Paul LeClerc, President of The New York Public Library, recently announced a generous grant of $1 million from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to launch a major effort to improve and expand public access to the collections of The Research Libraries through electronic information technologies. Funds from this grant will enable the Library not only to expand the services and information available in its research and branch libraries, but also to provide worldwide electronic access to its bibliographic catalogs through online networks.
"The decision to convert the records in the retrospective Dictionary Catalog of The Research Libraries to an electronic format is one of the most important decisions made by the Library within the last ten years," said Paul LeClerc. "I am delighted by the Mellon Foundation's recognition of this significant undertaking and grateful for their leadership support. With grants totalling nearly $9 million since 1969, the Foundation remains an invaluable partner in maintaining the Library as one of the world's foremost suppliers of free information. Their help over the years has enabled the Library to meet the changing needs of the communities it serves in New York, across the country, and abroad."
The Foundation's grant will support two phases of bibliographic automation at the Library. This Fall, the Library will launch a landmark project to automate the bibliographic records contained in the Dictionary Catalog of The Research Libraries: 1911-1972. These records are currently available only in an 800-volume book catalog which contains photographic reproductions of the cards in the old Public Catalog of The Research Libraries. The records, which must be searched manually without the aid of computers, represent over 2.5 million monograph items (i.e., books) acquired by The Research Libraries before 1972, when the Library began online cataloging. The New York Public Library's collections are remarkable for their diversity and breadth. They encompass works in a multitude of languages and subjects, and include many rare and unique items.
This project will offer library users in New York and worldwide the opportunity to search a broader universe of bibliographic information on Library holdings than is now available electronically. This service will be offered through CATNYP (the online catalog of The Research Libraries, representing acquisitions since 1972), and national bibliographic databases such as OCLC (Online Computer Literacy Center) and RLIN (Research Libraries Information Network). The contribution of the records of The New York Public Library's Dictionary Catalog to these bibliographic databases is of considerable significance to libraries throughout the world.
Funds from the grant have also been allocated to help automate bibliographic records of the 120,000 serial titles in the new Science, Industry and Business Library (SIBL). The journals, magazines, newspapers, and almanacs in the collection are among the most extensive in the world and are among the Library's most heavily used resources. The automation, which was completed on September 30, 1995, in time for the Spring 1996 opening of the new facility, will enable users in the library itself, as well as library patrons worldwide, to search SIBL's serials through CATNYP, OCLC, and RLIN.
The automated conversion of bibliographic records will greatly improve service to Library users by creating a vital link to resources beyond the Library walls. For librarians, it will provide a critical tool for managing their operations, and facilitate preservation and other important Library projects.