APA Library and Archives receive physical and virtual upgrades

Focus on digital preservation and access enhances records of APA history and services for staff, members, and scholars.

By Dan Hanlon

The American Psychological Association Library and Archives, which are located in the APA headquarters in Washington DC, have recently undergone exciting changes.  The library has moved to a new, bright, modern space, and new capacity-enhancing, moveable shelving has been installed in the separate archives space. 

But it has been our virtual improvements more than our physical changes that mark our move into the future.

In creating the new spaces we wanted to take into account the shifting focus of libraries and archives in the 21st century: a shift away from large stacks of printed materials and toward dynamic, easily accessible electronic resources.

The Library

libraryLibrarians still provide the usual services (research assistance, interlibrary loans, etc.) to APA staff and members visiting the headquarters, and the library still houses our collections of books and journals, but the space now includes the APA Learning Center.  Funded through a donation by psychologist Lee Gurel, the Center includes wireless laptops that can be used by APA staff and members and by visiting scholars to access our digital materials  and utilize other research tools and outside sources.  The Center also includes new lounge seating to create a more relaxed atmosphere and encourage informal meetings.

We have shifted the focus of the library collection from print volumes to e-books, databases, and other online services, many of which can be accessed by APA staff from their own workstations. Staff members and visitors can use a wide range of scientific journals and books and such varied sources as CQ Press, Edweek, the Associated Press Stylebook, Consumer Reports, US Faculty Directory and other online reference services.

The Archives

The APA archival collections focus on the history of our association.  We include other items related to psychology as well, especially in our photographic, film, and test collections, but we do not attempt to reproduce the coverage of the Archives of the History of American Psychology (AHAP) at the University of Akron.  Rather, our collections complement each other.  AHAP covers the history of psychology in general, and is partially supported by a grant from APA.

The archives website serves primarily as a form of outreach to the public, including students, to inform them about our collections and the history of APA.  The website lists and describes our various collections with examples of what they contain.  You can also find historical information about APA membership statistics, presidential addresses and initiatives, governance meetings, and more.

Recently, we have begun focusing our efforts on the digitization of our print documents and analog audiovisual materials as an advanced method of preservation.  Complete runs of meeting materials from all standing boards and committees have been digitized and are now fully searchable, making them much more useful as a research tool.  Other association documents, such as bylaws and association rules, have received the same treatment.  Our collection of oral histories, the result of interviews conducted over many years with former APA presidents, staff, and prominent psychologists, are being transferred to digital audiovisual formats as well.

Over 25 APA divisions have decided to deposit their archives with us.  We plan on digitizing as much of this material, which includes newsletters, conference programs, and governance documents, as possible.  We are also collecting available materials from all divisions in digital format.  Any division that wishes to deposit its archives with us should contact the APA Library and Archives staff for more information.

We also encourage donations from individuals and organizations.  If you have any materials related to the history of the APA, or if you’d like to donate funds to help us digitize and preserve our collections, please contact us. All donations will be acknowledged on our website.

The Future

The APA Library and Archives staff works every day to help facilitate the great work of APA and to record the history of our association.  We look forward to working with all interested parties to collect, preserve, and make accessible this history, and we invite an open discussion with the APA membership about ideas and suggestions for the road ahead. Feel free to contact us with your thoughts. 


Dan Hanlon is Associate Librarian for Reference Services at APA.