University of Rochester Library Bulletin: The History of the University of Rochester Libraries--120 Years, Chp. 7

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

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The Gilchrist Years

Donald B. GilchristDonald Bean Gilchrist arrived at the University in 1919. He was a graduate of Dartmouth College and the New York State Library School and had been at the University of Minnesota Library. Before coming to Rochester he served as librarian of the American Peace Commission at the Paris Peace Conference. 

The twenty years of Gilchrist's librarianship were years of amazing change and development in the University library; amazing when compared to the plodding growth of the previous seventy years. Under his leadership, the services became more sophisticated and extensive, and the collections more scholarly and more voluminous. He guided the development of the main University library, and of the Art Gallery, music, and medical libraries. At the same time, he planned the construction of a million dollar library on the University's new River Campus. 

Upon Gilchrist's arrival he discarded gently the suggestion that the University should limit its library collections to 100,000 volumes. He reported to President Rhees:

"The University has seen, in the last few years, an expansion in the fields covered by its curriculum. We have an Art Department which is growing and promises to grow larger. We have a School of Engineering which offers possibilities for development. We have a School of Music soon to be opened. We have a Department of Vital Economics which will search the whole field of medical literature in its studies and all these different departments, if they show the development which is expected, will make new and additional demands upon the Library. Should the Library be limited in size unless it is intended to definitely limit the University itself? 

"The future may very properly see other departments sprint; into life in the same way, departments of which at present there is no premonition: and every good book which is discarded because it is outside the field of instruction at present covered by the University, may mean an extra purchase later. 

"I believe that we must continue to discard material, but to limit ourselves at the present time to 100,000 volumes, or to set as a final, definite limit even a larger number, would mean, within a number of years, throwing away one book for every new book added. The time will never come, I believe, when this can be done. . . ."

As events have proved, Gilchrist understood his university and his library. As he once said, "There is not the slightest evidence to indicate early stabilization of higher education in America." In fact, during the 1920's two new University libraries were created under Gilchrist's direction. They were the Sibley Music Library and what was to become the Edward G. Miner Medical Library. 

Library History continued >>