Gelman reaches top stack of libraries

Gelman Library joined the ranks of the top research libraries in the United States and Canada Friday when it was accepted as a member of the Association of Research Libraries.

“It’s recognition that GW has arrived,” said University Librarian Jack Siggins. “This is the big time.”

As the 122nd member of the ARL, Gelman will receive priority when faculty and students request books from other libraries in the association, Siggins said.

He said students with a valid ID card will have access to the collections of any of the 121 other member libraries across the country, including Harvard, Yale and Columbia universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress.

Siggins said to be considered for membership, a university must be classified as a Research I or Research II institution. In order to be a Research I institution, a library must maintain a $40 million endowment. Although Gelman is classified as a Research II Institution, the library exceeds the $40 million endowment requirement, theoretically placing Gelman in the first category.

Membership criteria also require a library to maintain a minimum number of books in its collection, in addition to a minimum budget, staff and number of doctoral programs in the University, Siggins said.

The library also must demonstrate a “quality of collection,” Siggins said.

Last February, board members from other universities in ARL evaluated Gelman Library for several days to determine if it met the criteria for membership, Siggins said.

Ten years ago, Gelman Library applied to become a member of ARL but was turned down because it did not meet the qualifications, Siggins said.

Siggins said improvements within the library over the last 10 years stemmed from GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s commitment to improving the library and its resources. Trachtenberg increased the library’s funds by several million dollars, which allowed Gelman to buy more books and periodicals, Siggins said.

“When I arrived (at GW) in 1995, one of the things Trachtenberg wanted me to do was to make Gelman a member of ARL,” Siggins said. “Now the University must sustain the level of support to the library.”

“We’ve won the library olympics,” said Erica Aungst, coordinator of Gelman public relations and special events.

Aungst said achieving membership indicates that Gelman has reached a higher tier of libraries.

“They don’t pick libraries who are going to fall under,” Aungst said. “Now we’re a designer name.”

Along with the name recognition Gelman Library receives as a member, Gelman administrators said they hope the newfound celebrity status will increase the number of donations to the library.

“It will attract more donors because they will see their money is going to a very important operation,” Siggins said. “We’re seen as a winner.”

“Everybody loves a winner,” Aungst said.

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