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Collection Development @ SJSU Library

Collection Development Policy of the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies

Last Updated: August 2018


The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, founded by San Jose State Professor Martha Heasley Cox in 1971, is an educational and research enterprise devoted to the author John Steinbeck. The Mission of the Center is to promote awareness of John Steinbeck’s life and work through publications, conferences, programs, outreach to schools, and presentations and tours of the facility. The Center promotes scholarly work on Steinbeck through activities such as its journal, its website, and other publications, by supporting the Steinbeck Fellows, by aiding researchers, and by working closely with other institutions and archives to facilitate archival cooperation.

Programs Supported

The Steinbeck Center is an organized research unit within the College of Humanities and the Arts. It supports programs within the English Department and is a special collection housed in the San Jose State University Library. Its objective is to build and maintain a comprehensive non-circulating collection of resource materials of all mediums. These materials support the general curriculum of San Jose State and are available to Steinbeck scholars, researchers, students at all levels, Steinbeck enthusiasts, and the public at large. The various archival and photographic collections provide primary resources supporting graduate studies in history, literature, education, philosophy, and communication.  The photographic collection also provides primary visual information that is often a resource for both research and publication.

Existing Resources

A bibliography of primary and secondary materials collected to support research is available through the Center’s web page. The Steinbeck photograph database is available through the King Library Digital Collections catalog.  While the Center for Steinbeck Studies collects materials out of the scope of the University Library, Steinbeck’s primary works, Steinbeck biographies, and many criticisms and secondary source materials are found in the University and Public Libraries general collection through the University and Public Library catalogs.


The Center for Steinbeck Studies Board of Directors oversee all actions of the Center including acquisitions and the focus of collection development. While some areas of the collection duplicates materials found in the University Library and the San Jose Public Library, the Steinbeck Center does not actively coordinate acquisitions with other departments. Recommendations received by the Center to pursue the acquisition of materials are vetted with the archivist and pursuant to the Board’s directions.

Materials Collected

The Center for Steinbeck Studies is an organized research unit dedicated to the life and works of John Steinbeck. All levels of materials are collected from elementary level to scholarly dissertations. The Center’s collection consists foremost of monographic materials written by the author, this includes first editions, foreign editions, translations, anthologies and those new editions and printings that vary significantly from past editions in content and cover art.  Also collected are books, periodicals, serials, and journals that contain contributions Steinbeck made, such as introductions, prefaces, essays, and short stories. Literary criticisms, manuscripts, biographies, newsletters, dissertations, theses, and other general monographs along with periodicals, serials, and journals focusing on Steinbeck are held, including The Steinbeck Newsletter, Steinbeck Studies, Steinbeck Quarterly, Steinbeck Review and Steinbeck Studies of Japan.

Materials concentrating on Steinbeck’s subjects such as migrant workers, local history, and the 1930s depression era are collected along with pictorial books and items focusing on the King City/Salinas/Monterey area known as Steinbeck Country. In addition to written works by and about Steinbeck, the Center houses audiovisual materials including CDs, DVDs, film, video cassette recordings, audio cassette recordings, and phonographic recordings.   

Photographic prints and negatives containing images of John Steinbeck, his family and friends, travels, production stills from films based on Steinbeck’s works, places Steinbeck lived, conference meetings, interviews, works of art, and photographs of historical significance are found here. Landscape photographs of the Salinas Valley, Monterey, and Pacific Grove and photographs of Steinbeck Center events, people, and Center exhibitions are collected. Objects and pictorial materials that portray Steinbeck, his family, his contemporaries and his novel subjects are also collected. Items used for exhibit, publication, and study purposes such as statues, busts, original artwork, photographs, and stamps, as well as personal belongings and memorabilia of Steinbeck, are all archived.

The Steinbeck Center maintains a growing bibliography of secondary source articles and books, as well as film and play reviews. When available the Center collects and makes available to researchers the full text of primary and secondary articles listed in the bibliography. Information on the history and programs of the Steinbeck Center which include photographs and articles about the Center’s activities, awards given by the Center, and recorded readings and materials published by the Steinbeck Fellows are also collected.  Photographs and information on The Steinbeck Festival, held at the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, and the International Steinbeck Conference at San Jose State are kept.

Special materials include: landscape art, sculpture, portraiture, manuscripts, museum objects, posters, graphics, and ephemera. Current and retrospective materials, geographic areas, and chronological periods, with the main focus on the period of Steinbeck’s lifetime and his subsequent influences are archived.

Ephemera related to John Steinbeck, his works, his family and friends are collected. Included are advertisements, magazines, movie posters, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, playbills, postcards, press kits, programs, scrapbooks, stamps, and tickets and scripts of movie and play adaptations.

Originals and photocopies of letters written and signed by Steinbeck and letters sent to Steinbeck from notable and well-known people are archived.

Multiple copies of primary source materials are archived as they add special value to the collection. Multiple copies of secondary source materials are generally not collected unless they add a special value. The Center does not regularly de-accession materials from the collection. Currently, multiple copies of primary source and selected secondary source materials are moved to the storage vault and multiple copies of some secondary source materials has been moved to the general collection of the University and Public Libraries.

Collection Strengths

The depth of the Steinbeck Center collection offers a positive value to students, researchers and others working to understand the craft of professional writing.  Following the evolution of John Steinbeck as a writer highlights the obstacles most will face in a writing career. Discussions of his writing style, his approach to the work, and his working process illuminate the day to day struggles of any artist and offers examples of how to keep focus, overcome self-doubt and continue to produce. In addition, Steinbeck’s letters and journals afford an eyewitness account of local history and the politics of the times.

Evaluation of Collection

Steinbeck Center is an archive, whose mission is to build, maintain, and preserve a comprehensive collection of Steinbeck related materials. Evaluation of the Center’s collection is focused on identifying missing materials and determining preservation and space needs.