It's Room 55, directly over the Main Reading Room of the State Library. In the top right-hand corner you can see the strange roof line that is the result of the "Great Western Gable" cutting into the room. Of course, this puts the lie to the contention that this mighty feature on the western facade was centered by an open Loggia prior to 1911 (or afterward for that matter.) The Capitol building project was so out-of-control they could barely manage to make the first four floors presentable, and the fifth (and sixth, and seventh) floors were left pretty raw well into the 20th-century. Of course, there really wasn't supposed to be all this square footage---it just kind of grew when the roof kept getting higher, and higher.
So, apparently fire swept through this space causing the roof above to collapse within an hour-and-a-half of the blaze beginning---3:30 A. M. according to the golf pro-slash-Albany mercenary. The floor held, judging by the photographs of firemen posing amid shelves lined with leather volumes in the reading room below, which were distributed to news outlets from some central, controlling agency.
New York State Library 81st ANNUAL REPORT, 1898
TRANSMITTED TO THE LEGISLATURE JANUARY 4, 1899, BY THE REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY
ALBANY: UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Needs. Few realize the great amount of space required for the administrative work of the six departments of the University, and for housing, even inadequately, the great collections of the state library and the state museum. Most people think of the University as merely one of the state departments requiring only a few rooms. Our critics often complain that we occupy something like a third of the immense capitol. As pointed out in previous reports, the great space now used is wholly inadequate for our needs and the congestion is each year becoming more serious. We have now over 150,000 volumes boxed for lack of shelving, and while every effort has been made to keep this accumulation out of sight by storing it in the basement and attic spaces instead of leaving it where it would be thrust on the attention of the public, the dilemma is growing daily more serious. It is impossible to hope for any increase of room in the present building as the other departments are clamoring for more space and have long been jealous of the large proportion given to the library. They justly say that the only solution is an adequate fireproof building to which our more than 400,000 volumes and our very large scientific collections can be removed. Before that building can be completed, even if it were started this year, we shall be seriously crippled in our work, and our usefulness to the public will be greatly diminished.
Care. It must be remembered that the University is on a different plane from any other department, being a corporation created in 1784 and included in the state constitution of 1894 as a permanent feature of the state organization. This fact, together with the responsibility of the regents as trustees for the extensive property of the library and museum made necessary the usual rule in similar cases, that the ordinary custodians of the building, the cleaners, repairers and other employees are not admitted to the rooms where the valuable books and specimens are kept. It was at the request of a former superintendent of public buildings that he was relieved of all responsibility. As he justly said, it was entirely impracticable to hold the regents responsible as trustees for loss or injury to this peculiar and exceedingly valuable property if another department carried the keys and various employees over whom the regents had no control were sent in and out. We therefore have not only the supervision of the rooms but we have our own force of janitors, watchmen, elevator men and repairers and have the sole responsibility and expense of caring for our section of the building, except that the steam for heat and the electricity for lights come in from the mains without being charged to our appropriation. All our rooms are equipped with the best time-detectors and a responsible night watchman visits every room every hour from the closing at night till the opening in the morning. We have equipped the rooms with the best chemical fire extinguishers and secured for our watchman the powers of a policeman, and are able to report a greater degree of safety than ever before.
Elevators. We are promised for the coming year that the western staircase elevator will be regularly run so that the private library elevator shall be available for getting and returning books on the various floors, and that we may be freed from the unavoidable noise occasioned when all readers must come up through the main reading room. The need is urgent for changing both the staircase and library elevators to electric power as recommended, in order that they may be used on Saturday afternoons and other holidays and in the evening after the general elevator service of the building is closed.
Ventilation and Ceilings. There is the most serious need of proper ventilation, specially on the upper floor, which is now fully occupied from State street to Washington avenue. As it is directly under the roof, the need is intensified. A proper system has been laid out and the legislature will be asked for the modest appropriation necessary to carry it into effect the coming year. Besides ventilation we must also have the omitted ceilings placed over the rooms to protect from the extreme heat of the summer and from the waste of our steam heat in winter. The roof over the western section of the building is leaking in many places to the great danger of some of our most costly books, which we have been compelled to move about to escape the falling water. Our exceedingly valuable set of the London Times (274 volumes), one of the most complete sets in this country, is for lack of shelving piled on the upper floor, where it is peculiarly exposed to danger from the leaking roof. More floor shelving suitable for sets like this is urgently needed.
