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Gelman Library Administration records

Identifier: RG0119

Collection Scope and Content

This collection contains the administrative records of Gelman Library. The materials include photographs, negatives, office records, building plans, posters, correspondence, and publications. They range in date from ca 1825-2005.


  • Creation: circa 1825-2005

Restrictions on Access

Series 41 and 51 are closed to research for 25 years from date of record creation.. Series 53 and 54 are closed to research for 50 years from date of record creation.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Historical or Biographical Note

President Cloyd Heck Marvin, inaugurated in 1927, undertook a plan to bring the university curriculum and facilities up to 20th-century standards. A major part of the plan was the construction of a library building, the first in the University's history. In the fall semester of 1939, the Lisner Library, located on G Street between 20th and 21st streets, opened. The facility had a total of six floors and was entirely dedicated to library offices and stacks, which housed a collection of 119,000 volumes.

By 1954, the Library contained 270,000 volumes. One major increase came through the 1950 purchase of the library of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, adding more than 50,000 volumes to the stacks of both the Lisner Library and the Burns Library at the National Law Center.

In 1950, Matilda Wright donated to the Library her brother's collection of material on Washington, D.C., history. As the finest privately held collection of books, pamphlets, manuscripts, photographs, and artwork on the topic, these 1,500 items formed the core around which the Special Collections Department was built.

Despite this progress, the University Library compared unfavorably to other universities in terms of funding, staff, and collections. This was due to the faulty belief that the rich library resources of Washington were accessible to GW students and faculty as a substitute for onsite collections.

It was not until the beginning of Lloyd H. Elliott's presidency, in 1965, however, that significant improvement began to be made. Elliott declared that the development of a true research library for the University was his first priority. In 1966, he implemented a plan to increase the book budget. He also set up a building committee to develop a new research library building that could hold 1,000,000 volumes and seat 2,500 readers. The new Gelman Library opened in the fall of 1973 with a collection of 429,778 volumes. The following year, the collection passed the 500,000 volume mark. Mrs. Estelle Gelman, endowed the Library with $1,500,000 for unrestricted library development in 1980. The Library recognized the importance of her contribution by naming the University Library in honor of her late husband, Melvin Gelman. In 1984, Gelman Library marked the addition of its one-millionth volume to the collection and the library has been expanding rapidly ever since. A major acquisition was a gift from Ari and Phyllis Kiev of the I. Edward Kiev Collection on Judaica, which contains more than 20,000 volumes on religion, philosophy, classics and art.

In 2001, the Gelman Library raised funds for the two-millionth volume, An Illustrated Atlas; Geographical Statistical and Historical, of the Unites States, and the Adjacent Countries by T. G. Bradford; Boston, Weeks, Jordan [1838], and the two-million-and-first volume, Web of Science. The official Two-millionth Volume of The Gelman Library System is a rare book acquired through a gift from James Cecil King, a grateful alumnus, professor emeritus, bibliophile, writer and an ardent patron of The Melvin Gelman Library.


297.5 Linear Feet

50 digital object(s)

0.004 Gigabytes

Language of Materials



This collection contains the administrative records of Gelman Library. The materials include photographs, negatives, office records, building plans, posters, correspondence, and publications. They range in date from ca 1825-2005.

Collection Organization

This collection is organized into 56 series (there is no series 2). They include eighteen series of office records, eleven series with photographs, three series with negatives, two series with correspondence, two series of newsletters, and two series of posters. Single series include manuals; construction specifications; grant files; remodeling documents; by-laws; systems project; event materials; proposals; building plans; publication layouts; records and memos; blueprints; videotape; accession logs; t-shirts; and Andrea Stewart records

Acquisition Information

Acquisition data is unknown.

Preliminary Guide to the Gelman Library Administration records, ca. 1825-2005
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

George Washington University Gelman Library
2130 H Street NW
Washington DC 20052 United States of America