From 1789 to 1836
We celebrated the bicentennial of Archbishop John Carroll's "academy" in 1989, for on January 23, 1789, Carroll and two others took title to the land on which the first building stood. Nonetheless, only in the late fall of 1791 did the first faculty and students assemble and instruction begin. In its first years the academy was seen as an institution primarily for Roman Catholics, and its growth was slow. Georgetown's third president, Louis Guillaume Valentin DuBourg, a Sulpician, later the first bishop of New Orleans and after that archbishop of Besançon, advertised Georgetown's willingness to accept students of other religious faiths and styled the school a "college." As might be expected, enrollment increased and the college began to prosper.
DuBourg, an exile from the revolutions of the early 1790s in what is now Haiti, was an educated and sophisticated man, and to him Georgetown owes the beginnings of its library. He brought with him from Baltimore in 1796 more than a hundred volumes, many of which were his own--others had belonged to a fellow Baltimore Sulpician. Many of these volumes still survive in the library. DuBourg's own books, chiefly French works in history and the classics, were well bound in calf by a good Parisian binder. But the third president also brought to Georgetown both the notion of a library and the firm intent to begin one for his school. A volume of Tacitus survives with a Latin notation in DuBourg's hand which translates as "For the use of Georgetown College," and it seems certain that it was he who had printed the earliest bookplates, which have space for the manual insertion of a shelf number as well as the printed mark of ownership: "Georgetown College." From the date of DuBourg's initiative we count the lifespan of the library, now just at the end of its second century.
Following DuBourg's abrupt--and generally unlamented--departure towards the end of 1798, the library languished for the better part of a decade. Undoubtedly, additions to it were made; but the description given in John Gilmary Shea's 1889 history of the university still seems applicable:
The library of the college was not very extensive, it must be confessed. It was all contained in one of the rooms of the old south building, opposite the present domestic chapel, and this room was occupied by Bishop Neale during his presidency. He slept there in a press-bed, which was unfolded every night and inclosed in its case every morning.
The library's first periods of rapid growth coincided with the presidencies of two other bookish men, Jesuits and good friends: Giovanni Antonio Grassi and Enoch Fenwick.
In 1812, Grassi became Georgetown's ninth president, and by early 1816 at the latest he construed his duties to include acting as librarian as well. Archbishop Carroll died in December 1815, just a few days before Grassi became an American citizen. Carroll's will provided for the sizable bequest to Grassi of 400 pounds sterling in 5% stock, with the flexible stipulation that Grassi could use the stock as an endowment fund, spending the interest on books for the college library, or dispose of the capital entirely "if he can employ it advantageously in the purchase of valuable works of real learning and utility suitable to the course of studies pursued in the College." Which course Grassi chose has not been discovered, but the library grew at an unprecedented rate during his tenure as president.
A second legacy from Carroll to Fenwick and Grassi was a carton of books and liturgical paraphernalia which was, at the time Carroll drew up his will, already on the way to him from a priest in Antwerp, Corneil Geerts. Geerts sent Carroll a letter listing some 35 books in the carton, mostly theological in content: that list survives, and from it we know that Geerts' copy of the Douai, 1653, edition of the Jesuit Paul Laymann's Theologia moralis (now in the Woodstock Library) is the self-same book that Grassi received and cataloged in May or June of 1816. Grassi's "cataloging" consisted of stamping the title page of the volume at hand with the familiar oval bookstamp used at the college until about 1868 and supplying the press letter and number by hand. If he created a parallel list of the books in a separate ledger, it has not survived.
Grassi supplemented his purchases for the library, amongst which was the second, quarto, edition of Diderot's Encyclopédie in 45 volumes, with gifts from a variety of sources. Geerts sent a second shipment of books direct to the college in April, 1817; the Jesuit rector of St. Peter's, New York, Pierre Malou, donated a number of valuable books between 1813 and 1819; a Jesuit at Frederick, Maryland, Francis Malevé, began giving books to the college; and at various times Enoch Fenwick gave a sizable number of volumes which bear his signature. When Grassi left Georgetown late in 1817 to return to Italy, the library must have numbered well over 5,000 volumes. It was, appropriately, topheavy in theology: the Jesuit novitiate established in 1806 was in the college. But there were substantial holdings in the classics, European history, education, foreign languages, and the sciences. The dislocations caused by the French Revolution had an impact, too: the collections included volumes whose bindings bore the arms of Louis XV of France and of his wife, Maria Leszczynska.
