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October 28, 2014

W.P.A. Project - Cleveland Regional Union Catalog

The theme of 2014 Archives Month in Ohio is Ohio in the Depression. A project, promoted by faculty and administrators of Western Reserve University (WRU) that started 4/10/1936 as a Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) project, was the Cleveland Regional Union Catalog.

The purpose was to bring together into one place records of the holdings of libraries and other institutions. The original 42 participants included libraries of colleges and universities (such as WRU, Case School of Applied Science, Ohio State University, Oberlin College, John Carroll University), other libraries (such as Cleveland Public Library, Cleveland Medical Library, Lakewood Public Library) and organizations (such as Cleveland Board of Education, Rowfant Club, Western Reserve Historical Society, Nela Park).

The project soon expanded and was known as the state-wide Cleveland Regional Union Catalog. To develop this expanded Catalog, three other W.P.A. projects were established (7/27/1937, 1/4/1938, and 8/16/1938). The W.P.A. provided the clerical labor for the projects. Public support of the catalog ended 11/25/1939.

The first-entry library cards of the entire General Catalogs of the participating institutions were “photographed and transcribed on cards to constitute the state-wide Cleveland Regional Union Catalog.” WRU maintained the Catalog. The Cuyahoga County Board of Education helped to sponsor the project until it became state-wide and the Ohio State Library Board sponsored it after the state-wide expansion. Over the years some libraries dropped out, other libraries joined the effort, and many maintained their participation in the project by submitting cards as new purchases were made and items were withdrawn from their libraries.

During the 1940s the Library of Congress Union Catalog Division received and transcribed the cards constituting the entire state-wide Cleveland Regional Union Catalog. In 1956 the Catalog contained over 2,600,000 cards. In January 1956 the Cleveland Regional Union Catalog began “sending monthly shipments of main-entry cards from eleven of its important libraries selected by the Library of Congress for publication in the National Union Catalog.”

The Cleveland Regional Union Catalog was maintained well into the 1970s. The need for such a catalog was superseded over time by advances in networked information, especially the online catalog. Case Western Reserve University had been a founding member of OCLC. (In 1967 the Ohio College Library Center, now known as the Online Computer Library Center, was established.) During the 1971-1972 academic year, CWRU University Libraries introduced the new on-line cataloging system to its campus. “The system provides access to the large data base of bibliographic records from the Library of Congress MARC project as well as records stored by members on a current basis.”

The efforts of multiple 1930s-era W.P.A. projects are a fine example of the collaboration and cooperation by libraries which continues to this day.

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October 20, 2014

Case and WRU in the Great Depression

The stock market crash of October 1929 was the dramatic beginning of a decade of economic devastation. Manufacturing, agriculture, banking, construction, shipping - all sectors of the economy suffered, including higher education.

The University Archives has substantial documentation of the effects of the Depression on Case School of Applied Science and Western Reserve University as well as the actions and decisions taken in response to the crisis. Only two of those sources, student yearbooks and presidents’ annual reports, were consulted for this brief overview of the effect of the Depression on students.

What is remarkable in the student yearbooks is how infrequent references to economic conditions appear. For 1930/31, the student newspaper, The Reserve Weekly, was praised for increasing its advertisers “in spite of the acknowledged depression in business conditions.” The Case Tech earned similar praise in the Differential, “In spite of the discouragements offered by the business depression and the ensuing reluctance to invest in advertising, the business staff... has succeeded in holding up the financial end of the Tech.”

For the next five years, hopeful determination characterized the yearbooks’ depiction of the times. “The difficulties in producing the Differential by the Class of ‘34 in a period of economic chaos and financial turbulence were surpassed by the capable and concentrated efforts... of the entire staff, and the whole-hearted support of the student body and faculty.” Mather College’s 1934 Polychronicon’s senior class history read in part, “When they were Juniors the banks closed, and for several weeks it looked as though they could not have a Prom, but it turned out to be one of the best in years.”

It should be said this attitude was not because Case and Reserve students were insulated from the effects of the Depression. Reports of the presidents and deans repeatedly describe the greater need for student financial aid. Adelbert’s Dean William Trautman in 1934 wrote that, “scholarship and tuition aid funds have been spread as far as possible. In some cases even a twenty-five dollar gift has proved to be the slender thread that has kept the hope of getting an education from fading completely.” At Mather College the Alumnae Association and Advisory Council made loans and gifts to increase student aid. In 1935 Mather converted Flora Mather House to a cooperative dormitory. In return for working one hour each day on household duties, room and board fees were reduced from $400 to $250.

More students worked part-time and full-time while carrying full academic loads. The National Youth Administration’s work program for students helped nearly 400 students each year. Mather’s Vocational Counselor placed both students and alumnae in full-time and part-time work.

Curricular retrenchment included reducing sections of some classes, offering some classes only in alternative years, opening more classes to students of other colleges, and eliminating Saturday classes, to “enable many students to use the additional half-day to help themselves more financially.”

In selecting the Great Depression as 2014’s Archives Month in Ohio theme, Ohio’s archivists pay tribute to the resilience of those who persevered through that crisis.

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