Hoover Institution Library Closing?

H-German message

[Note of the Editor of H-German: H-German received this alarming post about two weeks ago. Before sending it out to our subscribers, we worked to verify its accuracy. According to Agnes Peterson of Stanford, the conditions described below will prevail, unless there is a substantial protest.]

To the readers of H-German:

As a result of administrative funding reductions and merging decisions, the Hoover Library will cease collecting on August 31, 2001; its unique and valuable collection will either be integrated into the Stanford Library system, or placed in remote storage facilities, or both.

This is nothing short of a calamity, since a large percentage of the books in Hoover's collection are not only rare, but not available anywhere else in the world. One cannot but assume that administration officials were unfamiliar with the greater impact of their decision, in this case disregarding the value of the Hoover Library holdings, thinking only of the uniqueness of the Hoover Archive. For the scholar using the Hoover archival holdings for research, it is impossible to separate the two. In the past, anyone working, for example, on the Labor History of any country in Europe, could rely on the vast Library collection of books , pamphlets, newspapers, and a plethora of political tracts on the subject, and will mourn the loss of that unique resource, not even available on-line. One wonders what will become of all the extensive, obscure European Newspaper and pamphlet collections, spanning the political spectrum from one extreme to the other, dating from the period between both World Wars to the present, or the significance of having access to the actual issue of American Military overseas "Stars and Stripes" publications, or the rare items from the period of National Socialism in Germany, many of which represent materials that were confiscated and destroyed during and after WWII, all too many unavailable elsewhere. And these are less than a fraction of what Hoover Library holds in the category of German History, not to mention the other countries of Europe, of Russia, Africa, and the Middle East.

In addition and importantly, Hoover Library's extensive Current Periodicals holdings of political publications from the above-named countries exist nowhere else in collected and catalogued form. While this is not material that anyone but the few read today, it is tomorrow's essential historical resource. Hoover Library is unique in its maintenance of these materials, and the tracking of fringe political groups. If the library and its knowledgeable staff and curators are disbanded, who, for example, will continue collecting what will be tomorrow's obscure and rare research material?

While definitive plans have not been made public, the fact that the collection will no longer be easily accessible in its entirety by both the academy and the general public is a certainty. However this decision came to be, it seems certain that it was made in complete ignorance of the value to scholars of the rare, unique, and extensive collection, nowhere available in the world. Only those of us who have benefited from having such material available under one roof, from the ceaselessly obliging and friendly service provided by a staff that goes out of its way to accommodate all patrons, know what will be lost to us all. And by all I mean all; while one of the unique characteristics of Hoover has been the fact that virtually anyone, from anywhere in the world, has had ready access to its facilities and its collection. More than to the academic community, the loss will be to the independent scholar, heretofore welcome with open arms at the Library; they no longer will have access to the holdings once these are incorporated into the library system of Stanford, a private university.

Hoover Library has been a unique place from its inception. And throughout the years, the curatorial staff has diligently added to the collection, not only old and valuable texts, but also the latest publications in subject areas that few Libraries even consider. I have heard scholars from Germany exclaim at the variety of books, even material recently published in Germany, available at Hoover Library but not in Germany. And one must mention the fact that, while much of Hoover's collection is listed in the Stanford on-line catalogue, what seem to be more than half its holdings are listed only in its old-fashioned card catalogue.

To see this collection dissembled in haphazard fashion, the card catalogue no longer accessible, is unfathomable and a serious matter indeed. The Stanford University Library system has all its books listed on-line, but it is questionable whether the Hoover collection's card catalogue will be incorporated any time soon.

While the decision for consolidation was made on the watch of Dr. C. Rice (now with the Bush campaign), the current Provost, Dr. John Etchemendy (etch@csli.stanford.edu) is the person who should hear from all of us.

It is necessary for the greater community of scholars to become involved in this matter, to make their opinions known to Office of the Provost at Stanford University 94305, attn. Dr. John Etchemendy. As "The Hoover" itself was so vital and essential in preserving many keys to the past, we have the opportunity now to try to save this splendid resource before it becomes an irretrievable victim of short-sighted administrative streamlining.

W. Karin Hall Ph.D.
History, Modern Europe/Eastern Europe

Posted: 4 December 2000