The library's growth continued through the presidencies of Enoch Fenwick (1820-1822) and the second term (1822-1825) of his brother (later bishop) Benedict Fenwick, the last non-Jesuit president of Georgetown. Books belonging to two Jesuits who died in 1823, Henry Verheyen and Francis Malevé, were added, but the number of volumes purchased seems to have increased as well during this time. By the fall of 1824 the collections had grown sufficiently large to merit the appointment of an official librarian, Georgetown's first: Thomas C. Levins (then still a Jesuit), professor of mathematics and natural philosophy. Levins' impact on the collections was small: he was almost immediately dismissed from the Society for insubordination, and in early 1825 he left Georgetown for New York. His place was filled for a year by William Feiner, but when Feiner became president of Georgetown in 1826, the library was turned over to James Van de Velde, later bishop of Natchez.
Sometime between 1826 and 1831 Van de Velde wrote out the first catalog of the library; his computations on the final leaf show a grand total of 11,150 volumes, and when the library was moved to commodious new quarters in the north building on February 16, 1831, it was reckoned to contain 12,000 volumes. He took his library work seriously, but it was not universally appreciated. James Curley, then a young Jesuit and later librarian in his turn, reminisced towards the end of his long life about
the beautiful appearance of the Library, books arranged by size, folios, quartos, octavos, &c. [but] a young man, named Van de Velde, took charge, and with new ideas, arranged the books by subjects--spoiling its beauty!
The quarrelsome Anne Royall visited the college about 1825 and noted that the library contained 9,000 volumes, but she was more impressed with a kitchen garden she thought "the finest in the country" that was to be seen from the library's windows.
The 1820s and early 1830s were good years for the library, the last it would see for some time. The collections rivalled any in the United States in size: Harvard's collection was larger; those at Yale and Brown similar to Georgetown's; everyone else trailed far behind. The makeup of these collections was much the same. The areas at Georgetown we would, looking back, identify as particularly weak--art and modern literature--were not strong elsewhere. Georgetown's collection was unique in this country only because its large theological and devotional component was Roman Catholic rather than Protestant.
In the 1820s, for the first time, gifts from non-Jesuits began to appear in some quantity. In 1821 Hyde de Neuville, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of France, presented a Chinese-French-Latin dictionary on behalf of his government, and later in the decade a sizable number of books, including some from the library of Thomas Jefferson, were donated by one of Jefferson's collateral descendants, Burwel S. Randolph. In the 1830s Susan Decatur gave books to the library, and on the Fourth of July, 1833, George Washington Parke Custis donated to the college the copy of the first edition of Mark Catesby's Natural History owned by his ancestor John Custis and later among the books that George and Martha Washington enjoyed at Mount Vernon.
The new library room of 1831 was fitted with a door painted by James Simpson in trompe-l'oeil style as shelves of imaginary books whimsically titled and ostensibly written by the Georgetown faculty; a portion of this door survives in the library today. An effort was made to create a dictionary catalog of the holdings, but it was never fully completed, and in 1836 the assignment of call numbers in the system instituted by Grassi was abandoned. Occasional lists of books acquired continued to be made until 1868, but no further real cataloging work would be undertaken until 1892.
From 1836 to 1889
Our knowledge of the college library in the 1840s derives largely from the quantitative analysis of the collections done in 1847 by the librarian, Joseph Maria Finotti (then still a Jesuit) who later compiled the Bibliotheca Catholica Americana (1872), the first bibliography of American Catholic publications. The emphases in the collection remained much the same as they had been a decade earlier, and for good reason: between 1831 and 1847 the library acquired only a little over 4,000 volumes. Setting aside one major acquisition, the gains came to fewer than 150 volumes per year. The collection that had been not only adequate but outstanding in 1831 was virtually out of date a decade and a half later.
The major acquisition was the library formed by Thomas C. Levins, so briefly Georgetown's first librarian. Levins' somewhat tempestuous career in New York from 1825 until his death in 1843 brought him into contact with booksellers such as Lorenzo da Ponte (author of The Barber of Seville) and Obadiah Rich, men who had widespread contacts with dealers in Europe, and who could satisfy Levins' collecting desires for incunabula, for important scientific and mathematical works, for first editions of Erasmus, for important editions of the Bible, and, above all, for books written by members of the Society of Jesus or against that Society from which Levins had been expelled. Many of Levins' most important books came from a sale of duplicates by the archepiscopal library of Mainz in the early 1830s. The careful catalog of Levins' library James Ward made shortly after it was unpacked at Georgetown in 1844 gives a total of 1,99l volumes, including eleven incunabula, among the first to enter the college's collections.