Improvements made. Lest readers of this report unfamiliar with the facts should infer from the continued statement of our needs that little is being done to improve and enlarge our quarters, I submit the brief mention of what has been done during the past year in the building department, besides the regular cleaning, repairs and police duty of the janitor and watchman. It will be clear from this that we are very rapidly approximating a reasonable ideal, and that while certain needs are still urgent we have abundant cause to be grateful to the legislature for its appreciation of our work and its liberality in its maintenance.
Most important of course is the occupancy of the fifth floor, formerly the attic, giving us a suite of rooms extending 300 feet from State street to Washington avenue and the width of the entire western section of the building. This includes rooms from 51 to 59. The system of numbering adopted gives the floor for the first figure and the number of the room, beginning on the south end, for the second. Where there are two or more rooms on the same east and west line, the room on the west front bears the number, and the rooms at the east have A, B and C added. Closets are indicated by adding lower case a, b, c, etc. to the designation for the room. Capital N, S, E, W are used for north, south, east and west galleries. In the numerous cases where the mezzanine floors, have been introduced, they are indicated by a .superior 2, 3 or 4. In this way the number specifies exactly the location of a room to one who has never seen the plan of the building or visited the room before, thus 41A2 is the second or mezzanine floor in the room east of the first or corner room on the fourth floor.
I give a mere catalogue of the more important additions and changes of the year. Room 15, wood floors for the storerooms to protect against cold and dirt; 31, new catalogue cases holding 3½| cm cards, for the alphabetic index of classified annotations to books; 31A, shelving replaced where removed when finance committee took rooms; 32, new removable stairs on iron hangers to reach the manuscript room and biography shelves without going up two flights and down one as heretofore. These stairs are temporarily removed during the session of the legislature but restore the convenient use of these rooms for eight months of each year. 333 and 34A3, a second story of iron stacks added for British patents; 33 and 34 new cases for the records of the accession department and for the sets of American and English catalogues; 35, atlas case with roller shelves, and reference bookcase for most constantly used dictionaries, gazetteers etc. adding greatly to convenience of use as well as to the durability of the books; 35N3, space inclosed on north gallery for janitor's supplies; 442 iron shelving for folios on north wall and in two cases; 46, coat closet for binders; 51, aisle to elevator widened to admit large furniture; 54 to 59, steam heat, electric light, carpets for aisles, Birckhead portfolio cabinets for photographs and plans, book-lift shaft inclosed in oak, outside ventilation for women's coat room; 55, end pieces for iron shelves, all iron work painted, two new fireplaces and mantels, floor sloped for trucks through library elevator, storm windows and shades added to rooms 55 and 59; 55A, partition and door shutting staircase elevator from reading room and increasing safety of library property, iron and glass ceiling to protect heat from waste, transom lifts to east windows for ventilation; 56, shelving completed for traveling or home education libraries; 59, walls whitened, floor finished, oak wall cases, cupboards and cabinets, fireplace and mantel, oak doors to shut off assembly attics and allow library territory to be securely locked; 65, perforated iron floor covered to prevent escape of heat from history reading room and dust from sifting through.
We have added on the east wall of room 65 an extensive rack for rolled maps. This consists of uprights 240 cm high and 40 cm apart. Each upright is provided with 22 iron brackets 12 cm apart, projecting 20 cm from the upright, the front of the brackets being 4 cm higher than the back. This rack furnishes a simple and inexpensive method of storing rolled maps. We have also built large skeleton pigeonholes for storing maps in rolls to test the comparative merits of the two systems. For flat maps a Birckhead portfolio cabinet has been provided. Our storage baskets for waste paper have all been replaced with galvanized iron cans with metal covers, an extra precaution enforced on us by the burning, with great attendant danger, of one of the storage waste baskets, probably through the carelessness of some smoker. Bentwood racks have been placed in the reading rooms as the most convenient, economical and durable accommodations for hats, coats and umbrellas. The public reading rooms have been beautified by the addition of potted palms and other plants. Having secured the needed partition so that, for the first time since occupancy of the new quarters, we have been able to lock the library rooms against approach from the attics of the main building, we have had permanent and trustworthy fastenings applied to all windows on the courts and staircases, and are now reasonably secure against forced entrance to our rooms.
