Library News (Winter 2008)

by Elizabeth Hahn

Readers are likely aware of the many changes that have been occurring at the ANS throughout 2008. In March of this year, our librarian, Francis D. Campbell, retired, leaving behind him a lifetime’s worth of work devoted to expanding and enriching the ANS library collection. In the Spring 2008 issue, a tribute to Frank Campbell looked at the library and Frank’s devotion to building up an outstanding collection that stands as a world-class numismatic library. I am pleased to have the opportunity to step in and be in charge of that collection.

Shortly after Frank’s retirement, the ANS moved to its new location at 75 Varick Street. The relocation of the library (with over 100,000 items, including books, periodicals, pamphlet files, and a card catalog) was one of the more exciting challenges of the move. Despite the quantity of items—and the infancy of my own recent appointment—the library found its way smoothly to its new home. Before delving into some of the details of what the future holds for the ANS’s library, I believe that introductions are in order. And so I begin with a summary of the road that led me to the ANS.

Librarian, Archaeologist, Numismatist

As of July 1, 2008, I took up the position of Librarian at the ANS. My previous three years of employment were in the Greek and Roman Art Department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where I worked with curators on different research projects and spent a great deal of time in the various libraries of the museum. I am first and foremost a librarian, and while in New York, I completed a Master of Science in Library and Information Science from Long Island University, with concentrations in rare books and special collections and a certificate in archives. With these intellectual pursuits in mind, I was especially pleased to learn about the extensive rare book collection at the ANS and I look forward to exploring in more depth this part of the library.

My previous training is both as an archaeologist and a numismatist, and I have spent a good portion of my life researching and working in libraries and museums as well as working onsite at various archaeological excavations worldwide. I have a Master of Arts degree in maritime archaeology and history from the University of Bristol and a Master of Arts degree in classical art and archaeology from the University of Virginia. I have worked on a variety of excavations both on land and underwater in Sicily, Israel, and North America, and I spent a summer working at the Numismatic Museum in Athens, Greece, an experience that paved the way for my future involvement in numismatics. A love of languages has also made me feel at home in this field, and I can claim fluency in Italian, along with a reading knowledge of German, French, ancient Greek, and Latin.

The Road to the ANS

My relationship with the ANS over the years has paralleled the different moves of the Society. My first encounter with the Society came in 2003, when I was researching the coinage of Taras and made the trip uptown to Audubon Terrace to meet with curator Peter van Alfen. In 2005, I conducted my second trip, which was to the Fulton Street building, where I once again met with curators and discussed research for my Master’s thesis on the Greek coinage of Sicily and southern Italy. My third trip was the charm, and I find myself here now on a permanent basis at the new site at 75 Varick. And so, having used the ANS resources in the past, I am especially thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of how those resources develop in the future.

I am fortunate to come into a position where the collection is as large as it is exceptional and the staffpeople are as friendly as they are knowledgeable. In addition to the physical involvement of removing items from boxes, I have absorbed myself in learning the unique organization of the collection, which now has the advantage of being located all on the same floor. That the library is a vital and important part of the Society was clear during the move, when it was encouraging to see that all members of the staff became involved at one point or another in making sure the library found its way safely to its new home.

Future Plans and Projects

Visitors to the Harry W. Bass Jr. Library will find the comforts of the old space and the promise of continuing developments and growth into the new space. Visitors will be accommodated with a comfortable reading room where computer terminals and simple guides in the form of plans and aisle/shelf listings will be available to anyone wishing for a quick orientation to the collection. For the time being, the organization of the library collections will retain, as closely as possible, its original subject divisions. But in a world where technology is constantly evolving, it is important to keep up with those changes and to convey to ANS members and the public what resources exist and how they can be used and updated. The challenges of adopting an appropriate classification scheme for a library as specialized as that of the ANS means that careful thought and planning will go in to all future organizational decisions.

In addition to making me aware of the richness and depth of the library collection, the recent move has also allowed me the satisfaction of taking note of some particularly interesting items. Portions of future columns will highlight parts of the collection and discuss items that come to my attention. In addition, I will occasionally note new acquisitions, which will also be featured in special “new arrivals” section of the library before their integration into the collection. As well as highlighting certain items here in the magazine, those items, or similar ones, will be on display in the library as part of exhibits that may at times relate to concurrent coin exhibitions.

The library is always a work in progress, and thanks to the dedication of the ANS staff and part-time workers and volunteers, more progress is just around the corner. I’m happy to report that it took less than a month for everything to find a home on the shelves (including almost five hundred boxes of rare books alone!), and although there remains much to do in the way of organization, the library already is being used by staff and visitors alike. My thanks go out to the ANS staff, who have made me feel at home in my position from day one. I express deep gratitude as well to the part-time staff and volunteers, who moved around numerous boxes and lifted countless books onto the shelves. It is a great honor to be part of the staff of the American Numismatic Society, and I will aim to do my best in keeping in touch with tradition while keeping up with technology.

ANS librarian Elizabeth Hahn