The establishment of the Georgetown College Observatory led to the development of the first "branch" library at the college. Under the dynamic leadership of James Curley, the Observatory solicited astronomical publications from observatories the world over, and Curley built up a substantial reference collection in positional astronomy, physics, mathematics, and navigation. Among its treasures was the copy of the first edition of Newton's Principia mathematica (1687) brought to America by the Jesuit missionary Henry Neale sometime before his death in 1748. By 1853 the legitimate claim could be made for an observatory collection of about 500 volumes. A substantial part of this early collection survives in the library today.
Georgetown began publishing annual college catalogs in 1850, and these provide regular reports on the state of the library for nearly ninety years. From 1880 until 1916 the catalogs include a quite detailed listing of donations to the library. The initial catalog makes the claim for a collection of 22,000 volumes, an increase of more than 5,500 from the total recorded just three years earlier. The 1853 catalog is much more specific:
The College possesses a select Library of twenty-four thousand volumes, amongst which there are many very curious and rare works. In the Library there are one hundred volumes printed between the years 1460 and 1520. There are three manuscripts written before the year 1400, and one written in 1620.
In that year still, among American colleges only Harvard, with more than 50,000 volumes, had a larger collection. By 1861 the claim was made for a collection of 30,000 volumes. These were not, certainly, all in the college library so understood. The numbers given include the collection at the observatory as well as those of the various student-developed and student-run society libraries.
The college library at this time, of course, like most American college libraries, was not open to the generality of students. These supplied their needs for reading, as did their colleagues in many other American colleges, by the formation of a wide range of literary societies. One of the main reasons for being of these societies was the building up of collections of books, and members were expected to donate volumes to the collections on a regular basis as well as pay dues that went for further purchases, binding, and repair work when necessary. Georgetown's first such society, the Philodemic, which still seeks to foster excellence in debate, was founded in 1830. Philodemic Society library records and a collection of catalog slips date from as early as 1836; towards 1850 it had a library of more than 700 volumes not including unbound pamphlets and speeches. The society libraries' collections varied according to the age group to which they catered, the academic pursuits which they sought to promote, and the relative affluence of their membership.
Georgetown's complement of societies included, besides the Philodemic, the Philonomosian (founded 1839); the Philhistorian (a history club, as the name suggests); the Reading Room Association (whose emphasis was on journals and newspapers); the Toner Scientific Circle; two Sodality groups (for older and younger students) whose main interest was in devotional works; and a short-lived Greek Academy, which died during the Civil War. The student members donated, and the societies purchased, volumes primarily of recent date and primarily in English: these were, after all, libraries for repeated student use and enjoyment. Taken together, they provided for their members a close approximation of the familiar "undergraduate library" of today. After the Civil War the societies' books were consolidated by stages into a single "Societies' Library" and this, renamed the Students' Library, was housed in the former college library rooms in 1889. A printed catalog of the principal holdings was issued at that time, listing some 3,000 titles. The Students' Library would survive as a separate unit until the first decade of the twentieth century.
The main college library continued to grow after the Civil War. In the years leading up to the college's centennial in 1889 the number of private donors seems not to have matched that of half a century earlier, but there were several significant additions to the collections. Just at the Civil War's commencement members of the Talbot family presented a number of worthy scientific and mathematical works as well as a few examples of fine printing of the eighteenth century. The acquisition of part of the library of English mathematician John Bonnycastle (1750-1821) added greatly to the strength of holdings in early mathematics, but neither the means of acquisition nor the precise date can now be established for certain. During the 1880s gifts rarely came to as many as 50 volumes a year. A notable exception came in 1884, when John McNally, a priest from Baltimore, donated about 1,000 volumes, including a substantial number of early publications relating to the French Revolution.
Up until the activity fostered by the centennial celebrations in 1889 the library retained its largely somnolent aspect, as a visitor just before 1880 later described:
... it is hard not to regret the old library--a spot of darkness and dust, a tangled garden, where one came upon a treasure unexpectedly among clumps of weeds and enjoyed it the more. ... Father Sumner was not a man to hurry a visitor or to expect a systematic examination of the precious volumes. He was the ideal guide for a ramble among old books. One might dip into the stream--which is Lethe to a bookworm--without fear of boring him or being expected to talk.
