Dedication of the Harry W. Bass, Jr. Library

by Francis D. Campbell

On December 2, the ANS dedicated the new Library at 140 William Street to the memory of Harry W. Bass, Jr., former President and Councilor of the ANS. In the presence of over 80 people, Doris Bass, the widow of Harry Bass and President of the Harry W. Bass Jr. Foundation, cut the ribbon to open the new library, which occupies the fifth and sixth floors of the new building. On behalf of the Harry W. Bass. Jr. Foundation she also presented a check for $400,000, which brought the amount contributed to the ANS, by the Bass Foundation, to over $4,000,000. The entire building and its library will open to the public in June, once the renovation process and move of the massive ANS collections have been completed.

Doris Bass with her sons Michael Calhoun (l.) and David Calhoun (r.) in front of the library plaque in memory of Harry W. Bass

Harry W. Bass

ANS Librarian Francis D. Campbell delivered the following address:

When Harry Bass passed away, the ANS Library had almost completed another of the many projects that he guided and funded through his Foundation. That project was the digitization of the card catalogue. I wish he could have seen it completed because it so much represented Harry’s philosophy. He knew that information was of little value unless people had ready access to it and he knew that great libraries were of limited use if the population at large could not determine their holdings. And so, he initiated the process that ultimately displayed the holdings of this great library to anyone on the planet who had access to a computer. And he certainly understood the power of the computer. So, in naming this Library, there is no more appropriate name than The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Library. It is important that those who access it remotely or walk through its doors to look up references they have found via their computers, know who it was that made it all possible.

But Harry did much more for this Library. In 1968, he became a member of the Standing Committee on the Library, becoming its Chairman in 1980, a position that he held until his passing. During the 60’s and 70’s, he provided much support for the library’s binding program. In 1971, he established the Bass Library Fund, which has become the major library fund. During the same year, he funded the renovation of one of the library’s reading areas, which was afterward informally named the “Bass Room.” In the years prior to 1978, when he became the Society’s President, he had placed the library on a sound financial footing. After he assumed the presidency, he focused on enhancing the quality of library operations by funding expansion of computerization to include library applications. He also funded the installation of moveable shelving in the West Room of the Library.

When Harry relinquished the presidency of the Society in 1984, he began a new phase in his support of the library. Still a member of the Society’s governing Council, he now focused on building the library’s endowment, funding purchases of rare materials, and the completion of library computerization. He began his support of special acquisitions in 1990, with a sizable donation toward the purchase of items from the library of John W. Adams. At the George Kolbe sale of December 8, 1991, Harry, along with several other donors, contributed to the purchase of the New Netherlands Coin Company Archives. Beginning in November, 1994, the firm of Bowers and Merena commenced the auction of the legendary Armand Champa library, which was sold at four separate sales, the last occurring in November of 1995. I knew about some of the rarities to be offered and also knew that attempting to purchase only one or two would considerably deplete my library budget. Harry knew this as well, so he called me prior to the first sale and once again offered to help, pointing out that these sales would offer items that appear “once in a lifetime.” Through Harry’s generosity, more than 100 of these items are now in the American Numismatic Society Library. To mention just a few, the library acquired Raphael Thian’s “Register of issues of Confederate States Treasury Notes,” the personal diary of Joseph J. Mickley, several manuscripts by Walter Breen, and a number of rare counterfeit detectors and auction catalogs.

During the last years of his life, despite the fact that he was very much involved with other projects initiated by the Harry Bass Research Foundation and despite the fact that his health was failing, Harry still spent a good deal of time supporting computerization of the ANS library’s operations. I spoke with him for the last time a week before he passed away and found him still offering words of encouragement. He was a true friend and an extraordinary individual.

Harry gave not only financial support, but also gave of himself, taking time to get to know people. In 1970, when I had the opportunity to attend the American Library Association Convention, which that year was held in Dallas, Harry extended a warm invitation to visit his home and inspect his library. He called his library the “Sanctum Sanctorum,” and it was quite a treat to be given a personal tour by Harry himself. In 1975, when Geoffrey North retired and I became Librarian Harry wrote to me expressing his confidence in me and indicating he would be available to provide “whatever assistance” he might in the years that lie ahead. He certainly delivered on that promise.

Now, if Harry were here today, he would no doubt be pleased with this tribute, but I know he would also say to me, “All this is fine, Frank, but you haven’t said a word about the future. The past is past, Frank.” So, I am sure he would be happy to know that we are planning to barcode the library collection and have already enlisted the consultant services of Wayne Hill of Anna, Texas to prepare our existing database to receive barcodes. And, oh yes, it was Harry W. Bass, Jr. who originally introduced us to W. L. Hill Consultants. Harry would also be happy to know that we will be developing a proper Online Catalogue on a new software platform and that we are preparing the first of what we hope will be many facsimiles of rarities in the collection. The first of the facimilies will be funded by Library Committee member, Dan Hamelberg. And, Harry would be more than pleased to know that we are well along, thanks to the efforts of the Library Committee and its Chairman, John W. Adams, with raising the funds to endow a Chair for the Society’s Librarian. Strong support for this endeavor has already come from The Harry W. Bass, Jr. Foundation. I would like to thank Foundation Trustees, Doris L. Bass, Michael L. Calhoun and Executive Director, F. David Calhoun, who are with us today and J. Michael Wylie, who could not attend. I am especially grateful to Doris Bass, Harry’s widow, for her continuing support as the Foundations’ President.

As you look around this building today you will see a work in progress. When I look at some areas of the new Library I think of a garden in which the seeds have been planted and are waiting to sprout. Thanks to the Bass Foundation and many others in this audience they will sprout and with some watering along the way by all those who care about this Library, they will flourish. Thank you all for being here.

From left to right: Michael Calhoun, Donald Partrick, David Calhoun, Doris Bass and Ute Wartenberg Kagan at the luncheon after the Library Dedication on December 2.