On the whole the library was never in so satisfactory a condition, though much remains to be done. Obviously the additions named have made serious inroads on the appropriation which, while covering such expenditures of this kind as were found necessary, did not contemplate the extent to which we have been forced to make additions in order to use the new rooms. With the temperature in summer above 120° and in winter only 50°, it would have been nothing short of a crime not to have added the ceilings, partitions, storm windows, steam coils and ventilating ducts so that we can at least approximate in winter our standard of 20° centigrade (68° Fahrenheit) and in summer reduce the extreme heat due to the direct rays of the sun on the roof immediately over the new rooms.
PUBLICATIONS AND PRINTING
Legislation bulletin. With the present issue we complete the second volume of the annual bulletin of comparative legislation. As soon as practicable we hope to consolidate into a single book, with a single classification and index, the 10 bulletins already issued, thus greatly reducing the labor of reference, and meeting the growing demand for copies, which we can not much longer fill and which will continue to grow as new scholars and others interested in public affairs learn of the practical character of the work. In 1890 and 1895 we prepared a special financial bulletin showing comparatively the receipts and expenditures of each state in the union. This will be regularly published every five years, so that each volume will contain one financial bulletin. With experience we have broadened our scope and are including not only the actual laws passed, but a somewhat clearer indication of their character, and are adding all constitutional amendments and decisions of the court affecting the constitutionality of laws. In short, we are putting in the compass of our thin annual volume the information which a busy member of the legislature will find practically most useful in the preparation of bills or in the discussion either pro or con of proposed laws.
At the opening of the session we shall send to each senator and assemblyman the following statement signed by the director:
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE LEGISLATURE
The legislative sub-librarian, Robert H. Whitten, Th. D. has now completed the Ninth annual summary and index of legislation by states, covering the laws enacted in 1898. A new feature of the bulletin this year is a concise resume of the most important and distinctive legislation of the year, which indicates the general trend of legislation by reference to laws of previous years. The bulletin digests and organizes the enormous annual output of legislation so as to render available with a minimum of labor the most recent experience of other states, thus enabling those interested in any specific law to find readily what states have recently passed similar laws.
An outline of the bulletin is given on the back of this sheet with the number of laws recorded under each head. All these laws are in the library ready for immediate reference. The bulletin is sold at 25 cents, but a copy is furnished free to each member of the legislature and can be had from the Legislative division, State library.
A condensation of the resume" will also be sent out widely to inform the public of the trend of the legislation of the past year. The new legislative sub-librarian in charge of this work, Dr Robert H. Whitten of Columbia university, has given great satisfaction in the work thus far done, and we believe we have found a worthy successor to Dr E. Dana Durand, who was called from this position to a professorship in Stanford university, California.
Bibliography bulletin. During the past year 13 more bulletins were issued in this set. Four of them were bound with the report for 1897 according to our policy to include in each report all bulletins printed up to the time it is bound unless included in previous volumes. Bulletins no. 1 and 5 are out of print; no. 9-17 are appended to this report. Besides the bibliographies compiled by library school students, the series includes, as no. 12, a list of the Best books of 1897, with notes prepared by the public libraries division.
As no. 14, Index to subject bibliographies in library bulletins proves specially helpful, we index the subject bibliographies in the current numbers of all library bulletins as soon as received and insert them in the copy of the Index mounted on cards and kept in the main reading room. This consolidated index will be used in preparing a new edition.
This series of bulletins is mostly selected from original bibliographies presented by the library school students as a condition of graduation. Those not printed are available in manuscript at the library or may be borrowed by permission. The school is glad to receive suggestions from librarians, teachers, leaders of clubs, or specialists, as to subjects for which bibliographies or reading lists are specially needed, and contributions of available material are invited.
