Good news for researchers: New York Public Library to retain some collections on site

From Caleb Crain at The New Yorker ( 

Last week, the Times reported that the New York Public Library, in a surprising about-face, has given up on its plan to tear seven stories of bookshelves out of its white-marble flagship building, on Forty-second Street and Fifth Avenue. The bookshelves, usually referred to as “the stacks,” literally hold up the palatial reading room on the library’s third floor, and, in 2008, when the plan to remove them was first announced, they contained the heart of the library’s research collection. . . . 


Almost every major research library has to store part of its collection remotely, but in this, as in all things, there must be proportion. It takes time to get a book from New Jersey into Manhattan, and if a researcher has to wait a day or two to see a new text some of the serendipity goes out of research. If a researcher’s deadline is tomorrow, a book that he can’t see until the day after is of no use to him. 

I would add that, for out-of-town researchers planning a trip to an archive, this access is critical as well.  The best-laid plans and online searches of collections can’t prepare you for something that you discover on site, and, as Crain says, some of the serendipity goes out of research if you can’t access the texts before a 24- or 48-hour (or longer) wait.  

Encyclopedia of American Studies Goes Open Access

This notice sent to ASA members announces a welcome new open access resource: 

Encyclopedia of American Studies Goes Open Access

by Monique Laney

In an effort to provide researchers with an alternative source of information, the Encyclopedia of American Studies (EAS) has adopted an open access policy. Scholars and others studying American culture and society can now search the extensive database at free of charge. “The field of American Studies has changed a great deal since the print version of the encyclopedia was first released in 2001,” said EAS editor Simon Bronner. “We heard from scholars and institutions globally about access and realized we had the opportunity with a new format to keep up with the latest developments.”

The EAS is sponsored by the American Studies Association and hosted by the Johns Hopkins University Press, publisher of the ASA’s official journal American Quarterly. The online version first appeared in 2003. The encyclopedia home page received a new look to coincide with the switch to open access. Bronner explained some of these changes in a recent podcast The Encyclopedia has more than 800 online, searchable articles and accompanying bibliographies, related websites, illustrations, and supplemental material covering the history, philosophy, arts, and cultures of the United States in relation to the world, from pre-colonial days to the present.

“We wanted to show the institutional value of American studies as an interdisciplinary perspective which may not exist in other online resources,” said Bronner, chair of the American Studies Program and distinguished professor of American studies and folklore at Pennsylvania State University, Harrisburg. “The Encyclopedia includes interpretive angles that show trends and ideas of research that may provoke a different line of thinking.” Bronner said that the editorial board of the Encyclopedia, which includes scholars from the U.S., Hong Kong and Switzerland, will work to continually update the site. He also said plans exist to expand the amount of multimedia content available to users of the Encyclopedia.