Yale science and social science library has a new endowment — and a new name

Newly renamed in honor of the Marx family’s support, the Marx Library will support key university initiatives in science and social science.
Young Family Study space

The two-story Young Family Study space serves as the main entrance of the newly named Marx Science and Social Science Library. (Photo credit: Mara Lavitt)

A four-generation Yale family has created a permanent endowment for Yale University Library’s Center for Science and Social Science Information — a gift that will support key university initiatives in the sciences and social sciences. The center, which will continue to be located in Kline Tower, will be renamed Marx Science and Social Science Library in honor of the Marx family’s support of Yale libraries.

The gift was spearheaded by Nancy Marx Better ’84, chair of the University Library Council, a longtime Yale leadership volunteer, and a 2019 recipient of the Yale Medal.

From the preservation of rare books and other cultural treasures to acquisition and management of massive data sets, Yale’s libraries are at the heart of the university’s educational mission — and never more so than in these unprecedented circumstances,” Better said. “We hope that our family’s gift will both sustain and raise awareness of the library’s critical role in teaching and scholarship.”

The renamed Marx Library is home to 12 research support librarians, who serve as liaisons to 26 science and social science departments and four professional schools. Library staff provide research assistance based on deep expertise in science and social science research methods and content, data management, statistical analysis tools and methods, and geographic information systems (GIS). Through its subject, data, GIS, and statistical analysis experts, its central location on Science Hill, and its unique collections of physical and digital information, the library has a key supporting role in Yale’s science strategy as well as the initiative to support data-intensive social science, in which empirical methods and data are applied to public policy and social issues.

The support of the Marx family, and Nancy’s leadership role in particular, have strengthened Yale’s libraries over many years,” said Susan Gibbons, the Stephen F. Gates ’68 University Librarian and vice provost for collections and scholarly communication. “It is fitting that this latest example of their generosity will strengthen a Yale library that is providing vital strategic support, both now and well into the future, for the university’s leadership in the sciences and social sciences.”

Marx Library provides work, study, and teaching space in close proximity to the two new colleges and the new Yale Science Building, opened in 2019. The library oversees two classrooms in its home space in Kline Tower, as well as two additional classrooms in Rosenkranz Hall and at 17 Hillhouse Ave. Marx Library offers more than 200 individual study seats, reservable group study rooms, presentation practice and video-conferencing rooms, a map room, a seminar room, and 26 high-end workstations outfitted with specialized statistical analysis software.

The university is planning a renovation of Kline Tower, a project that will bring the Departments of Math, Statistics and Data Science, and Astronomy into the tower and provide strategic proximity to the library. The renovation will allow for an increase to the library’s footprint, creating a collaborative workspace for specialists in data, statistical support, and GIS services.

With physical library spaces currently closed as part of the university’s COVID-19 response, Marx Library staff have pivoted to providing online research consultations by phone and Zoom, identifying and accessing online resources, and providing virtual library instruction, said Jill Parchuck, associate university librarian for science, social science, and medicine.

In recent days, for example, GIS librarian Miriam Olivares consulted with a School of Medicine team looking at the spread of COVID-19, with a graduate student mapping a forest trail, and with an economics department team doing research on urban rental markets. Business librarians Erin Wachowicz and Rashelle Nagar worked with School of Management and other faculty members to identify alternatives to critical business databases that, under current licensing agreements, may not be accessed from off-campus. Lori Bronars, life sciences librarian, provided advice on authoritative publishing options to researchers at Yale and around the world, while also collaborating with Gwyneth Crowley, librarian for economics, statistics and data science, and psychology, on a forthcoming online exhibit called “Women in Science and Engineering at Yale: 2020.” Data librarian Barbara Esty provided remote access to large data sets for researchers working from home.

Marx Library is also home to Yale University Library’s extensive government information services, which include paper, electronic, and microform resources. Yale University Library has been a designated U.S. federal depository since 1859, making Yale a key node in the government’s system for ensuring that materials published by the government are preserved and made freely accessible to researchers and the general public. Yale’s U.S. government collection includes some materials that date back as far as 1789. The library is also a depository for Canadian, United Nations, European Union, and Food and Agriculture Organization documents.

rare maps
The library is home to Yale’s contemporary map collections and library staff providing expert support for geographic information systems (GIS) technology. (Photo credit: Mara Lavitt)

A particularly active area of the library’s support involves the technology and techniques of GIS, which are being applied to a wide range of research in public health, medicine, the environment, policy, business, and historical research. Marx Library is also home to Yale’s contemporary map collections, complementing the university library’s extensive collection of older and rare maps housed in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Marx Library supports four professional schools: the School of Management, the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. The 26 disciplines and majors supported by the library are: anthropology; applied sciences; astronomy; biological sciences; business; chemistry; computer science; data science; ecology and evolutionary biology; engineering; environmental studies; forestry; earth and planetary science; life sciences; linguistics; management; mathematics; physics; economics; global affairs; government information; political science; psychology, sociology; statistics; and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies.

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Bess Connolly : elizabeth.connolly@yale.edu,