A few things are constants in the book acknowledgments. Agents and editors invariably make the list of the people for whom the author is most thankful, followed by the more personal acknowledgment of family members, usually patient, encouraging spouses & clever, inspirational children. However, another group of people seems to make the “without whom I couldn’t have done it” list quite often as well. These select men and women are librarians.
Although the books on my shelves are few and unrepresentative of all the research monographs in the marketplace, a run through them may illustrate the edges of the picture.
James Simon in What Kind of Nation thanks “the staffs at the Alderman Library, University of Virginia, the Library of Congress, and the Massachusetts Historical Society [for being] unfailingly helpful in expediting my research needs”. Elsewhere, such needs were “met expertly by the staff at the New York Law School library, particularly William R. Mills, who responded to my seemingly endless requests for more materials with consistent good cheer and professionalism, and Roy B. Basit, who handled the multitude of calls for interlibrary loans flawlessly”.
Marc Levinson in The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger writes, “that this book came to be is a tribute to the work of the many dedicated archivists and librarians who helped me identify materials in collections that researchers rarely look at” and then proceeds to thank individual librarians and archivists by name. “George Stevenson of the North Carolina State Archives came up with hard-to-find material about the McLean family”, “Kenneth Cobb of the New York Municipal Archives, Doug DiCarlo of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives at LaGuardia Community College in New York, and Bette M. Epstein of hte Ne Jersey State Archives in Trenton helped me piece together the story of how the container decimated New York’s port”, “Gail Malmgreen of the Robert F. Wager Labor Archives of New York University helped me locate documents and oral histories”, “Patrizia Sone and Melissa Holland of the Khell Center, Catherwood Library, at the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, guided me through the papers of Vernon Jensen” and so on and so forth.
Siva Vaidhyanathan generously credits librarians in his book Copyrights and Copywrongs, writing “authors don’t thank librarians and teachers enough. This project could not have been written without the help librarians at Wesleyan University, the State University of New York at Buffalo, Elmira College, the Library of Congress, the University of California at Berkeley, Cornell University, the Buffalo and Eerie County Public Library, Yale University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Texas at Austin, and New York University. Librarians in the Williamsville Central School District, especially Joyce Zobel, taught me how to read . . . I particularly need to thank New York University librarian Nancy Kranich and the staff of the American Library Association. Being custodians of our information and cultural commons, librarians took an early interest in my work. I look forward to many years of working with them.”
David Goldfield in America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation pens touching acknowledgments, including the lines, “What would we do without the professional help of librarians and archivists? Not much, and it would take much longer to do it”. He then goes on to single out particular librarians and archivists for thanks. “My gratitude goes out to Ed Bray of the Smithsonian Institution, Jennifer Ericson of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Kristi Finefield of the Library of Congress, Kevin Grogan of the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, Yuhua Li of the Widener Library at Harvard, and Matthew Turi at the Southern Historical Collectino in the Wilson Library of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Sherry Jordon and Marilyn Elysse of the interlibrary loan department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte have provided invaluable service to me”.
Of course, exceptions also abound. Some are funny really. William Patry, for instance, writes in the acknowledgment of Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars that “as with everything I write, I did all of the research, drafting, and typing myself and thus have no one to thank”. Acknowledging such books assuages my conscience over tooting my own aspiring librarian’s horns too much. Thank you, guys, for indulging my indulgences.