Founding of the College

John Jay College of Criminal Justice was founded in 1964, originally located at the Police Academy building (E. 20th St.). From the start, the Library was a major part of the college, occupying 3,085 square feet of the Police Academy building. The sole librarian, Howard D. Washburn, was tasked with building a library collection from scratch. To begin, he asked the teaching faculty, then numbering 33, to recommend materials that focused on police science, criminology, public administration, and law. By 1967, two more librarians were hired, and the collection had grown to over 5,000 titles. The Library also made arrangements with the New York Police Department and other criminal justice agencies to become the depository for annual reports, patrol guides, and other materials. With the goal of becoming the largest collection of its kind in the country, the librarians planned to acquire 30,000 volumes and 300-500 periodicals by 1970.

Expanding collections

As John Jay increased enrollment and the Library's collection swelled to over 52,000 holdings, the Police Academy building was deemed too small to contain the Library. Half of the Library's collection was moved to 360 Park Ave. South on the 17th floor, with another small portion on the top floor of the Strand Bookshop. In 1974, under the leadership of Chief Librarian Carol Alexander, the Library moved to North Hall, enjoying over 35,000 square feet. The librarians now numbered twelve, and the collection by 1977 boasted over 100,000 books, periodicals, and other materials. Under Chief Librarian Eileen Rowland's leadership, the Library pushed to catalog everything, including newsletters, reports, and other ephemera.

Move to Haaren Hall

The Library moved to Haaren Hall in 1988. It was the building's focal point, emphasizing John Jay's commitment to higher education. By this time, the Library had amassed the world's largest criminal justice collection, with holdings numbering over 260,000 items, with new materials—particularly Special Collections—added all the time. The Library engaged in substantial projects, including the microfilming of over 3,000 trial transcripts, funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. As Marilyn Lutzker took the reins as Chief Librarian, other considerable projects took off, including cataloging annual reports of over 500 criminal justice agencies, as well as more documents from police and fire agencies.

In December 1991, the Library was renamed the Lloyd George Sealy Library, in honor of one of John Jay's most respected faculty members. The Library's holdings continued to expand as it focused on collecting more international criminal justice materials as well as spectacular rare books, under the direction of current Chief Librarian Larry Sullivan, previously the Chief of Rare Books and Special Collections at the Library of Congress. During this time, the Library also began to focus on becoming a technological center for the College, setting up computer workstations, a wireless internet environment, and significantly expanding its digital holdings and subscriptions.

The Library today

With over 500,000 books, periodicals, media, films, microforms, and digital collections, the Library supports the full range of John Jay College’s curriculum and educational mission. The Library continues to hold the world's most comprehensive collection of criminal justice materials. 

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Adapted from: Egan, Nancy (2007). The Lloyd Sealy Library of John Jay College of Criminal Justice: Academic Library, Special Library, or Both?. Behavioral & Social Sciences Librarian, 25(2), 1-22.