Construction and Evolution of Union Theological Seminary Campus

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Generous Height - Abundantly Lighted

The requirements for the stacks were not to exceed six stories in height, four or five preferrable; in order that the reference room be the top story and near the main entrance. The reference room was to be given "generous height, and be abundantly lighted." The minimum combined area of all stack floors was to be at least 13,000 square feet. Windows were required on each aisle, the full width and as near to full height as possible. The contract for the library stacks was awarded to Snead & Company for $33,150 plus $195.

A New Classification System

The stacks did not take long to fill. Soon after moving into their new headquarters, the Union Seminary Library focused on a new system to classify their materials. Julia Pettee had been hired in 1908. She rejected the existing standard classifications for general collections because they were inadequate for use in theological institutions. The resulting system followed the traditional theological departments, exegetical, historical, systematic, and practical. She then broadened the system to encompass more topics. For example, the Biblical Section was expanded to include many types of literature, and secular history was entered with church history. By the time Julia retired in 1939, she had supervised the reclassification of approximately 165,000 books.

The Burke Library (Columbia University Libraries) / 3041 Broadway at 121st Street / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 851-5606 /