"The Comte de Lambert flying at Cannes on his Wright machine," The Aero, No. 2, Vol. 1, June 1, 1909.

CRL and Linda Hall Library partnership brings history of science to researchers' fingertips

"By one means or another, the CRL/LHL partnership makes accessible to users of both institutions every item in their combined collections."

Based in Kansas City, Missouri, and founded in 1946, the Linda Hall Library (LHL) is one of the world’s largest independent research libraries devoted to science, engineering, and technology. LHL currently holds over 500,000 monograph volumes and more than 48,000 serial titles related to science, technology, engineering, and their histories, with additional holdings in natural history, astronomy, environmental and earth sciences, aeronautics, life sciences, infrastructure studies, and mathematics. Available online, LHL’s digital collections provide patrons with access to nearly 250,000 digitized images of books, maps, photographs, and manuscripts, including the History of Science Library—which contains all materials in the LHL collection printed before the year 1501—and other highlights from LHL’s Rare Book collection.

In 2012, the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) and LHL entered into a strategic partnership designed to preserve, further develop, and provide access to historical research collections in the fields of science, technology, and engineering. A Global Resources Partnership, the collaboration between CRL and LHL builds upon the rich holdings of print serials assembled by the two institutions over the past six decades, which are made available to CRL members electronically, through traditional interlibrary loan, and by document delivery. Collections made available by the partnership total over 50,000 combined journal titles, including: print serials form Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, and other publishers; historical serials published by the Russian Academy of Sciences and other learned societies; and engineering specifications, technical reports, and standards from the United States and foreign government agencies. In support of the partnership, CRL and LHL work together to identify, prioritize, and digitize historical journal titles that have not already been digitized by HathiTrust, JSTOR, or their original publishers. Together, LHL and CRL aim to promote continued visibility of these Designated Collections, which constitute a premier library of global science.

Samantha Abrams (CRL's Head of Collections) interviewed Ben Gibson (LHL's Digital Initiatives Manager) to hear about the partnership from his perspective.

Ben, can you tell readers more about your role at LHL, and describe the ways in which you interact with CRL?

As Digital Initiatives Manager, I’m involved in both document delivery and the creation of digital assets, two key areas of cooperation between CRL and LHL. Thanks in large part to Judy Alspach [former Area Studies Program Manager at CRL] and Marie Waltz [Head of Access Initiatives at CRL], our relationship feels less like a cooperative effort between two organizations and more like a single team working together toward unified goals. The document delivery component is enabled by the extraordinary team at RapidILL, who have made it possible for all CRL members to participate, whether they are Rapid members or not. These requests are regulated by CRL staff, then digitized and delivered by LHL staff.

What do you wish more people knew about the partnership between LHL and CRL?

How robust and vibrant the partnership is! By one means or another, the CRL/LHL partnership makes accessible to users of both institutions every item in their combined collections. In addition, it affords CRL members the ability to influence which journals are selected for yearly digitization projects. Past projects have been thematically focused, either by subject or geographical area, and we welcome suggestions when prioritizing future projects. Finally, there’s the fact that—beyond digitizing publications that aren’t available elsewhere in digital form—the partnership works to ensure that original publications are preserved and formulates collection strategies for future materials.

How can members of CRL make use of the partnership with LHL?

[Members at] CRL institutions may request publications in the LHL collection through Rapid. They may also obtain directly from CRL materials digitized as part of the partnership. I also encourage them to speak up regarding the subject areas chosen for future digitization projects, which both preserve and make accessible fragile and rare content. Selecting the material most valuable to the academic community is a process that will benefit from the active participation of every CRL member institution.

What’s one of the most memorable collections you’ve digitized on behalf of the partnership?

The most memorable collection for me was the recently completed Latin American collection.¹  We were able to digitize an extraordinary amount of material that wasn’t available elsewhere. The journals selected were of a nature that provided not just a sense of the scientific state of the area, but a feel for life in the region. It was a privilege being able to focus on the vibrant scientific research done in an area of the world too often underrepresented in digital collections.

But every project has had delightful discoveries. In an issue of The Aero, I saw an image of Wilbur Wright flying over the Hudson River in a plane with an attached canoe. I learned from an 1899 issue of The Automobile Magazine that early in the development of the automobile, cars sometimes competed in events judged not on the functionality of the vehicle, but the pageantry of the presentation: They would be decorated with ornate collections of flowers, balloons, and small animals, driven by owners dressed in their most expensive finery.

Those are just a couple examples from the wealth of scientific and historical knowledge the CRL/LHL partnership has captured and preserved, and often the simplest, most human moments are the best, such as the photo from a 1907 issue of Bulletin Schweiz Aero-Club showing three small children gazing skyward at a manned balloon. They were just going to town to see the next new thing, the latest wonder conjured up by human knowledge and imagination. Preserving that sort of knowledge, and memory of those moments, and making them accessible to the scholars of tomorrow, seems to me a terrific foundation for any partnership.

For more information on CRL’s partnership with the Linda Hall Library, see CRL’s Collaborations page. You can also explore material digitized via the partnership by browsing CRL’s Digital Delivery System. Questions? Contact Samantha Abrams at sabrams@crl.edu.


¹ Together, LHL and CRL were able to digitize selections 125,000 pages from 24 Latin American journals, representing 11 countries and Puerto Rico. Now, the CRL/LHL collaboration is digitizing Asian scientific journals, also with a goal of making 125,000 pages available to researchers through LHL's online catalog. Read more in the Spring 2020 and Fall 2021 issues of Hedgehog, LHL's annual periodical.

Dec 2021