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George A. Smathers Libraries History

Precursors: The College Libraries, 1853 - 1905


    Institutions forming the University of Florida included East Florida Seminary (Ocala, 1853-1866; Gainesville, 1866-1905), Florida Agricultural College (Lake City, 1884-1905), St. Petersburg Normal and Industrial School (St. Petersberg, 1893-1905), and South Florida Military and Educational College (Bartow, 1894-1905). The University of Florida thus traces its origin to the earliest of these institutions, the East Florida Seminary (1853), and the new UF library received books from its library. However, most of the new university?s original faculty and staff, including its first librarian and much of its library holdings, were acquired from the Florida Agricultural College and its Agricultural Experiment Station.

East Florida Seminary was established at Ocala in 1853, but moved to Gainesville in 1866. The Florida House committee on schools and colleges attempted to provide funds for a library as early as 1855, but it was not until 1884 that a library room was provided and books began accumulating. The library room was located on the second floor of the new building, along with the principal's office, the commandant's office, and a study hall. In 1884, the trustees invited book donations from the students, faculty, and citizens, while the seminary provided funding for a few periodical subscriptions. The head of the normal department, G. Y. Renfroe, was appointed librarian and a student was designated as an assistant librarian.The library had about 800 volumes. The reading-room was under the care of an association, of which every teacher and student could be a member - dues were one dollar a year. This library association was established in 1885/86 to bolster the limited success of efforts to solicit donations. By 1897/98 a reference-book room was also established in the barracks, the second of the seminary's buildings. The Library grew to include a large number of standard books on history, biography, travel, and general literature, as well as dictionaries, encyclopedias, gazetteers and atlases. There were also daily and weekly papers, educational papers, and magazines. Sometime around 1886, library supervision was turned over to the English faculty. No trained librarian was hired and the collection probably only reached about 1,000 books along with a few periodicals. Enrollment in 1904 was only 225, and the academic program was primarily that of a high school or preparatory school level. However, some college level classes were begun in 1878 and the first Bachelor of Arts degrees were conferred in 1882. Nevertheless, the college program wasn't fully implemented until 1901. Whatever the University of Florida acquired from this library was probably insignificant and no doubt duplicated to some extent what was in the larger Florida Agricultural College library.

    St. Petersburg Normal and Industrial School, established in 1893, began its library in 1895 when a winter resident of the city donated a set of encyclopedias. As time went by, others donated books or money for the purchase of books. A two-story building included a library, in addition to an assembly hall and seven classrooms. In 1902, the library was moved into a new building to house the normal school. At this time there were about 1,000 volumes, an amount that increased to an unknown extent through the expenditure of $1,400 during the next few years. The equipment of the school, except for some of the library volumes, was turned over to the St. Petersburg public school system. Thus, an undetermined number of the library books made their way to the University of Florida.The librarian was Grace Edwards, who also supervised the study hall. Books were cataloged by a fixed shelf system. Edwards worked to improve the services of the library and made it available as much as possible to the students.

    South Florida Military and Educational College was established at Bartow in 1894. A small library and reading room were opened in 1904, but the students were only allowed to use it during their leisure hours. Although little is known about the library holdings, it is doubtful that it was a significant collection considering its short life span.

    Florida Agricultural College was established at Lake City in 1884. Unlike the other educational institutions, all of which received only state funding, the Florida Agricultural College also received funds from the federal government. Several federal laws were responsible for this funding support: the First Morrill Act (Land Grant Act / Land Scrip Act) of 1862 for the establishment of agricultural and mechanical (land grant A&M) colleges in each state; the Hatch Act of 1887 for the establishment of agricultural experiment stations at each of the A&M colleges for the purpose of research and experimentation (as distinct from education); the Second Morrill Act of 1890 for the establishment of black A&M colleges and better funding of all A&M colleges; the Adams Act of 1906 for additional funding of agricultural experiment station research; and the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 for the establishment of agricultural extension services for the purpose of outreach programs in the rural communities.

