Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dr. Richardson and Princeton

Each year I peruse the Dictionary of American Library Biography (DALB) and its two supplements to identify those librarians (and others) who are celebrating a significant birth anniversary in that year (100, 125, 150, etc.). Today is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ernest Cushing Richardson (1860-1939), noted Princeton University librarian and scholar. The entries in the DALB are consistently well written, and this is certainly the case for the Richardson entry which was written by Lewis C. Branscomb. Branscomb has also published a book length biography of Richardson entitled Ernest Cushing Richardson Research Librarian, Scholar, Theologian 1860-1939 (Scarecrow Press, 1993). Richardson began his relationship with Princeton in 1890 when it was named the College of New Jersey and left in unhappy circumstances in 1925, some 35 years later. Richardson was an authority of library classification, cataloging and bibliography. He implemented his own (Richardson) classification system at Princeton which moved the library from the "fixed location" to the "relative location" system of shelving books. Richardson was very active in the American Library Association and served as its president in 1904-1905. As chairman of ALA's Committee on Cooperation he was an advocate of cooperative use of printed catalog cards. Princeton was one of the first libraries to subscribe to Library of Congress printed cards when they became available in 1901. He was a strong supporter of brief catalog entries and implemented a "title-bar" printed catalog at Princeton. In reading Branscomb's DALB entry it is clear that Richardson was ahead of his time in many respects and his views and approach to library administration led to his departure from Princeton. He joined the Library of Congress at age 65 and began work on "Project B" which was essentially the improvement and expansion of the union catalog of the Library of Congress. When Project B started the catalog contained 1,500,000 titles. At the end of the project it contained 7,000,000 titles representing 15,000,000 volumes. Branscomb considers this Richardson's greatest contribution to librarianship. There is an extensive entry about Richardson on the Rare Book Collections @ Princeton Blog. The postal card above which was signed by Richardson and mailed to the Library of Congress in 1909 is part of my collection of postal librariana.

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