The nature of our work, as the library for some 1200 institutions of the state, compels us more and more to depend on the printing press to reach our constituency. The most serious problem in the smaller libraries is to be able to tell readers what has been published and to give practical assistance in hunting down material on almost every subject of human interest. It is fortunate that the work of our library school can be utilized in preparing these bulletins, which are of so great practical service, not only throughout this state, but largely in the most efficient libraries of the country, who eagerly add them to their working apparatus as fast as they are printed.
History bulletin. The library has issued no. 1-3 of its history series; i. e. Supplementary list of marriage licenses, a transcript of General entries, vol. 1 and Annotated list of the principal manuscripts in the New York state library.
It has long been a reproach that the richest state in the Union, having by far the largest and most valuable state library and the greatest collection of manuscripts bearing on American history, should not have published more largely in this field. The part that New York has taken in making the history of the nation, its geographic location, which made it the natural center for settling some of the gravest problems of our new country, seem to make it a clear duty to develop largely the work of the archivist. A beginning has been made and plans are laid out for adding each year substantially to our contributions to American history. To illustrate the feeling among students of history and literary men, I quote from an article in the Saturday review of books and art in the New York Times of Jan. 15, 1898:
No one has ever attempted to investigate the colonial and revolutionary history of any part of the state without soon finding that much information he was in search of and ought to have could be obtained only from unpublished papers preserved in the capitol at Albany. Beyond the stately quartos published under Dr O'Callaghan's editorship and the few volumes Mr Berthold Fernow edited, there was little at his disposal in printed form. Calendars there were of state papers laid away there, but these simply told him what he might find by going to Albany; they served to emphasize still more the surprising indifference of state officers and legislators to the rich collections that are stored in the capitol.
The share of New York in the making of history on this continent has been far too great to make it any longer pardonable that any useful knowledge on the subject shall be concealed from those who wish to see it. Not only was New York one of the earliest places in the United States where Europeans founded settlements, but all through the formative history that embraced conflicts with the Indians, with the French, and with England, it was the vital center around which the long struggle, first between barbarism and civilization, next between Latin and Anglo-Saxon forms of government, and finally between English liberty and English personal government, was fought out and won. The valley of the Mohawk, the headwaters of the Susquehanna, the shores of lakes Champlain and George, and the valley of the Hudson supplied battlefields for a conflict extending over a full century and a half. Schenectady and German Flats, Lake George and Ticonderoga, Minisink and Cherry Valley, Elmira and Saratoga, Oriskany and Stony Point, Harlem Heights, Brooklyn, and White Plains recall those scenes and bring to mind the names of the men who on New York soil gave direction to the cause of humanity, which finally had its splendid triumph here— Sir William Johnson and Nicholas Herkimer, John Sullivan and Anthony Wayne, Israel Putnam and Nathaniel Greene, Philip Schuyler and George Washington.
There has never been lack of men competent and willing to undertake the laborious task of editing and printing these colonial and revolutionary papers. The thing lacking has been a legislature which would provide the funds for doing the work. No great sum would be needed whatever scale of typographic display might be proposed. Men whom the project has interested grow sick at heart when they reflect how small this sum would be, compared with expenditures that are constantly and easily made for less urgent purposes. Some years ago many thousands of dollars were expended on several resplendent quartos devoted to the Public service of the State of New York, volumes as striking in their form of manufacture as in their curious inutility.Those thousands of dollars expended in the publication of the colonial and revolutionary papers would have made a splendid start — something more than a start, in fact — toward their preservation for all time in print, and not only their preservation but their wide distribution.
In the stately edifice where these papers now find a resting place are staircases and corridors, vaulted ceilings, and wainscoted chambers to which the legislator points with pride, and upon which his untraveled constituents gaze with wondering eyes. But for men who think more of vital things in the life of a state, it is melancholy to remember how one of these show places represents outlays that might have saved New York from the disgrace which neglect of her historical manuscripts has fastened so deeply upon her. The stains of that neglect, though deep enough, are not indelible.
