Archives and Special Collections
92 Snell Library
360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
(617) 373-2351

Table of Contents

Collection Overview

Historical Note

Scope and Content Note


Printable Finding Aid

Search All Finding Aids

Archival Collections

Manuscript Collections
Archives and Special Collections Finding Aids
Title:University Libraries records
Dates:1913-2012 (bulk 1970s-1990s)
Call Number:A24

Historical Note

The development of the Northeastern University (NU) Libraries began with the birth of the University in 1898 as part of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). The NU Library grew out of an informal collection of books housed at the Berkeley Street YMCA; by 1929, the number of people taking courses offered by the YMCA had drastically increased, so the Library was formed; the collection at that time included 12,740 books. In the mid 1930s, Myra White was appointed the first NU librarian to care for the growing book collection. Through White's efforts, the collection grew to meet the needs of University students.

Due in large part to the overflow of books and materials and the YMCA's need for extra space, by 1953 NU had its own library building on campus, later named Dodge Hall. With this change in location came a change in the library's administration; Roland H. Moody came from Harvard's Lamont Library to become the first Director of Northeastern's library. Together with his newly appointed assistant librarian Albert M. Donley, former librarian of the Dedham Public Library, Moody led Northeastern's Library in a period of expansion and reorganization that reflected the educational aims of the University. Collection size more than doubled, staff and budgets grew, and the Library engaged the NU community by offering workshops on using the Library and by providing Library liaisons to academic departments in order to increase faculty involvement in collection development. The Library's growth and outreach stemmed from the belief of the administration that "the Library is a service organization in which students, faculty, and the community should all be active participants" (Frederick, Emerging Giant, 273).

On October 28, 1959, the Library was officially dedicated Dodge Library, named after Robert Gray Dodge who gave the first lecture at Northeastern's Law School in October, 1897, marking the University's beginning. In the 1960s, the Commonwealth granted Northeastern the right to award graduate degrees; this led to an expansion of the library system. In 1961, doctoral programs in chemistry and physics were established. In response to this new need for research materials, Dodge Library opened its first graduate research division. 1966 saw the opening of the Charles A. Dana Research Building and the establishment of the second graduate research library housing physics and electrical engineering collections. Two years later, in 1968, the third graduate research building opened, Edward L. Hurtig Hall, which housed materials on chemistry, chemical engineering, and allied health services. Along with these new libraries, NU established the Boston-Bouvé department in Dodge Hall, the Burlington Campus Library (1964) with funds from the Lufkin Trust, and the Marine Science Institute Library in Nahant. Northeastern Library's in-house expansion was completed in 1963 when it was designated an official repository of government documents under the 1962 Federal Deposit Library Act. With this new status, Northeastern joined MIT and Harvard as the third Boston-area university to receive such documents.

The size of the Library's monograph and periodical collections continued growing. At the same time, other media were added to the collection. In 1953, the Library accepted the responsibility of caring for a small audiovisual collection, but by 1964 the material had grown to unmanageable proportions, so a separate Programmed Instruction Collection was established over which the Library had limited control. Two years later, in 1966, the Learning Resources Center was created, followed almost immediately by the autonomous Office of Learning Resources, which removed responsibility for materials other than monographs and serials from the Library. Less than a decade later, in 1975, it was reunited with the Library, and Moody became Dean of University Libraries and Learning Resources.

With the explosion of computer technology, Northeastern Libraries automated. In the mid 1960s, the first computer system was introduced for government documents. On the heels of this development was the 1967 installation of a computerized acquisition system that allowed librarians to select, order, and process books online. A year later an automated circulation system was introduced, and the 1970s brought additional computer terminals for staff access to OCLC (the Online Computer Library Center). The last step in this initial automation effort came in 1973 when Northeastern joined the Boston Library Consortium. In 1974, Cataloging Librarian Alan Benenfeld created the 1,000,000th record added to OCLC; in honor of this, Benenfeld received the OCLC Gold Record award at the annual American Library Association conference of that year. Benenfeld would later become NU's Dean of Libraries.

By 1976, students at Northeastern felt they had outgrown Dodge Library, which had been established before Northeastern developed as a graduate research facility. To meet their greater research needs, the students called for a new facility to be built. The university responded by launching a building design competition in 1981 under the direction of the University Library Operations Committee. In January, 1983, the committee selected the plan proposed by the Architects Collaborative of Cambridge, and the fundraising process began. Due to the efforts of NU President Kenneth G. Ryder, the federal government gave Northeastern $13.5 million for a new facility. Additionally, the NU Century Fund Phase II (1987-1991) raised a total of $175 million of which $62 million went directly to the Library building project.

While fundraising was still ongoing, on October 4, 1987, Northeastern held the ground breaking ceremonies for the new building, which would later be named Snell Library. The ground breaking was overseen by the new Dean of the Libraries, Alan Benenfeld, who succeeded Dean Moody in 1984; Dean Benenfeld came to Northeastern from UCLA where he had been coordinator of Physical Sciences and Technology Libraries, and he had previously worked at the NU Libraries as a Librarian in the Cataloging Department. Just as Library facilities underwent change, so too did the administrative structure evolve under Dean Benenfeld; he restructured the library administration with the addition of two associate deans: Associate Dean of User Services and Associate Dean of Technical Services. The fall of 1990 saw the completion of the new building and its dedication; the $35 million Library and Resource Center was named after George Snell to honor his $1,000,000 donation, the largest single alumni donation in Northeastern's history at the time.

In 1994, Joan D. Krizack became the first professional University Archivist and Head of Special Collections. In 1998, the Archives and Special Collections Department received a two-year grant of $153,000 from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) to fund the Department's efforts to preserve the history of Boston's under-documented communities. Krizack directed the project to identify, acquire, and make accessible materials representing the African American, Chinese, Puerto Rican, and gay and lesbian communities of Boston. Since the beginning of the project, the targeted communities have evolved; what began as an effort to document the Puerto Rican community has expanded to become an effort to document the larger Latino community, the effort to document the gay and lesbian community has expanded to include all LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning) communities, and the effort to document the Chinese community has grown to include all Asian American communities. The Department's efforts to help preserve the history of the four communities continue.

In 1999 and 2000, the NU Libraries staff selected a new integrated library system (ILS), Innovative Interfaces Inc.'s Millennium Software still in use by the Libraries as of 2012.
Chronology of Deans
mid-1930s-1953Myra White, Head Librarian
1953-1975Roland H. Moody, Director
1975-1984Roland H. Moody, Dean
1984-2001Alan Benenfeld, Dean
2001-2002Filippa Anzalone, Acting Dean
2002-2007Edward Warro, Dean
2007-2008William Wakeling, Acting Dean
2009-presentWilliam Wakeling, Dean

Frederick, Antoinette. Northeastern University: An Emerging Giant, 1959-1975. Boston: Northeastern University Custom Book Program, 1982.

Frederick, Antoinette. Northeastern University, Coming of Age: The Ryder Years, 1975-1989. Boston: Northeastern University, 1995.

Marston, Everett C. The Origin and Development of Northeastern University, 1989-1960. Boston: Northeastern University, 1961.