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European Reading Room: Publications, History, Annual Reports

The guide offers a brief history of the former European Division via annual reports submitted to the Librarian of Congress each year detailing activities and demonstrating how the outstanding European collections in our national library were built.

About the Division and Reading Room

Image of Luther Evans
Librarian of Congress Luther Evans with John Dorosh, Head of the Slavic Reading Room, 1946. Library of Congress Manuscript Reading Room.

This guide presents a brief history of the former European Division via annual reports submitted to the Librarian of Congress each year. The years of coverage in this guide are 1919-1992, with more recent reports available in the Library of Congress Archives held in the Manuscript Reading Room. In 2021 the European Division merged with the Hispanic Division to form the current Latin American, Caribbean, and European Division.

Also covered in this guide is the history of the European Reading Room which administratively was a separate entity in the early years, but eventually was subsumed under the European Division. Although the European Division no longer exists as an administrative entity, the European Reading Room is still in operation today.

The primary role of the former European Division and the Reading Room is to enhance the value of the Library's European collections through recommendation of research materials for addition to the collections, assistance to scholars, other libraries, federal agencies, and the public in the use of the collections, and interpretation of the collections through guides, bibliographies, and other studies. These services are provided by the staff of the European Reading Room.

Production of bibliographies and other research publications have long been a focus of the staff of the division and reading room. In the section of this guide titled "Publications by the Library of Congress about the European Collections" we attempt to list the publications produced by the staff over the decades, if they relate in some way to the Library or its collections. Although not comprehensive at the present time, the list will be fleshed out in the near future.

Brief Background of the European Division

In 1906 the Library purchased the 80,000 volume collection of Russian bibliophile Gennadii Yudin, making the Library of Congress a leading center for Slavic research in the United States. Librarian of Congress Herbert Putnam created a Slavic Section in 1907 to cope with this acquisition. After World War I, in 1919 the Slavic Section began to evolve, taking on work more like fully functioning Library division by providing cataloging and reference services. It did not get renamed to the Division of Slavic Literature until 1930. The 1930s witnessed slow growth of the East European collections, with some notable purchases such as books from the Russian Imperial Palaces, but with the growth of the field of Slavic Studies in North America, and World War II looming, the Library's leaders reevaluated the existing division and its activities, striving to increase collections and services.

As a result of the reorganization of the Library in 1944, in which the cataloging and reference functions were separated, the Slavic Division was abolished. It was reestablished in 1951 as a new and more robust research center with a larger staff and expertise, ready to tackle massive, systematic acquisitions and expanded reference services to Congress, other government agencies, and the scholarly community. During the 1950s, as new countries were added to its area of responsibility, the Slavic Division morphed into the Slavic and East European Division. The name was changed again in 1978 to the European Division, when the Division's scope was enlarged to include all of Europe except Iberia and Great Britain. In 2021 the European Division was merged with the Hispanic Division to form the current Latin American, Caribbean, and European Division. To learn more, read some of the eight decades of annual reports which are transcribed in this guide

The following table shows the name of the division and the supervisors throughout its history:

Division Name Division Chiefs and Dates of Service
Slavic Section (1907–1920) Peter A. Speek (1917–1927)
Semitic, Slavic and Oriental Division (1921–1928) Alexis Babine (1927–1930)
Division of Slavic Literature (1929–1939) Nicholas R. Rodionoff (1930–1944)
Slavic Division (1940–1944) Sergius Yakobson (1951–1971)
Slavic Division (1951–1953) Paul Horecky (1972–1977)
Slavic and East European Division (1953–1956) David H. Kraus (Acting) (1978–1982)
Slavic and Central European Division (1956–1978) Clara Lovett (1982–1984)
European Division (1978 –2021) David H. Kraus (Acting) (1984–1989)
  David H. Kraus (1990–1992)
  Michael Haltzel (1992–1994)
  Ellen Hahn (Acting) (1994–1995)
  Carolyn T. Brown (Acting) (1995–1996)
  John Van Oudenaren (1996–2006)
  Georgette Dorn (Acting) (2006–2017)
  Grant G. Harris (2017–2020)
  Michael Neubert (Acting) (2020–2021)

The European Reading Room

In addition to the Slavic Division, the Slavic Room existed as a separate entity from 1944 through 1958 after which it was transferred to the administrative domain of the Slavic and Central European Division. The purpose of the Slavic Room was to provide help and reference services to users of the Library. The Slavic Room eventually became the European Reading Room. It too had annual reports and a series of supervisors as shown in the table below.

Names of the Reading Room Curators of the Slavic Room /
Heads of the European Reading Room*
Slavic Room [part of the Reference Division] (1944–1958) John T. Dorosh (1944–1960)
Slavic Room [part of the Slavic and Central European Division] (1958–1978) Alfred C. String, Jr. (1960–1964)
European Reading Room (1978–present) George E. Perry (1964–1974)
  David H. Kraus (1974–1977)
  Albert E. Graham (1984–1995)
  Grant G. Harris (2008–2017)
  Kenneth E. Nyirady (2018–2020)
  Michael Neubert (2021–present)
  *Position vacant 1978–1983, 1996–2007

Library of Congress European Reading Room

Library of Congress European Reading Room