The regents have made the New York state library easily first in availability and usefulness to the public. They have also recognized their responsibility as trustees for the safety of its collections. In the face of no little popular criticism they have declined to allow manuscripts or books of which only one copy is in existence to leave the fireproof building and the constant watch-care of our own staff. The danger of fire, theft or injury in transportation is so great that the state might better afford to make the necessary investigations at its own expense rather than risk the total loss of any part of its treasures which from their nature no money could replace. This justifiable conservatism on the part of the regents in regard to sending our manuscripts to Washington or elsewhere to be edited and printed, throws on us a double responsibility to publish such parts as the public would most value. Only in this way can we justly meet the criticism that treasures are locked up that we neither publish nor allow others to publish. I am confident that the policy on which we have entered of making these resources available will command the approval and confidence of most intelligent citizens, who naturally take a warm pride in the position of leadership which New York has always occupied.
MANUSCRIPT DIVISION (page 29)
Established April 19,1881
The best estimates available indicate that we have upwards of 250,000 manuscripts. Obviously the fireproof state library is the best repository for all valuable manuscripts pertaining to the state. When historic or other material has been once printed and widely scattered, the destruction of any particular collection by fire is quite a different matter from the destruction of the only existing copy of a manuscript which no money can replace. As our country grows older and richer and its citizens have more leisure, interest in its early history constantly increases, and the value of manuscripts illustrating it is steadily enhanced. Nothing satisfactory will be accomplished with this great department till room is provided for work among its treasures. These are now crowded in an unventilated storeroom, cut off from the top of a blind corridor, 30 feet high. It serves merely to hold the manuscripts with reasonable safety till something adequate can be provided, but proper arrangement and accessibility to the public is quite impossible till more space is available. Then we shall have this room as the center of historical research and shall be able to collect and care properly for the manuscripts which in accordance with the statutes are to be delivered to the library from the legislature and from various departments and institutions controlled by the state.
For scope of the history series issued in connection with this division, see p. 20 and introductory note to History bulletin 1 appended to this report.
The archivist, George R. Howell, reports as follows for his division:
My time has for the most part been occupied in making searches, preparing certificates of service of soldiers in the revolutionary war, and in the correspondence involved in these inquiries or with other questions of history, geography or genealogy, referred to me for answer. During this period I have sent out about 150 official certificates of service in the revolutionary war and replied to hundreds of inquiries on this subject. So much time was needed to keep abreast of this work and in giving personal assistance to those consulting the library that I have been compelled to devote from one to three hours of the afternoon as well as the forenoon to library matters.
History bulletin 2 from this division, appended to this report, is a print of the earliest volume of manuscripts that relates to the colony subsequent to its surrender by the Dutch to the English in 1664, and contains matter relating to the transfer of jurisdiction and the adjustment to the new conditions in all parts of the colony. It is the first of a new series of publications of the original manuscripts in the,archives of the state in the library.
Several manuscript volumes in more or less frequent use have been indexed within the past year to save time in consultation. In addition to the two catalogues of the books in the manuscript room, one by author or title, and the other by subjects, I have made a shelf list to be able to determine at once at any time whether all the books are in place. Under these pressing claims for other work, I have done but little in indexing the Clinton manuscripts, but expect to continue this work as I find time.
I have made (entirely outside my office hours) a list of all the oil and crayon portraits in the capitol and, so far as possible, of all in the city halls of Albany and New York. This was done to facilitate answers to inquiries for portraits of our public men, often referred to me for answer.
As there has been a request from the New York historical society for the publication of the colonial manuscripts such as we have begun to publish, I would recommend the continuance of the publication of these for some time to come, or of a calendar to them, perhaps, inserting in many cases of important papers, the entire record.
Established May 21,1891
The number of medical books, serials and pamphlets published each year is startling in amount, and is rapidly growing larger. Only men of large means can afford to buy all these new publications; only those in the larger cities, and then in most cases to a very limited extent, have access to this important new literature. Yet the development of medical science makes it of the utmost importance that every practising physician should be able to know of the latest discoveries, for the life of any taxpayer of the state or of some member of his family may possibly be saved in a critical case through his physician's access to the recent information of the results of the experience of the rest of the medical world.
