As I write, my bookshelves are empty, and my
sunny corner office on the first floor of the
Schlesinger Library is piled high with boxes,
awaiting our move to temporary quarters.
Over the next nine months, the Library’s staff
will acquire and process collections in the
buildings of the former Bunting Institute on
Concord Avenue; researchers will make use
of a reading room relocated to Fay House. All
the while, a thorough renovation will transform
the Schlesinger. Next fall, we’ll return to a
1906 building restored and remade for a 21stcentury library, with new spaces for teaching
and learning, a digital research suite, and an
exhibition gallery nearly doubled in size.
In many ways, this renovation, which
begins at the close of our 75th anniversary
year, marks the end of a long chapter of the
Schlesinger’s history and the beginning of a
new one. Over three-quarters of a century,
our collections have grown in ways that would
have been hard to imagine in 1943: from an
initial gift of some 30 cartons of manuscripts
focused on the campaign for American
women’s suffrage to more than 4,100
manuscript collections and 150,000 printed
volumes documenting many facets of the
lives, work, and thought of American women
from the nation’s beginnings to the present
day. Researchers continually discover new
American histories in our collections; this year,
we hosted more than 3,500 visits to the Carol
K. Pforzheimer Reading Room, an increase of
12.5 percent from the previous year. Even our
oldest holdings are renewed by the scrutiny of
new eyes with fresh questions.
But we also need new collections to tell
new stories. In recent years, increasing the
diversity of our collections along racial, ethnic,
class, regional, and ideological lines has been
our highest strategic priority. Last year, 60
percent of what we added to our holdings
An architect’s rendering of the Library’s new gallery space
Women workers take part in a union demonstration, ca. 1981–1983

News from the Schlesinger Library [2018], Fall - 2/16