    To supplement the Florida Agricultural College, the Agricultural Experiment Station was established in 1887. The college was responsible for agricultural and general education while the station concentrated on agricultural research and experimentation. Faculty and staff served both the college and the station. At times the president of the college and the director of the station were combined into one position and at other times they were separated. Both the college and the station had libraries. The emphasis of the college library was on texts, literature, and the sciences. The emphasis of the station library was on the publications of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state agriculture departments, land grant colleges, and other agricultural research programs. The need for these libraries was recognized by the Florida legislature as early as a year after the College opened, but it was two more years before funding was made available. By 1889 there were 1,000-2,000 volumes, but like the other schools, these books were mostly donated. However, more money was forthcoming and by 1898 there were about 3,600 bound volumes and some 3,000 pamphlets and government documents. At the time of its move to the new UF campus in 1905 the collection had reached about 4,000 volumes.

    The following library regulations were in force at the turn of the century:conversation in the library that would disturb those reading was prohibited; cadets could take books from the library during release from quarters when the library was open and keep them in their possession for one week, but were not allowed to have more than one book at a time and could not take out a book a second time if someone else wanted it; cadets were not allowed in the library during call to quarters except by special permission of the Commandant; no person could lend a book which he had drawn from the library; and clippings from any of the papers of the reading room could not be taken by any cadet or other person. Restrictions were eased after 1902 when it was announced that the library was to be administered in the belief that it exists for the students. Consequently, every means was employed to facilitate and encourage their constant use of its resources with as little restriction as was compatible with the proper handling and preservation of the books.

    The first librarian was a student, J. E. Futch (from 1889 until he graduated) who was followed by another student, W. W. Flournoy. In 1894, E. E. Keller (a mathematics instructor) became the librarian. He was followed by Harcy C. Croom (an assistant in the wood working shop). Upon graduation in 1896, W. W. Flournoy again became the librarian (as well as an assistant in mathematics). In 1897/98 D. S. Butler was the librarian, followed by Miss Lucia McCulloch (a biology student) in 1898. In 1900/01 the Librarian and Mailing Clerk was Virginia M. Wigfield. In 1901, the Stenographer, Miss Minnie Helvenston, and the Assistant Biologist, Lucia McCulloch, shared the librarian duties. Miss Minnie Helvenston, Station Librarian and Stenographer, resigned in 1902 and C. S. Brock (a graduate of the college) became the Station Librarian and Stenographer. Lucia McCulloch, Assistant Biologist and Assistant Librarian resigned in 1903, as did C. S. Brock. A. L. Clayton was appointed in 1903. In 1903/04 Albert Tyler was Stenographer and Librarian. About this time, James M. Farr, Professor of English and German took an interest in the library that would last throughout his tenure with the college and the university. In 1904, Professor Farr became the Librarian and C. A. Finley, Superintendent of Grounds and Mess Hall, became the Assistant Librarian. Edward R. Flint, Chemist, also took and interest in the library, helping to catalog and move the collection, as well as putting it in order after it arrived at the university.

    W. S. Cawthon served as Librarian, as well as an instructor in mathematics during 1905. In addition, he was responsible for packing the college and station property and shipping it to the new university campus. The citizens of Lake City were not happy about losing the college to Gainesville, and several injunctions were filed. A Lake City policeman was sent to the college to enforce the injunctions and block the move, but without success. W. S. Cawthon was a man of powerful physique, determination, and courage, as well as a crack shot. When the packing had finally been completed, the crates were loaded onto wagons on 23 July and taken to the Lake City railroad station. Professor Cawthon rode in the first wagon with a loaded rifle across his knees, while the faculty members rode in the other wagons, and the laborers followed. The crowds, like the police, presented little trouble and the crates were soon on their way to Gainesville. To complete the Lake City move, the College and Experiment Station libraries were moved to a room in Thomas Hall. In 1905, C. A. Finley became Librarian at the Main Library and H. T. Perkins became Librarian at the Agriculture Library.

History by Vernon N. Kisling, Jr.

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