The library was home to bookworms of another kind as well. John F. X. O'Conor, librarian from 1880 to 1882, was able to pursue at Georgetown, with the encouragement of its president, Patrick Healy, the field research which underlay his publication Facts About Bookworms (1898), in which one illustration is the title leaf of a particularly choice wormy specimen from the old Georgetown collection.
From 1889 to 1940
Early in 1889 E. Francis Riggs, as a memorial to his father, donated the funds to fit out the Healy Building's south pavilion as a modern and capacious library. The original room was designed for 105,000 volumes, more than twice the number to which the university laid claim. The new library--and perhaps incipient rivalry with the recently-founded Catholic University across town--led to very rapid growth in the library's collections, fueled not least by an outpouring of gifts not before paralleled in the library's history. The catalogs for the years 1890 to 1900 record donations far in excess of those of the previous ten years.
The 1891 catalog acknowledges gifts of 2,349 volumes exclusive of those presented by other institutions or government agencies: pride of place goes to the 601-volume rare book collection, consisting largely of literary works printed between 1484 and 1700, presented by alumnus Dr. W. Warrington Evans. An important manuscript gift was the diary of Bishop John England, given by Bishop John W. Murphy. The following year the number of books donated fell off by over half, but autograph letters of Archbishop Carroll and Bishop (now Saint) John Nepomucene Neumann were given, as were the crucially important John Mosley letters, the latter through the kindness of John Gilmary Shea's daughter Emma Isabel. Her sister, Elizabeth Shea, is acknowledged in the 1893 catalog as the donor of the bulk of her father's manuscript collection, the source of the Mosley letters given earlier by her sister.
John Gilmary Shea, the greatest American Catholic historian of his century, gave Georgetown only a few books in his own name. Towards the end of his life, however, he agreed to a bargain by which his library, claimed to include some 10,000 books and pamphlets and then virtually unmatched in the fields of Spanish and French exploration and the history of the Catholic Church in America, was transferred to the university through a complex scheme which required from Georgetown an investment, in part recoverable, of about a dollar per volume. Shea's death brought his books to Georgetown in 1892. They, together with purchases and the many other gifts, filled almost a third of the Riggs Library's available room for growth in the first three years after the original donor's gift was announced.
The flow of significant donations to the research collections was to continue unabated for many years as the library was directed from 1895 to 1922 by Henry J. Shandelle (his place being taken from 1899 to 1901 by the equally able Francis Barnum). Such donors as Msgr. James J. Chittick, William T. Connolly, Louisa Beauchamp Hughes, Daniel Lamson, the duc de Loubat, E. F. Riggs, and Joseph Smolinski gave, over a period of years, literally thousands of printed books and manuscripts. Two separate events which occurred early in Shandelle's tenure opened to the library another field of potential growth.
In 1898 the University Archives was formally organized, and in 1899 its collections were arranged in the vault and adjoining rooms in the lowest floor of the south pavilion of the Healy Building. To the archives were annexed the growing collection of early American church silver, vestments, and other items which donors had been presenting to the college museum for a dozen years. The catalog of 1909 announced the establishment of the Morgan Maryland Colonial History Endowment, thereby putting to use funds bequeathed by Ethelbert Carroll Morgan more than a decade earlier. The Maryland Colonial Library, with its own librarian, Edward I. Devitt, was housed in the room adjacent to the Archives vault. The university catalog included the following inducement for donors:
Old Maryland families who wish to safeguard for future generations their family papers and documents, find our archive room an appropriate and safe place of deposit.
In cooperation with Frank Barnum, who served off and on as University Archivist for nearly two decades, Devitt continued the solicitation of useful collections. A number of early books used by Jesuit missionaries in the eighteenth century began to trickle in from parishes and houses in southern Maryland. The Tilghman Family Papers were given shortly after the Maryland Colonial Library was formed, as were various other small groups of family papers. Approaches were made to others whose papers would arrive after Barnum and Devitt were both dead, though the Maryland Colonial Library as a serious collecting entity did not survive the loss of its first librarian. The catalog of 1921 gives a good idea of what Shandelle, Barnum, and Devitt had accomplished, however:
... files and cabinets contain approximately fifty thousand valuable papers and manuscripts. Chief among them are the papers relating to the foundation and growth of Georgetown College, the Sherman, the Duke of Gonzaga, and the Commodore Decatur papers, many Papal Bulls and Briefs, the original interpretations of Lord Baltimore's charter, signed by Christopher Milton, brother of the poet, autographed copies of Key's "Star-Spangled Banner" and Randall's "Maryland, My Maryland," etc.
