Historically, the quality of a library has been measured by the size of its collection. The acquisition of the millionth volume was cause for celebration, and press releases flooded local and national news media. The millionth volume or a million-dollar “book” budget gave bragging rights to the library’s director. For decades, library directors, upon retirement, wanted to be known for the number of titles added during their tenure.
As the collections grew, space eventually became a problem, so library directors pressed for bigger buildings to house the increased number of volumes. Bigger collections meant the need for more staff and furnishings, especially shelving. Several other factors influenced collection building, especially after World War II. The expansion of colleges and universities in response to the GI Bill meant more faculty had to be hired, and they were expected to “publish or perish” to receive tenure.
Of course, authors wanted the library to purchase their published works. Several publishing companies were launched to translate and reprint works held by major European university libraries that had been damaged during the war. The new faculty expected the library to resemble the one from which they received their doctoral degree—having similar-sized collections and holdings.