In view of the direct and practical importance of making medical literature available to every licensed physician in the state, it was proposed by the state library in 1891 that a department be maintained at Albany in the interests of the state as a whole. Even those who from time to time secured loans from the national medical library in Washington felt the great desirability of having a collection near at hand, which they could visit in person or from which they could get books, pamphlets or information more readily. The matter was presented to the legislature and when the Albany medical college generously offered to give outright its entire medical library, consisting of about 2500 volumes and an equal number of pamphlets, including many large and valuable sets, a law was passed establishing the state medical library and providing "that it should be open for consultation at all hours when the law library is open, and that it might lend books to every accredited physician residing in the state who should conform to the rules made by the regents for insuring proper protection and the largest usefulness to the people. The cost of transfer and of equipping rooms was estimated at $5000, and the expense of economical administration was estimated at $1500 for librarian and $3500 for subscriptions to serials, buying new books and for needed binding and repairs.new book. No physician for a moment begrudges the liberal provision made for the sister profession of the law, but as the medical library concerns an equally numerous profession and one so vitally important to every family, it may justly claim at least equal consideration. When we add to this that the honor of the state is at stake, after having accepted the splendid gift of the medical library with the distinct understanding that it was to be maintained on a par with the law library, good faith clearly demands that the needed appropriations, which every one admits have been most economically expended, should not be reduced below the $5000.
Appropriations. The first year the physicians received only sufficient appropriation for equipment and shelving, but were assured by prominent members of the finance and ways and means committees that there would be no difficulty in getting the regular appropriation of $5000 a year, since the state had accepted a gift with the distinct understanding that the physicians were to receive in future similar consideration to that shown the lawyers, for whom it had provided the finest law library in America. The medical profession was asked to delay for a year the practical work of its library, so that the appropriation might not exceed $5000 in any year. The money was economically spent, the rooms fitted up, the library transferred and the appropriation of $5000 was duly made in 1805 as promised. The next year on adjournment it was found that the needed $5000 had been reduced to $3500, and the library was seriously crippled. The next year the item was reduced to $1000, which was less than the cost of the annual subscriptions to serials (of which between 200 and 300 are taken) leaving nothing for binding them into volumes, for indexing, cataloguing, or the services of a librarian, and nothing with which to buy a single
Progress. Substantial progress has been made in the last year and, unless deprived of the proper appropriation, the future of the medical library is most promising. History and genealogy have been removed to the fifth floor, so that rooms 31, 32 and 33 on the third floor, originally intended for medicine, are now devoted to that subject, room 33 containing current serials and books issued since 1890, except bound periodicals. The student thus finds in a single room the freshest material on his subject. In each room sheets are bulletined showing the arrangement of the medical works. The state medical library now has on its shelves 8421 books and about 5000 pamphlets and is receiving regularly 222 serials, exclusive of annuals, biennials, etc. There has been received recently the largest gift since the library was established: 7346 volumes and 3661 pamphlets (including duplicates) from the State medical society. The state of New York can not afford to have this library take a second place. The system of sending books by mail and express to all points of the state is steadily growing, and is proving the most practical, convenient and economical, in fact, the only method by which many students can have free access to any needed literature.
Distant use. The state library was the pioneer in the system of paid help, by which any investigations desired will be carried on in the library at the mere cost of the time consumed by the librarian or assistant at the rate of his annual salary. This enables one at a distance, for a trifling fee, to save the time and expense of a long journey, and often the trained librarian can do more in an hour than one less familiar with the resources of the library could in a half day. The time is evidently near at hand when most of the physicians of the state will have long distance telephones, so that they will be in immediate communication with the state medical library whenever needed, and a competent medical librarian would be able to render most important services impossible before the invention of the telephone.
Traveling libraries. The system of traveling libraries started in our own state library and so widely adopted in other states may be applied also to medical literature. A collection of books, serials and pamphlets on any special subject can be sent out for the temporary use of a club or society, or even of a single physician who wishes more than could be conveniently given by abstracts or notes made in the paid help department; or a traveling library consisting of the newest books could be sent from city to city or to clubs of physicians, who should have a few days to examine the works, select such as they might wish, to buy, and then send on to the next club for similar examination. Wherever 10 or more physicians chose to organize in a club it would be practicable to afford these facilities for a monthly, or even more frequent examination of the most interesting new medical literature, which many of them might not otherwise have opportunity to see.
New York is the recognized leader in medical matters. Our standards of preliminary and professional education are in advance of those of any other state. Every year we are winning recognition as the center of medical education. The maintenance of our state medical library is an essential part of our comprehensive plan.