The purpose of this article is to describe the scope and depth of the historic corporate annual report collections in twelve academic/research libraries in North America. For many decades, a few major academic business libraries have been collecting and preserving corporate Annual Reports (ARS), the reports sent to shareholders documenting the financial status and future plans of the company. Today these historic collections provide more than a record of the companies’ finances; they provide a glimpse into the social and cultural thoughts from the past and the corporate stories of individual companies. Digitization of these reports has only just begun; so, except for fewer than 900 companies (most of which have been on the Fortune 500 list), the companies included in these historic annual report collections are not available electronically. The combined collection of the twelve libraries includes reports from nearly 38,000 different companies. Stanford, Harvard, and Western Ontario have the largest collections. Harvard and Columbia have collections with significant historic depth, while Purdue has a collection with important late–twentieth-century holdings. The overlap of the collections is much smaller than was anticipated. The two largest collections, Stanford with over 18,000 companies and Harvard with over 11,000 companies, have only 3,668 companies in common. The overlap of companies between the largest five collections is only thirty-three companies. This research identifies these collections as unique and therefore valuable to the study of specific company histories and the industrial development in North America. Librarians need to preserve these collections and work toward digitizing them.


Corporate Annual Reports, Annual Reports to Shareholders, ARS, Company Research, Libraries, Collection development, Special collections, ARCHIVAL materials, Digitization, HISTORY, Collection development

Published in:

College & Research Libraries, vol. 71 no. 6, 525-531

Date of this Version