Paul Brodeur Responds to NYPL Statement

At the request of Mr. Brodeur, we post his response to the statement of the New York Public Library posted April 1.

The response of The New York Public Library to my article does not address the key issue I raised. Library officials claim that my papers, which I donated in 1992, were not fully processed until 2010 — eighteen years later. They conveniently choose to ignore the fact that Ms. Mimi Bowling, who was Charles J. Liebman Curator of Manuscripts at the Library’s Manuscripts and Archives Division between 1988 and 2001, has written two e-mails and one letter contradicting their claim and describing when my collection of papers was processed.

In an e-mail dated May 31, 2010, Ms. Bowling stated, “Those of your papers that were accessioned in 1992 were judged by me and my superiors to be worth retaining and were, in my estimation, satisfactorily processed and shelved in the Bryant Park Stack Extension where you saw them [in 1997]“.

In an e-mail dated June 12, 2010, Ms. Bowling declared, “I valued your papers and considered them fully processed during my tenure.”

In a letter dated September 29, 2010, Ms. Bowling commented upon President of the Library Paul LeClerc’s letter of August 4, 2010, “implying that I knew but did not tell you that the collection that I showed you in 1997 was not processed. That, as you and I both know, is simply not true: the collection was, in fact, processed.”

The attempt of Library officials to deny the credibility and demean the standing of Curator Bowling, who held a position of prominence in the Manuscripts and Archives Division for thirteen years, is highly unprofessional.

The fact remains that any donor who signs the Library’s deed of gift risks having major deletions made from his or her collection of papers many years after their donation and initial processing.

Comments: more
  • Dana

    From the New York Public Library’s response to Mr. Brodeur’s initial complaint:

    “The collection includes the primary source material that, in the estimation of our curatorial and archival staff, will be of greatest interest to researchers and scholars studying Brodeur’s career and his work. This includes most of Mr. Brodeur’s manuscripts, notes, and correspondence. The rest of the material consists largely of secondary source items, including copies of and from magazines and newspapers, that are available elsewhere; these are the items the Library decided could be returned to Mr. Brodeur. In doing so it was following the standards regarded by librarians and archivists as the best professional practices.”

    Manuscripts repositories often process collections more than once. When Mr. Brodeur’s papers were first arranged and described in 1997, they were indeed fully processed, as Mimi Bowling states; at the same time, they included many items that, as the Library notes above, can be found elsewhere. A second processing of the papers separated out those items, thereby making the remaining unique materials more accessible to researchers. The NYPL is not denying Ms. Bowling’s credibility; in 2010, its staff simply reappraised the work done in 1997 and opted to make the collection more usable.

    One hopes that Mr. Brodeur will come to see the distinction here between primary and secondary sources. Not all items in one’s papers are created equal! As someone who’s done a fair amount of research in archives and manuscripts collections, I appreciate the NYPL’s efforts to exclude items from a collection that I can find online or at a library near me. That way, when I visit NYPL in person to consult a collection, I can be confident that I won’t have to wade through materials already available to me: instead, I can focus my limited time as a scholar on the items that I can see nowhere else.

    • Linda Hunt

      Your snitty response to Mr. Brodeur assumes that all secondary sources are alike….Not true.  I donated my research papers to the Holocaust Museum………among the secondary sources that you apparently would not find worthwhile are U.S. Army Intelligence files declassified by me under FOIA and which were shredded by the Army agency awhile later and thus what I have are the only existing copies.  These files include info about former disgraced NASA official, Arthur Rudolph,  (who fled the US in 1994 rather than face charges of Nazi war crimes), a magazine of photos of a Yugoslavian war criminal that I defy you to find anywhere else in the world, and other similiar materials. Gee I hope you don’t “bother” to “wade through” these materials should you access my records.

  • Dana

    From the New York Public Library’s response to Mr. Brodeur’s initial complaint:

    “The collection includes the primary source material that, in the estimation of our curatorial and archival staff, will be of greatest interest to researchers and scholars studying Brodeur’s career and his work. This includes most of Mr. Brodeur’s manuscripts, notes, and correspondence. The rest of the material consists largely of secondary source items, including copies of and from magazines and newspapers, that are available elsewhere; these are the items the Library decided could be returned to Mr. Brodeur. In doing so it was following the standards regarded by librarians and archivists as the best professional practices.”

    Manuscripts repositories often process collections more than once. When Mr. Brodeur’s papers were first arranged and described in 1997, they were indeed fully processed, as Mimi Bowling states; at the same time, they included many items that, as the Library notes above, can be found elsewhere. A second processing of the papers separated out those items, thereby making the remaining unique materials more accessible to researchers. The NYPL is not denying Ms. Bowling’s credibility; in 2010, its staff simply reappraised the work done in 1997 and opted to make the collection more usable.

    One hopes that Mr. Brodeur will come to see the distinction here between primary and secondary sources. Not all items in one’s papers are created equal! As someone who’s done a fair amount of research in archives and manuscripts collections, I appreciate the NYPL’s efforts to exclude items from a collection that I can find online or at a library near me. That way, when I visit NYPL in person to consult a collection, I can be confident that I won’t have to wade through materials already available to me: instead, I can focus my limited time as a scholar on the items that I can see nowhere else.

    • Linda Hunt

      Your snitty response to Mr. Brodeur assumes that all secondary sources are alike….Not true.  I donated my research papers to the Holocaust Museum………among the secondary sources that you apparently would not find worthwhile are U.S. Army Intelligence files declassified by me under FOIA and which were shredded by the Army agency awhile later and thus what I have are the only existing copies.  These files include info about former disgraced NASA official, Arthur Rudolph,  (who fled the US in 1994 rather than face charges of Nazi war crimes), a magazine of photos of a Yugoslavian war criminal that I defy you to find anywhere else in the world, and other similiar materials. Gee I hope you don’t “bother” to “wade through” these materials should you access my records.

      • Jennifer

        I believe the secondary resources Dana is referring to are ones that can be found elsewhere such as online or nearby library. Obviously the secondary sources you are describing are ones that can’t be found elsewhere as you stated “only existing copies” and are not what she is talking about.