The Cleveland Public Library Literature Department Correspondence and Reference Forms, which spans from 1951 to 2006, includes reference questions, correspondence relating to departmental acquisitions, and more. While this collection may be small, it reveals a great deal of information about the Literature Department, the Cleveland Public Library, and social trends.
From these Literature Department letters it is clear that the librarians, such as Marie Corrigan, Lucille Troph, Jay Beswick, and Evelyn Ward, were clearly dedicated to their profession and to the mission of serving patrons’ needs. They addressed letters and questions in a friendly, professional, and timely manner. The numerous thank you letters found in this collection demonstrate the gratitude that patrons felt towards the librarians and their services. In addition, the letters reveal a great deal about the department’s holdings. Various correspondence reference the acquisition of the W. Ward Marsh Cinema Archives, the John L. Price, Jr. Musicarnival Archive, and the department’s extensive array of materials related to film, theater, and literature. From these letters, it is clear that Cleveland Public Library’s holdings and status as a research institution were well known among scholars and patrons.
While these letters mostly relate to the Literature Department, they reveal a wealth of information about the librarians and holdings from other departments and events occurring within the library, such as the building of the Louis Stokes Wing and the move towards automation. These letters demonstrate larger trends in society as well. Handwritten and typewritten letters make up many of the correspondence from the earlier decades. This changed in the more recent years, as most people submitted questions via KnowItNow or email. Handwritten letters were often more formal and informative compared to the informality of emails. However, the usage of email allowed for increased response time to reference questions. It was not uncommon for a handwritten response to take days, weeks, or even months. With email, librarians usually replied in a matter of hours. This impressive response time on the part of the librarians made information more easily and quickly available for patrons. This collection demonstrates the variety of information and resources held by the Cleveland Public Library Literature Department and the excellent service offered by its librarians. So the next time you have a question about grammar, etymology, literature, poetry, theater, film, television, or more, ask a Literature Department librarian!