Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Wayne Wiegand's Melvil Dewey Notes

Wayne Wiegand, noted library historian, is making available to an institution or an individual an invaluable library history research resource, the voluminous notes he compiled in researching Irrepressible Reformer (ALA, 1996), his definitive biography of Melvil Dewey. All that is necessary to obtain this resource is to make a modest donation to  the Ed Holley Lecture of the Library History Round Table of the American Library Association.  Wiegand had intended that the note cards be auctioned off at a fundraising event last September at Library History Seminar XII in Madison, WI, but that fell through. As one of the auction coordinators, I took temporary custody of the Dewey notes which are recorded on 4 by 6 inch note cards and housed in sturdy file boxes. Wayne recently retrieved those boxes of notes freeing up much needed space in my basement. Although Wayne is interested in obtaining some funding for one of his favorite causes, he is more interested in assisting a researcher or researchers in advancing their study of Melvil Dewey and/or American librarianship. Wayne feels that a new biography with a different take on Dewey should come out every decade or so. He thinks that with his notes a researcher would be two thirds there on such a biography.  While in my custody I had ample opportunity to explore the Dewey notes, and I can attest to the value of this historical resource. Organized in chronological order the notes follow Dewey through his entire life. Of particular value are Wayne's notes on the Dewey manuscript collection at Columbia University which provide detailed transcriptions.  Since Dewey interacted with a major portion of the library community during his life, anyone studying other aspects of library history during the Dewey era would also benefit from the notes. From my perspective, the notes provide an extraordinary glimpse into the research techniques of one of our most esteemed library history scholars.  They remind me again why I'm content to be a library history buff and not a library history scholar. A very nice article could be written just about Wayne's research approach to the Dewey biography.  A reasonable donation to the Holley Lecture would probably be in the $200 up range (plus shipping costs) with the best offer claiming the prize. Wayne can be contacted at wwiegand@fsu.edu.  Wayne Wiegand recently retired as  F. William Summers Professor of Library and Information Studies, and Professor of American Studies, School of Information Studies, Florida State University. A nice article by Christine Pawley about Wiegand and his career appeared in the Spring 2011 newsletter of the Library History Round Table.


Wayne Wiegand has indicated that Columbia University Libraries will be acquiring his Melvil Dewey notes.  This is a great match since Melvil Dewey's papers are also located there.

1 comment:

Joshua said...

Would it be possible for someone to acquire the notecards and then digitize them? That way not one but many people could study aspects of Dewey's life and work.