PsycBOOKS®: A Historic Partnership

The PsycBOOKS® Classic Books collection, which includes landmark texts in psychology and the behavioral sciences, owes a huge debt to our biggest contributor: the Archives of the History of American Psychology, a part of the Center for the History of Psychology.

The laurel for "most valuable partnership" with another institution has to go to one organization that has stood head and shoulders above the rest: the Archives of the History of American Psychology (AHAP), a part of the Center for the History of Psychology (CHP) at The University of Akron.

Moving into a new facility in 2010 has allowed the CHP to grow from preserving materials for research use to including educational programming for scholars and the general public, tours, a monograph series, and more. At APA, we've been able to play a part in that expansion by making parts of CHP's collection available to a wider scholarly audience, and we reaped immeasurable value ourselves from the access they've granted us to their collections.

Although more than one of our databases has benefitted — and benefitted greatly — from the treasure trove that is AHAP, because it was our first partnership, we are going to focus specifically on how AHAP has contributed to PsycBOOKS.

When AHAP Met APA

AHAP was founded in 1965 at The University of Akron in Akron, Ohio by Dr. John A. Popplestone and Dr. Marion White McPherson, psychologists who became interested in preserving the historical record of psychology for teaching and research purposes.

The collection comprises the personal papers of more than 700 psychologists, as well as instruments and apparatus, three-dimensional and paper-and-pencil psychological tests, films, photographs, and rare and antiquarian books. It is that rare book collection that now forms the nucleus of the PsycBOOKS Classic Books collection.

The beginnings of the AHAP–APA relationship are a little hazy. Dr. Dave Baker, Margaret Clark Morgan Director of CHP, reminisced about a conversation he had with Dr. Wade Pickren, who was then historian and archives director at APA from 1998 to 2006. Shortly after PsycBOOKS launched in 2004, the two men were having a casual conversation at an event. Finding in Dave a kindred history buff, Wade was lamenting that we had this great new database that provided digitization and indexing of landmark psychology texts, but we'd been able to add only about 200 books from our own collection so far. Dave, in response, said that he "was sitting on about 50,000 antique books"; books that would be more readily searchable and available to scholars if they were digitized and indexed. "They had a need and I had a product," Dave noted, "and it's been a very fruitful relationship." The rest is — in this instance, really — history.

Once the idea took hold, the partners moved ahead quickly. Jodi Kearns, MSLS, PhD, and Digital Projects Manager, picked up the story on how the process actually worked. First, AHAP provided APA with a list of all English language books in their catalog published in the United States or England up to 1963, while at the APA end, the lists were reviewed.

One dedicated APA Books employee, Kristen Knight, spent long hours researching copyrights at the Library of Congress for books published between 1923 and 1963. She and Editorial Director Mary Lynn Skutley ultimately made selections from both those and from books published prior to 1923. Once the selections were made, APA provided scanning services onsite at AHAP, and while Jodi managed the project, technicians, and students helping out.

Classic Books Content

APA and AHAP have partnered to digitize almost 2,000 public domain books, most of which are now available in PsycBOOKS Classic Books.

The use of PsycBOOKS and other electronic databases has enabled CHP to reach a much wider audience, one of its central goals. As Dave says, "Our whole mission is to make the record available and accessible to people. APA gives us the ability and resources to do something we couldn't get otherwise." Plus, notes Dave, "we get the database in perpetuity." And APA gets access to this incomparable resource. It's genuinely a win–win situation.

The briefest glance at the content gives a sense of the extraordinary materials available. The collection includes philosophical works that form the root of the science of psychology, such as Aristotle, Plato, and Aquinas, and the strains in Western thought that form the trunk, such as Descartes, Hobbs, and Spinoza. We have the earliest psychologists, such as James and Dewey. Scholars have shown great interest in the early experimental years, and PsycBOOKS now houses works by Titchener, Dodge, and Miles. Of course, we have works from Maslow, Milgram, Skinner, and Harlow. And the roster of names continues.

What's Next?

Where are we now? Though we are currently taking a break from adding more of CHP's material, there is still a wealth of material available. "We call it a mountain of uncataloged books. We haven't even been able to get to them all yet," says Jodi. "Yes. There are pallets full of books," says Dave. Like the warehouse in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark, they wait.

If you're interested in knowing more about PsycBOOKS submission process, please contact Olin Nettles.

We also have a series of podcasts on PsycBOOKS content.