positions of Librarian and Director, which had heretofore been one and the same, were formally split into two distinct roles.  Holzenberg continued as Director, while Peña became Librarian. 

In 2011 Peña resigned, and Meghan Constantinou was appointed Librarian.

Grolier Club Librarians/Directors

1884-1887   A.W. Drake
1887-1892   Beverly Chew
1892-1903   Richard Hoe Lawrence
1903-1905   Henry Watson Kent
1905-1944   Ruth Shepard Granniss
1944-1958   George Leslie McKay
1958-1961   Alexander Davidson, Jr.
1961-1965   J. Terry Bender
1965-1969   Gabriel Austin
1969-1970   Harvey Simmonds
1970-1990   Robert Nikirk
1991-1997   Martin Antonetti
1997-           Eric J. Holzenberg (thereafter exclusively Director)

Grolier Club Librarians

2004-2011   J. Fernando Peña
2011-           Meghan Read Constantinou

An Explanatory Note about Job Titles:
From 1884 to 1997 the chief operating officer of the Grolier Club held the title of Librarian. Seeking a term more reflective of the general administrative nature of the post, the Council changed the title successively to Director & Librarian (1997), and Director (2004).

From 1884 to 1983 the assistant to the chief operating officer of the Grolier Club held the title of Curator. In 1983, with the appointment of Allen Asaf, the position title was changed to Cataloguer. In 2000, the title Curator was revived with the intent of bestowing it on those who had successfully passed a probationary period as Cataloguer. In 2004, with the decision to change the title of the traditional Grolier Club COO post from Librarian to Director, the title of the assistant position was changed from Curator to Librarian, a more accurate description of the post and its duties. 

Scope and Content Note:
This collection consists largely of correspondence, both sent and received, relating to the daily operations of the library and reference queries.  In addition, there are some duplicate copies of reports of the Librarian to the Club’s Library Committee; a more complete set of these monthly and annual reports can be found in the Records of the Library Committee collection.  Also included are orders and invoices relating to books, binding, and other supplies; conservation statistics and reports; acquisition and gift information; publications by and about the Library and its members; and records documenting the implementation of the online catalog and other computerized library systems.

Includes several volumes of carbon-copies of outgoing correspondence by Ruth Shepard Granniss between 1906 and 1916; some of these are now difficult to read. The Granniss files of correspondents' letters include a few of her holograph originals.

Individual correspondents include but are not limited to: Elmer Adler, Frank Altschul, C.R. Ashbee, Samuel Putnam Avery, Henrietta Bartlett, Melbert B. Cary, George Watson Cole, Edith Diehl, Marian Dodd (Womens' University Club), Porter Garnett (Laboratory Press), Walter Gilliss, W.W. Greg, Louis Haber, Byrne Hackett, Sherman P. Haight, Lathrop Harper, Philip Hofer, Robert Jaffray, Geoffrey Keynes, Bella Landauer, Flora Livingston, Luther Livingston, Amy Lowell, Leonard L. Mackall, Ronald B. McKerrow, Howard Mansfield, Stanley Morison, Edward A. Parsons, Joseph Pennell, A.W. Pollard, Fanny Ratchford, Carl Purlington Rollins, Walter Kilburn Root, William Edwin Rudge, Margaret B. Stillwell, Edward L. Stone, Daniel Berkeley Updike, Beatrice Warde, Frederic Warde, and Lawrence C. Wroth. Book dealers and binders include but are not limited to: B.F. Stevens & Brown, G.E. Stechert & Co., Charles P. Lauriat, Atelier Bindery, French Binders (Doubleday & Co.), MacDonald James, MacDonald & Maier, and the Stikeman firm.

The Alexander Davidson records contain material about the Morgan Gunst Fund for the Grolier Club and the Bender records include reports by Carolyn Horton on the physical rehabilitation of the Grolier Library during the years 1960-1962. Also: guestbooks for the period 1930-1955; entries often indicate purpose of users' research.

 Related Materials Note:

·       RG 4, Series I, Subseries A: Records of the Library Committee

·       RG 4, Series I, Subseries B: Records of the Librarian, 2004-

·       RG 1, Series I, Subseries A: Council Meeting Minutes

·       Records of the Curator

·       RG 3, Series III: Exhibitions­­­ Records

·       Nikirk Papers

·       Gabriel Austin Lists of French sale catalogs (1630-1993) and related materials

·       Gabriel Austin Papers relating to the preparation of The library of Jean Grolier: a preliminary catalogue

·       Eric Holzenberg Collections Materials for Rare Book School

·       Michael North digital files

This collection has been reprocessed, and while most of its original arrangement has been kept, some significant changes have been made. Firstly, the Personal Papers of Ruth Shepard Granniss, previously kept as a separate collection, has been folded into Series II at the suggestion of the Archivist based on the content of the materials.  A second collection, previously titled “The Records of the Librarian 1970–”, has also been incorporated into to this collection, as it was unclear why it was originally designated as a separate collection.  Original finding aids for all collections have been retained as evidence of their initial structure and arrangement.

Within specific series, which are reflective of the individual Librarians, files have been kept in their original order as much as possible.  As such, some subseries are arranged alphabetically, and others chronologically.  For example, from 1913 on RSG evidently kept her correspondence filed by groups of years; this arrangement has been maintained. 

As the Librarian also held administrative and executive duties up until the official appointment of a Club Director in 2004, this collection is considered a part of GC Institutional Records RG 1: Administrative and Executive Files. Records of the Librarian from 2004–present are in RG 4, Series 1, Subseries B: Librarian.

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