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George A. Smathers Libraries History

First Library and Professional Development, 1918 - 1937


    Cora Miltimore became the university’s first professionally educated librarian on 1 November 1918. She was hired by university president Albert A. Murphree on the recommendation of R. E. Chandler, an engineering professor and a member of the Library Committee, who had known her when she was a librarian at Oklahoma State University. Miltimore received her B.S. degree from Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Oklahoma A&M University) in 1895 and a library certificate from the University of Iowa in 1906. In addition, she took a special course in government documents at Earlham College in 1909, studied library science at the University of Washington in 1916, and took correspondence courses from the University of Oregon. From 1900 to 1902 she was Assistant Librarian at Oklahoma A&M College and then Librarian there from 1902-1914. She was then Librarian at Pacific University (Fort Grove, Oregon) from 1914-1917. She worked for the federal government in Oklahoma from 1917-1918.

    When Miltimore came to the university in 1918 there were less than 500 students and the library had about 20,000 books and 130 periodicals. The library consisted of one room and a small office on the first floor of Peabody Hall, and the library staff consisted of student assistants. There was little seating available and the students often had to sit on the floor. Dr. Enwall taught a psychology class across the hall and allowed its use for seating when he wasn?t using it for class. The academic departments, coordinated by the Library Committee, had charge of the book and periodical budgets.

    One reason (perhaps a primary reason) for hiring a professional librarian was a recognized need to develop a professional library, including the planning and building of a library building. In 1923, Miltimore was sent to the University of Michigan to study their modern library building. Upon her return, she worked with the university architects and oversaw the planning and construction of the university?s first library building. This building opened in September 1925, in time for Fall classes. The library collection had reached 40,000 books (most of which were housed in the new Library building) and 285 periodicals, as well as numerous federal and state documents. The Library was constructed in the university?s Tudor-Gothic architecture in order to conform to the other campus buildings. It contained a reference room, reserve reading room and offices. While Miltimore considered this Library to be one of the best in the South, it was only the first unit of the original plan. Due to the high cost of construction, the other units of the original plan (two wings, one for a periodicals reading room and one for a stack room) could not be built.

    With a new building, an increasing collection, and a larger staff, 1925/26 was a time for organizational development. Assistant librarian positions had recently been created and the Library was finally organized into departments, starting with the Cataloging, Circulation and Reference Departments. It may have also been around this time that Miltimore?s title evolved from Librarian to University Librarian to distinguish the director from the other librarians. Reports in the early 1930s were from the University Librarian, although the signatures at the end of the reports still had the title Librarian. The library also acquired its first special collection, the donated Rev. Rees W. Edwards Memorial Collection for religion and philosophy (consisting of about 250 volumes).

    After several librarian changes at the Agriculture Library, Ida K. Cresap became librarian in 1923, remaining until 1963. During her 40 years as librarian, the collection grew from 2,000 to 500,000 volumes. In addition to her many duties, she found time to create an agricultural classification scheme (a modified version of the scheme used at the time by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Library), compile a Catalog of the Official Publications of the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station and Florida Agricultural Extension Service, 1888-1937 (a publication of the UF Agricultural Experiment Station) and write The History of Florida Agriculture: The Early Era (an unpublished typescript that the Hume Library staff copied and bound in 1982, and the Digital Library has now made available electronically).

    A 1925/26 state survey of 33 state university libraries indicated the average dollar amount spent per student on books to be $5.46, but the university was only spending $2.11. In addition, the university had less than one-third the volumes per student as other Florida university libraries. At 24 of these 33 libraries, the librarians were given faculty rank and pay, and Miltimore recommended this privilege be extended to the UF librarians who were Department Heads. Sometime between this recommendation and 1940, the librarians achieved faculty status. Henrie Eddy, Head of the Reference Department (who would become the Acting University Librarian after Miltimore retired) was granted a leave of absence to study at Columbia University, receiving her MS degree in Library Science. By the early 1930s, all members of the Library staff belonged to the Florida Library Association, the Southeastern Library Association, and the American Library Association. They also served on several association committees and attended library conferences.

    One of the originally planned wings for the Main Library was finally added in 1931 to serve as a much needed stack area. With a continually growing collection that now housed 60,000 books, the new wing provided a book capacity of 200,000 volumes. Initially the new stack wing was a closed stack area, so a browsing collection of some 1,500 books was placed in the reading room for the benefit of the undergraduates. There was also seating for 750-800 students and carrels for 48 faculty and graduate students. An Exchange Division was created providing an exchange program with other national universities and scientific societies, as well as institutions in France, England and Italy. Participation in a national interlibrary loan program also began, with 62 books borrowed and 18 loaned during 1932-34. Space was made available in 1933 for a Florida Room to house Florida publications and materials, a possible second special collection and a precursor to the Florida History Collection.

    In the early 1930s there were library exhibits, while reading lists and bibliographies were prepared for faculty and students. Freshmen were given a series of lectures on library use during their orientation week. In addition, each section of the Freshman English course received an hour of class instruction in library methods. Special instruction courses on library use were also arranged at the request of faculty. The 1930s was a difficult decade for the Library. Although the staff had increased to seven, a Survey of Land Grant Colleges and Universities recommended libraries have a certain number of librarians based on a prescribed staff per student enrollment formula, and this worked out to 17 staff for the university library. This lack of staff at the library was made up for through the use of student assistants.

    Book budgets were lagging behind as well. There were drastic cuts in the book budget during the early 1930s as the depression worsened and student enrollment fell. And some of these meager book monies were used to maintain periodical and Florida newspaper subscriptions because during the depression magazine and newspaper publishers printed very few extra copies and it would be too difficult, if not impossible, to catch up with missing issues should these subscriptions be dropped and restarted later on. Fortunately, a number of book and periodical gifts were made to the Library, including many rare books.

    To meet the needs of a new General College and Department of Forestry (1934/35), books for the new courses were placed on the open shelves of the Reserve Reading Room and publications were collected from each of the state?s forestry departments. A couple of years later (1937) a separate forestry library was established (which was eventually shifted to the Agriculture Library in 1956). The Library?s depository of current federal government documents housed the only complete collection of these documents in the southernmost states of Alabama, South Carolina and Florida, although the collection had incomplete runs of the earlier documents which the library staff was in the process of obtaining. Florida related publications and materials were increasingly in demand and every effort was made to improve the Florida collection. As part of this effort, the Florida Mapping Authority provided the library with a copy of every map it produced, which greatly added to the small state map collection then in existence.

    The continuing lack of book funds was overcome to some extent through donations and exchanges. An attempt was also made to collect all state publications from the five states of the Lower South (normally, only state agriculture publications were collected). Due to the lack of staff and budgets, outside funding was found to carry out a number of routine and special projects. Time was even found to oil all the leather bound books. Staff changes occurred, with two leaving to pursue further studies and one to get married. In addition, Miltimore took six months leave of absence in 1936 due to ill health. Miltimore soon retired for health reasons in October 1937 and moved to Highlands, North Carolina [but spent the winters in Jacksonville, Florida and occasionally in Galveston, San Francisco and Santa Fe - in 1960 she moved to Jacksonville where she remained until her death in 1976].

History by Vernon N. Kisling, Jr.

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