University of Rochester Library Bulletin: The History of the University of Rochester Libraries--120 Years, Chp. 5

Volume XXV · Spring 1970 · Number 3
The History of the University of Rochester Libraries--120 Years

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The New Century

Rush Rhees, who assumed the presidency in 1900, took early note of the "grave need of books" to support the new curriculum. He sounded a warning that the library must develop as the school would, from a good, regional college into an authentic university. But, it was not until the academic year 1908-1909 when Rhees was on a sabbatical, that the urgency of the situation was finally communicated to the trustees, by the acting president, Professor Burton:

"The annual appropriation for books, periodicals, and binding is $2,000. Of this amount $550 are expended for periodicals, chiefly of a technical character, covering all departments of learning-languages, science, mathematics, history, philosophy, etc. Such periodicals are the most valuable part of a library intended for students and teachers, as they contain the first results of the most recent investigations. Our periodical list is meagre, but it contains the best journal in every line of English, French, and German. 

"It is easy to see that the amount per capita that each teacher controls is very small, between $25 and $100, according to the number and general character of books needed by the several departments. This sum, $1,000, has remained unchanged for nearly twenty years, while the number of teachers and the number of students have almost doubled, and the number of courses of instruction have increased nearly threefold. 

"Obviously on such an income no department can supply itself with all the important books that appear annually upon the subjects which it covers. Only the most indispensable and inexpensive works can be obtained. The limitation falls most heavily on the departments of literature, history, economics, philosophy and education; for they possess no expensively equipped laboratories in which the chief work of investigation is carried on. The college library is their only laboratory; books their only instruments of research. From the standpoint of these departments in particular, as well as upon general grounds, I feel justified in urging the importance of a large increase in the amount of money devoted to the purchase of books. There is at least equal need of increased expenditures in the administration of the library. . . ."

When President Rhees returned, he accepted this challenge and called upon friends of the University to provide new library endowments. Some endowments, as well as gifts of books, were forthcoming. Though relatively small by today's standards, and even by the standards of the older and larger universities of the day, all of these gifts had a snowball effect on the small college library, and by 1916 there were more than 71,000 volumes on the shelves. In 1909 Charles M. Williams, trustee of the University, established a $3,000 library and museum fund bearing the name of Lewis Henry Morgan, the "father of American anthropology." In 1914 came the Milo Gifford Kellogg fund of $25,000, and the Harkness Fund of $1,500, both designated specifically for the library. The important astronomical and nautical library of Admiral William Harkness, some 3,000 volumes and pamphlets, came through a bequest in 1907. The Lewis Henry Morgan library and some 20,000 pages of anthropological manuscripts, came in 1909. Herman LeRoy Fairchild, professor of geology and natural history, gave his personal geological library to the University in 1907. Francis R. Welles, an alumnus who gave generously to the library until his death in 1937, and who had given $500 in 1902, sent a large consignment of books from England in 1908. Another alumnus, Charles A. Brown, presented his extensive autograph collection, and added to it materially for many years afterward. The professors and students also made their contribution. A group of younger professors, Lawrence Packard and Dexter Perkins of history; Raymond Dexter Havens of English and Ewald Eiserhardt, professor of German, were the leaders in a movement to abandon textbooks in favor of sending students to the library for research. Packard then initiated a plan whereby fees were paid by history students instead of requiring the students to purchase textbooks. These fees were applied to the purchase of duplicate volumes or single books for undergraduate use. At one time five or six departments used this method of augmenting their library appropriations, and the total collected from 1913 to 1937 amounted to $21,000 which added great numbers of valuable materials to the library collections. 

By 1913 the University had the first of one of its several special libraries, an art library housed in the Memorial Art Gallery which was given to the University by Mrs. James Sibley Watson of Rochester, daughter of Hiram Sibley, donor of Sibley Hall, as a memorial to her son, James G. Averell. 

Interest in art as part of the University's curriculum could be traced to the days of President Anderson when he gave public and college lectures in the field and purchased art books for the library. At his death he bequeathed a notable collection of lithographs and etchings to the University. The University also had received, in 1879, the gift of $5,000 worth of illustrated art works from Elias Lyman Magoon, a Philadelphia clergyman who was a well-known collector of books and connoisseur of art. All of these materials and other collections of art books and materials in the field of archaeology were transferred to the new gallery from Sibley Hall in 1913, and were made available for college art classes and also for the research purposes of the gallery staff. A curator of books and prints was added to the library staff to administer this collection. The collections of the art library grew to a total of more than 14,000 volumes by 1955, when all but selected research materials were transferred to the University's combined women's and men's library on the River Campus. 

The last of the professor-librarians in these early years of the twentieth century was Charles Hoeing, professor of Latin and later dean of the College for Men. He was replaced by another faculty committee of Professor Burton, and William C. Morey, professor of history and political science, and even later, by another committee of Professors Charles Wright Dodge, John Rothwell Slater and Hoeing. Efforts were made to enlist more library assistants, and one of those employed was Mrs. Jane C. Rich, the first woman to serve in the library. She was appointed at the turn of the century and served faithfully as assistant librarian and cataloger, but it was the circumstances of her sad demise while shelving books in the library, that guaranteed her a prominent place in the library lore. The shock of this event led the University to close its doors for a day out of respect and admiration for the work of Mrs. Rich, and brought resolutions of appreciation for "her grace and quiet cheerfulness in the face of not a little of life's sadness" from trustees and faculty. 

Library History continued >>