Harvard Staffers Resign over Future of Rare Books

By Kniffel, Leonard | American Libraries, February 1990 | Go to article overview

Harvard Staffers Resign over Future of Rare Books


Kniffel, Leonard, American Libraries


"It was a fairly pure and simple managerial decision," said Mary Chatfield, head librarian at the Baker Library, which serves Harvard University's Graduate School of Business Administration. She was responding to AL's questions about a recent reorganization that combined the library's Kress rare book collection staff with the staff of Baker's Manuscripts and Archives Department.

The merger has been met with the resignations of four staff members who say the so-called reorganization really amounts to the destruction of a 37,000-volume treasure that is regarded as one of the two or three finest of its kind in the world.

Baker's Associate Librarian for Administration Emma B. Perry was the first to resign in protest over the decision. "I did not agree at the very beginning with the reorganization. It was against my principles, and that was why I left - we had irreconcilable differences," she explained to AL. Perry's October resignation was followed in November and December by those of Kress Curator Ruth R. Rogers and two of her assistants, Roy Robson and Elaine Benfatto.

Emphasizing that she resigned because "I so strongly object to what they've done," Rogers told AL the business school administration and Chatfield formulated the merger without consulting the Kress staff, and "I was told there were no other options."

"To an outsider it may seem like a sensible move," Rogers said, "but what distressed me and the staff is that they do not plan to continue Kress Library acquisitions, cataloging, publications and exhibitions as they have been done in the past." Rogers was told the 51-year-old collection had to be "rationalized," which we said translated into "it's no longer central to the mission of the school. …

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