Sometime before 1927 the library took possession of its first telephone, which was one of the first units installed on the main campus. Technological progress was one thing, but the period of rapid growth ushered in by the construction of the Riggs Library was over. Yet in 1934 the library received one of its most important acquisitions. The widow of New York financier Nicholas Brady presented, together with a large group of first editions of Johnson, Boswell, Keats, and Shelley two extraordinary manuscripts: the so-called "Crewe" manuscript of Sheridan's The School for Scandal and Mark Twain's autograph manuscript of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. But the catalog for 1925 showed holdings of 173,795 volumes; that for 1935, 177,574, giving a net gain over the decade of just under 4,000 volumes. In fact, the Riggs Library was overcrowded in 1925, and one obvious solution, not only encouraged but enforced by the lean years of the Depression, was to slow the pace of acquisitions. Another was to change the emphasis in the overall collection away from the traditional humanities taught on the main campus.
The transfer of the youngest students to Georgetown Preparatory School in Garrett Park, Maryland, and the almost simultaneous founding of the School of Foreign Service, both in 1919, produced lasting changes in the library. The School of Foreign Service, with its own library staff, started and continued developing its own collection, housed first with the Law School Library and, after 1933, largely in the handsome Hirst Room in the Healy Building. At the time of the transfer the collection amounted to almost 20,000 volumes. These were not included in the totals given for the college library since the foreign service library was at the time an independent entity. The foreign service collection emphasized international relations, diplomacy, and related subjects; its librarian in the 1930s, Marlin S. Reichley, was quick to adopt the Library of Congress classification schedule which would only be taken up by the college library some time later.
In 1940 the library celebrated its "tercentenary," publishing in an edition of 200 copies a commemorative volume containing evaluative essays describing its medieval and literary manuscripts, its incunabula, its early Maryland Catholic books, and "the library and its work today." To achieve an age of 300 years, the history of the collections was extended back in time to include books supposed to have been in a collection at the grammar school started by a Jesuit brother, Ralph Crouch, at Newtown Manor in 1640. A collection of 195 such volumes, Catholic works printed in English on the Continent or secretly in England itself, was grouped together in a pair of handsome glass-fronted bookcases under the title "Refugee Literature" by Wilfrid Parsons, whose bibliography, Early Catholic Americana (1937), greatly extended the work compiled by Finotti 65 years earlier. The concluding section of the commemorative text by Phillips Temple, the first professional librarian in the college's history, contains a tribute to his Jesuit predecessor, Arthur A. O'Leary:
He guided the Library through its transitional phase from a secluded repository of books, especially old books, to its present status as an active force in the students' life, a center for the organization and dissemination of knowledge and information.
O'Leary, and Temple after him, expanded the physical size of the library, erected more shelves, arranged for the binding of journals, and reorganized the collections. The unifying link, however, which governed and necessitated the modernization of the library, was the card catalog: in it, all the books were for the first time "together," and through it access to Georgetown's holdings (or most of them) was open to the entire college community. Well into the 1950s, however, entering freshmen were introduced to, and encouraged to rely upon, the resources of the Library of Congress to supplement Georgetown's holdings.
From 1940 to 1996
Brought somewhat abruptly into the twentieth century, the library did not at once embark on a rapid collection-building program. Financial constraints in the 1940s and early 1950s prohibited this, and the emergence of another separate, specialized collection in connection with the Institute (later School) of Languages and Linguistics, founded in 1949, provided outside competition for already scanty resources. By the time this collection was amalgamated into Riggs Library in 1959 it numbered approximately 15,000 volumes, providing the basis for one of the library's great collection strengths today. In the mid-1950s the School of Foreign Service Library, too, ceased its separate existence, its last librarian, Madeline Evers, presiding over the amalgamation of its collections into the Riggs Library.
During this decade the system of "seminar libraries" also came to an end. These specialized collections aimed primarily at providing quick reference for students in various disciplines. Scientific collections were housed "adjacent to the respective laboratories." Others were housed in rooms in the Healy Building: an English seminar in the Southwell Room; history and political science in the Bellarmine Room; mathematics in the Secchi Room. And at one time some were located on the East Campus. Sooner or later, all were merged into Riggs. The process of consolidation continued into the early 1960s, when the departmental (seminar) libraries in the sciences and mathematics were brought together in the new Blommer Science Library in 1962, and the few remaining departmental collections reunited with the main library collection.
