University of Rochester Library Bulletin: The History of the University of Rochester Libraries--120 Years, Chp. 11

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

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Expansion of the Fifties

As the University entered the 1950's it chose a new president, Cornelis W. de Kiewiet, and elected to combine its men's and women's colleges on a single campus. It was under de Kiewiet's leadership that the image and character of the University changed vastly in the decade of the fifties from an essentially undergraduate institution to one with a growing concern for graduate teaching and research. At an extremely rapid pace, there was a growth in post baccalaureate commitments, and before the merger of the two colleges was fully completed, professional colleges of engineering, education, and business administration were instituted. President de Kiewiet and other University leaders pressed for additional programs in these specialities, and also for the development of new and advanced programs in the humanities and social sciences. Curriculum offerings also were enriched by the introduction of special studies on Canada and the non-western civilizations. All of this activity was given impetus by new faculty appointments in special fields, and by financial grants from government agencies, foundations, and industry. The full-time faculty at the River Campus nearly doubled, and ninety per cent of the entire teaching staff now held earned doctorates. By the end of the decade there were 1,200 full-time graduate students enrolled, almost double the number of 1950. These developments and special programs in turn created new demands on the library system, and Russell reported increased buying, not only in Canadian and nonwestern civilization studies, but also in anthropology, brain research, medical engineering, education, English, economics, Russian history, and many others. In addition to these pressures for new purchases, Russell had to stretch his book budget to cope with the post-war explosion in book publishing. 

When plans were made to merge the two University campuses in 1955, abandoning the Prince Street campus for women, Russell initiated his plans for the transferal of books from the women's college library to Rush Rhees, and the expansion of Rush Rhees to accommodate the approximately 100,000 volumes to come from Prince Street. To prepare for these additional volumes, the University provided funds to equip seven more levels in the River Campus library stacks, and to install a second elevator to serve the increased stack space. The library's total book capacity was thus brought to more than 600,000 volumes. For a brief time it was thought that this expansion would provide adequate library space. Russell and two faculty members estimated that "our space will last eleven years." What these three men did not anticipate was that in the years immediately following the merger the collection would grow by between twenty and twenty-five thousand volumes per year, instead of by only 15,000, as they had estimated. They also had hoped that certain non-library departments using space in the library would be moved to other buildings, but that hope was not to be realized. It appeared that there would be an earlier day of reckoning in regard to new library expansion, and by 1960 Russell told President de Kiewiet that a library addition would be "necessity within five years." 

There were a number of new library ventures in the time during and after the merger. The most radical change in methods of service to readers was the opening of the stacks to all of the students and employees of the University. The stacks had been opened on a limited basis, beginning with Gilchrist's administration. In 1955, however, there was a student and faculty demand for a freer policy, and it was observed that too large a staff would be necessary to operate the enlarged stacks on a closed basis. When the open stacks created the problem of an increasing number of "lost" or "missing" books, turnstiles were installed to control traffic in and out of the stacks. The use of turnstiles at first proved to be a traumatic experience for both patrons and staff, especially the custom of having students and faculty present their identification cards at the turnstiles to gain access to the stacks. 

One of the new library enterprises was the establishment of the University of Rochester Press. This was a project to publish, in microcard, titles in music education, medicine, library science, and Canadian studies. The emphasis was on out-of-print books and unpublished research materials. Among the early "best-sellers" were music scores and books published before 1701, the first fifty-five volumes of the Journal of the American Medical Association, and eleven monographs on Canadian history, economics, government, geology, and geography. The microprint project was originally funded with $45,000 and expected to last only two or three years. However, it functioned until the late 1960's and published more than 600 titles in all.

Library History continued >>