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David Stam Papers

An inventory of the collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 27 Mar 2014

Biographical History

David Stam (1935- ) is an American librarian, scholar and author specializing in book history and polar exploration, whose service to the library profession spans more than fifty years.

Stam was one of seven children (brothers Paul, John, James, and Robert, and sisters Ruth and Mary). He attended Wheaton College (1951-1955) where he was for a time the editor of the college paper, the Wheaton Record, whose journalistic independence he fiercely defended. On his father's side Stam came from a tradition of missionary work and active church involvement, and following graduation he took several courses at the University of Edinburgh's Divinity School but did not earn a degree. He served a tour in the United States Navy (1956-1958) as a Journalist 2d Class, which took him to (among other places) Antarctica and thereby launched a lifelong fascination with polar exploration.

Upon leaving the Navy Stam went to work for the New York Public Library (1959-1964) as a clerical assistant, later becoming assistant editor for library publications, reference librarian, and Manuscript Cataloger. While at NYPL he earned his Master's in Library Science from Rutgers University (1962). In 1964 he accepted a position as Librarian at Marlboro College in Marlboro, Vermont (1964-1967), where he served as Librarian and taught courses in English literature and printing history. He served as Head of Technical Services and then Associate Librarian at the Newberry Library in Chicago (1967-1973), and as University Librarian for Johns Hopkins University (1973-1978), during which period he earned his PhD in History from Northwestern University. He returned to the New York Public Library as Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Research Libraries (1978-1986), and then served as University Librarian for Syracuse University (1986-1998). After his retirement he was awarded the rank of Librarian Emeritus, and continuesdto write and teach.

Stam has served on numerous boards and committees over the course of his career, including leadership roles with the Research Libraries Group (Board of Governors, 1978-1986; Board of Directors, 1992-1998), the Independent Research Libraries Association (Chairman, 1981-1986), the Associatin of Research Libraries' Preservation of Library Materials (Chairman, 1975-1985), and Syracuse University Press (Board of Directors, 1992-1998). His scholarship spanned topics as various as research library management and frostbite; his book Adventures in Polar Reading: The Book Cultures of High Latitudes (Oak Knoll, 2019) draws together his two lifelong passions.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The David Stam Papers contains biographical material, correspondence, memorabilia, printed material, subject files, and writings by Stam and others.

Biographical material includes assorted items from Stam's childhood, his c.v., a history of the Stam family, and some personal files of his father Jacob Stam.

Correspondence contains incoming correspondence from family members, friends, and colleagues. The latter includes coworkers from the Newberry Library, New York Public Library, Marlboro College, and Johns Hopkins. Also represented are professional friends and colleagues from other institutions, such as the Morgan Library, the Bodleian, the British Library, and the National Libraries of Ireland and Scotland.

Memorabilia covers most of Stam's personal life and career, including his time in the United States Navy, his numerous awards and recognitions, clippings about him and his work, events wherein he was the featured guest or honoree, and so on.

Most of the Printed material is either by or about the various institutions where Stam worked, including Johns Hopkins University, Marlboro College, the New York Public Library, and Syracuse University. These include reports, informational brochures, invitations to special events, and clippings about the institutions.

Subject files reflect Stam's personal and professional research interests, such as libraries and librarianship, preservation, and polar/arctic exploration. Included here is research material for the 2006 Grolier Club exhibit, "Books on Ice."

Writings contains a range of scholarly and professional work, beginning with Stam's academic work as an undergraduate, library school, and PhD student, including his dissertation entitled "England's Calvin: A study of the publication of John Calvin's works in Tudor England." There are articles, book reviews, books, course material from his teaching at Syracuse University, course notes taken as a student in Edinburgh and elsewhere, encyclopedia entries, letters to the editor, library evaluation reports, speeches, and miscellany. Also included here are several works (articles, lectures, etc.) on the subject of polar exploration, including case and item labels and the catalog for Stam's 2006 Grolier Club exhibit, "Books on Ice."

A small amount of Writings by others, many of which are signed and/or inscribed to Stam, concludes the collection.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged with family first, followed by others. Writings are subdivided by type (articles, book reviews, etc.) and within that are alphabetical by title. All other material is alphabetical by type or topic.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advance notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

Four published items were removed from the collection and transferred to Rare Books for cataloging. To locate these items, please refer to the Classic Catalog.

Subject Headings


Belanger, Terry.
Calvin, Jean, 1509-1564.
Gregorian, Vartan.
Ragle, Thomas B.
Stam, David.
Wallis, Victor, 1938-
Wynne, Marjorie G.

Corporate Bodies

Johns Hopkins University.
Marlboro College.
New York Public Library.
Syracuse University.
Wheaton College (Ill.)


Explorers -- Books and reading.
Librarians -- United States.
Library administration -- United States.
Library science -- United States.
Polar regions -- Discovery and exploration.
Research libraries -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Appointment books.
Clippings (information artifacts)
Compact discs.
Exhibit scripts.
Floppy disks.
Manuscripts for publication.
Research notes.
Speeches (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

David Stam Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of David Stam, 2014. 2017.

Table of Contents

Biographical material



Printed material

Subject files


Writings by others