Our collection emphasizes learning and discovery, civic engagement, library science and history, the book arts, and culturally diverse niche interests.
We welcome requests for new books from our members. Please email, phone, or visit to speak with our staff or volunteers.
Online Catalog: LibraryThing
The Institute Library aims to build and maintain an excellent circulating library of fiction (literary, mystery and suspense fiction); non-fiction, (subjects of interest to our members), non-fiction (which contributes to knowledge of fiction-writing and/or the creative narrative experience); and reference materials (librarianship, and New Haven and Connecticut directories). To read our full Collection Policy, click here.
Gifts are treated as new acquisitions and evaluated by quality, consistency, and relevance to the needs of the Institute Library. Special libraries have specific needs that frequently exclude items people wish to donate, such as standard editions of classic works, which usually duplicate holdings; textbooks, which become outdated; books printed on paper too brittle to make them usable; and materials in formats not collected by the Library (such as audio-books). We do however, welcome records for our Listening Room. To read our full Gift Policy, click here.
Our Borden Classification System is organized by a hand-written card catalog and corresponding shelf lists for over 30,000 volumes on learning and discovery, civic engagement, library science and history, the book arts, and culturally diverse niche interests.
Following the establishment of the New Haven Free Public Library in 1887, the Institute Library employed its first professionally trained librarian, William Alanson Borden in 1897; and 1903-1910. During his tenure, Borden experimented with new library technologies and practices, patenting new library tools and creating a unique classification and cataloging system, including notably interesting categories such as B66 – “Temperance,” D54 – “Charity, Poverty,” E4 – “Fabricative Arts,” F – “Amusements,” I – “Medical Science,” and more.
Although the Borden Classification System was officially adopted for use in Baroda, India for some time, the system and its original card catalog can only be found at the Institute Library today. To us, this is a living collection; we add to and expand its particular subsets regularly with purchased and donated, new and used books, accessioned to reflect our members’ interests. If you have a book, record, or periodical that you would like to donate, let us know.
The Borden Classification System divides knowledge into 26 basic classes, each identified by a letter, similar to the Library of Congress System, developed during the same time-period. Classes are further subdivided with numbers. For example: Philosophy is identified by the letter B, Ethics is B6.
A major benefit of this unique system is its ability to expand as knowledge develops and subfields come to light, emphasizing The Institute Library’s mission of “mutual encouragement in the pursuit of useful knowledge.