A 41-page self-study of the library was prepared for the Middle States accreditation visit in 1960, and this document provides the most accurate survey of the library up to that time. The collection, amounting to about 220,000 volumes, was fairly characterized by the accreditation team as insufficient to support the graduate teaching and research programs of the university, especially in the sciences. By the time accreditation came due again, in 1971, some of the worst defects had been corrected: construction of the Blommer Science Library was a help, but the major corrective was the opening of Lauinger Library in 1970 to house a collection grown in a decade from 220,000 to almost 450,000 volumes and a staff more than doubled in size. For the first time, Georgetown could truly lay claim to a university library as such.
In the quarter-century since 1970 growth of the collections has been dramatic. The acquisition of the library's millionth volume was celebrated in 1983, and the university library system as a whole celebrated the acquisition of its two-millionth volume in 1994. The main campus libraries can lay claim in 1996 to more than 1,480,000 monographs and journals; more than 872,000 microforms; and large and growing collections of audiovisual materials, photographs, and government documents. Holdings of the latter--nearly half a million items--have grown exponentially in the last two decades, since Georgetown became an official government documents depository. The card catalog is gone, its automated replacement familiar to all.
To a remarkable degree the growth in collection size can be attributed to the generosity of others. Those who have given Georgetown books and other materials in the past 26 years number in the hundreds; their gifts have ranged from a single volume to collections numbering more than 22,000 volumes. A typical year during this time has seen the influx of 20,000 to 30,000 gift volumes, and, while by no means all have been added to the collections, the number that has exceeds 300,000. An important focal point for gift solicitation and for collection building during this time has been the library's Special Collections Division, first organized shortly after the Lauinger building was opened for use.
The original holdings of the division included approximately 30,000 books, among them virtually all of the Shea library, much of the Levins library, and about half of the oldest college library collection, as later identified by its characteristic shelfmarks. Manuscripts included a number of small collections relating to the Panama Canal and the vast bulk of the McCarthy Historical Project Archive, then newly received. Among the earliest tasks to be completed were three retrievals: of Georgetown's copy of Shakespeare's First Folio from storage at the Folger Shakespeare Library; of the Robert F. Wagner Papers from an East Campus basement; and of the University Archives, which incorporated the manuscripts gathered by the Morgan Maryland Colonial Library, the Shea Papers, and other small collections of papers, from the basement of the Healy Building. The Viti collection on heraldry and the O'Connor collection on railroading were separated from the general library backlog, and in 1972 the first important purchase was made, the 2,000 volumes of the Riedel Collection, which included comprehensive holdings of the works of Hilaire Belloc and G. K. Chesterton.
To an even greater extent than for the general library collection, the growth of Georgetown's special collections is the result of gifts: not only gifts in kind, which have been preponderant, but gifts of funds as well, largely raised since 1975 under the auspices of the Library Associates. This generosity has made possible collections which today comprise nearly 100,000 rare books; nearly 700 separate manuscript collections which extend over more than 7,000 linear feet of shelving; extensive collections of fine prints, posters, original editorial cartoons, and other graphic arts containing more than 15,000 items; more than 300,000 photographs and slides; and more than 10,000 films, audiotapes, videotapes, and phonograph recordings.
This collection growth has been guided by a coherent policy of collection development. The Special Collections Division has operated under a written collection development policy since 1977. It collects actively in the fields treated as separate chapters in this volume: the history of the Society of Jesus; political science; diplomacy, international affairs, and intelligence, American history, including local history; European history; literature and linguistics; the visual and performing arts; and the arts of the book. The aim has been to bring together related collections in a limited number of fields so as to create in each a group of materials which reach the critical mass necessary to support advanced research.
The advent of automated systems and computer technology has vastly enlarged the potential use of the library's special collections by researchers at a distance from Georgetown. The retrospective conversion of rare book cataloging records is largely completed, and a beginning has been made in cutting into an uncataloged backlog of books running to some 40,000 titles. Processing by computer of manuscript collections and records in the University Archives has been routine since the early 1980s, and finding aids for several hundred collections and record groups have been linked in a single searchable database, which itself has become the basis for one of the largest special collections World Wide Web sites on the Internet.
As the library enters its third century, it is worth remembering these words from former librarian Joseph E. Jeffs' introduction to the second edition of this catalog:
It [the catalog] is intended, also, as an open invitation to our own students and faculty and scholars everywhere to come and use the materials described in these pages. They are not intended as museum pieces, but rather as the raw materials of original research.