The following letter was recently released by the Independent Research Libraries Association, of which the Newberry is a member.
Independent research libraries preserve books, manuscripts and other precious materials that sustain the national conversation about who we are as Americans and also who we have been. As directors of these libraries, we have direct experience of the impact of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) on the work we do with scholars and our communities.
Across topics ranging from medieval poetry to the history of business and entrepreneurship, newspapers, and medicine to the settlement of the American West, our libraries have been crucial to the study of the humanities and the arts that inspire them. These federal agencies have been vital partners in those efforts, allowing us to share our knowledge and rare materials on a scale none of us could achieve alone.
Because our libraries are not supported by universities or affiliated with federal research institutions, we are the sole custodians of the materials we possess. We see firsthand, then, the importance of having a federal partner and funder for the work that we do. Often this support leverages private and corporate philanthropy, which multiplies our impact. Our frequent experience is that federal investment is necessary for subsequent philanthropy, without which our work would diminish.
Federal support also allows us to take the conversations we start and share them widely, whether that is in local or traveling exhibitions, scholarly symposia and research fellowships, or digital media that provides access to our collections remotely. For example, 530,000 visitors in 50 states and two territories were able to see a copy of Shakespeare’s 1623 First Folio last year with NEH support.
Libraries have always been a place of inspiration and research. They are also a critical part of the fabric of our democracy and civic life. We believe the NEH, IMLS, and NHPRC are vital to the work we do, and hope that legislators recognize the significant impact these agencies have on the constituents whom they and we serve.
Ellen S. Dunlap, President
American Antiquarian Society
Patrick Spero, Librarian
American Philosophical Society
Neil Safier, Director and Librarian
The John Carter Brown Library
Michael Witmore, Director
The Folger Shakespeare Library
Thomas Gaehtgens, Director
The Getty Research Institute
Erik Rau, Director, Library Services
The Hagley Museum and Library
Charles T. Cullen, Interim President & CEO
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Laura Skandera Trombley, President
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Michael Barsanti, Edwin A. Wolf 2nd Director
The Library Company of Philadelphia
Dennis Fiori, Director
Massachusetts Historical Society
Colin B. Bailey, Director
The Morgan Library and Museum
David Spadafora, President and Librarian
The Newberry Library
Lisa O’Sullivan, Director, Center for the History of Medicine and Public Health
The New York Academy of Medicine
Louise Mirrer, President and CEO
The New-York Historical Society
Michael Ryan, Vice President & Director of the Patricia D. Klingenstein Library
The New-York Historical Society
William Kelly, Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Research Libraries
New York Public Library