THE THREE MILLIONTH BOOK: ALREADY?

In October 1997, the Brown University Library celebrated the acquisition of its Three Millionth Volume. It is not so very long ago (May 1988) that we held our Two Millionth Volume event with Vartan Gregorian, then the President of the New York Public Library, as the speaker at a special Commencement Forum. The fact that we have reached another such milestone in less than a decade has much to say about the number of books which continue to be published in this "computerized" age, and about the enduring importance of the book as a transmitter of knowledge. But perhaps more importantly, this achievement also speaks of the University's commitment to the Library, of the hard work and dedication of concerned faculty and library staff, and of the generosity of literally thousands of donors, from faculty and alumni to current students and individuals who have no connection with Brown at all. When we honor the acquisition of the Three Millionth Book, we honor all these contributors.

Although the Library has purchased several hundred thousand books since 1988, over that same time period we also received 230,351 gift volumes, many of which were added to the collections. During those nine years, more than $6,759,000 was donated to the Library, much of it going to acquisitions, making possible the purchase of titles which otherwise would not be here. Indeed, it is hard to overemphasize the role of our many friends in getting the Library where it is today.

Nor do we celebrate the growth of the book collection alone. Today's libraries, more than ever, are immense information "buffets," offering the variety of formats human beings use to transmit information. In addition to the three million volumes now held by the Library, members of the Brown University community also have access to 1.5 million microforms, more than 132,000 maps, 864,000 graphic items, over 51,000 audio recordings, some 3,000 videos, and roughly 5,750 linear feet of manuscripts. As if this were not enough, the Library offers access to nearly 2,500 computer files with sophisticated searching and indexing capabilities, permitting research approaches which simply are not possible with print resources.

When Paul R. Dupee, Jr. '65 made his generous contribution to the Library as part of the "Campaign for the Rising Generation," he also indicated his willingness to purchase the official Three Millionth Book. We realized that, through this milestone, we not only had an opportunity to enrich our collections, but also to make a significant statement about the Brown University Library of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In fact, we celebrate with the acquisition of a trio of collections, which not only incorporate the Three Millionth Volume, but which have something to say about the role of libraries, the changing world of information, and the growing internationalization of the University. Briefly, our Three Millionth acquisitions are:

The Paul R. Dupee, Jr. '65 Collection on Fireworks is almost certainly the largest collection of its kind, and an acquisition in keeping with the Library's existing strengths in history of science, military history, magic and the occult, and mathematics. Covering a wide range of titles from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and addressing subjects from recreational fireworks to the science of artillery, the Dupee Collection on Fireworks serves to illustrate the importance of collectors and libraries in preserving precious sections of humankind's cultural and intellectual history. The collection is significant in part because it incorporates titles, now of considerable interest to scholars, which were not created as scholarly works and which did not disappear only because of the vision of some collector or librarian. The Library's acquisition of the Collection means that these rare titles will survive for the use of faculty and students for many generations to come.

The Dupee Collection on Fireworks is also the source of our official Three Millionth Volume, John Babington's Pyrotechnia, Or a Discourse of Artificiall Fire-Works (London: 1635), the first English work to deal with recreational fireworks and one of the most elaborate, and scarce, of the early major books in the field.

As I indicated earlier, today's libraries are no longer only repositories for the printed word. To exemplify the transformation of libraries and scholarship as we enter the Twenty-first Century, we selected as our second Three Millionth Book acquisition a package of databases from Chadwyck-Healey, the British publisher. The four databases -- Literature Online (LION), Patrologia Latina, Archives USA, and the Periodicals Contents Index -- represent in the finest way the consolidation of the old and the new which is taking place in the Brown University Library and in other research libraries around the world. While the Library is making these databases available, students and faculty don't have to come to the Library to use them; they can be searched via the Worldwide Web, from any point on the campus network or from the user's own home.

In 1994, Prof. Thomas J. Biersteker, Director of Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, wrote, "Every day we encounter reminders of the importance of global forces that affect our lives...the Institute was established in 1986 to ensure that the University continuously develop its international dimensions to benefit students, faculty, and society." Over the course of the last 20 years, Brown's international programs have grown and flourished. As the University grows more international both in population and in scope, so does its Library. In celebration of this transformation, we acquired our third Three Millionth Book collection, the Paul R. Dupee, Jr. '65 Mexican History Collection, which expands the John Hay Library's holdings in post-Independence Latin American history with sources for the study of the Mexican republic. The acquisition of this fine collection also renews our commitment to supplement the collections of the John Carter Brown Library in the history of the American nations.

As these three fine acquisitions illustrate, the Brown University Library enters the Twenty-first Century continuing to play the role it has filled in the University since 1764: providing a wide variety of materials for teaching, research, and private study; serving as a microcosm of ongoing University academic interests and as a reflection of worldwide research and scholarship; and preserving the recorded thought and achievement of our era for the benefit of tomorrow's students and scholars. As my colleague David Kohl wrote, "A library...is really just a collection of voices preserved down through the ages from all over the world." Through its Library, Brown University has done its own significant part to preserve a great many of the world's precious voices.


Merrily E. Taylor
Joukowsky Family University Librarian


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