Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Research in the Library of Congress

I am lucky enough to have another week in the Manuscript Reading room of the Library of Congress buried in the ARL archive once again. I am still working my way through the 64 boxes of unprocessed materials, but it is going reasonably quickly this time, since most boxes don’t have anything about copyright in them or cover the period after the passage of the 1976 Act. It is only Tuesday and I have already passed the half way mark on the final collection: box 32 of 64. The thing about working in an unprocessed collection is that you have to open every box because no one has done so before.

Things are getting a bit clearer now. I am contemplating organizing my findings around a series of key documents in the revision process. Perhaps the following:

  • The early study of photocopying practice and the report of the Joint Committee in 1961
  • The Joint Committee’s acceptance of Fisher’s strategy.
  • Rutherford Roger’s testimony before the House Subcommittee in 1965.
  • The joint ALA/ARL proposed amendment to S597 in 1969
  • Joint ALA/ARL proposed amendment to §108 (d) in S1361 and Philip Brown and Stephen McCarthy’s testimony on 7/31/73.
  • The ARL response to §108 (g) (2) in 1974.

At each case I will show how the association developed these documents and the positions they represented and what actions flowed from these positions.

You come across the most wonderful things while doing archival research. It is fun to see that Robert Bork, as Solicitor General, was involved with the government’s case in Williams & Wilkins, to see letters form Fred Kilgour (founder of OCLC) agreeing to talk to the ARL librarians about library networks in the early 1970’s, and to see letters signed by Robert Maxwell. On a more post-modern self referential level, I have come across files concerning the funding for the building in which I am now doing my research, the letter in which L. Quincy Mumford invited the ARL to deposit its papers at the Library of Congress, and the minutes of the ARL Board’s decision not to publish Frank McGowan’s dissertation on the history of the ARL from 1932 to 1962, a dissertation that I read before coming here.

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