Skip to Search


George A. Smathers Libraries Home Page

George A. Smathers Libraries History

Wartime Era, 1937 - 1946


    With Cora Miltimore?s retirement, Henrie May Eddy (Head, Reference Department) took over as the Acting University Librarian in 1937 and served in this capacity until her death in August 1939. Miss Eddy was traveling to Brazil in an effort to increase the Libraries Latin American holdings (to support an academic program begun at the university in the 1930s - a Latin American reading room at the UF Institute for Inter-American Affairs would eventually develop into an extensive Latin American special collection within the libraries) when the plane crashed near Rio de Janeiro. Walter B. Hill took over as University Librarian on 1 September 1939, serving until 1944. Due to the increasing size of the collection, an Order (Acquisition) Librarian was hired and an Order Department established in 1937. Anne Richardson, Acting Reference Librarian and Mary Hause, Acting Cataloger both had degrees in library studies, while Marian Youngs was on leave to further her studies.

    Changes in the curriculum and methods of instruction emphasized reading and increased the use of the library. Because of this, a checkout program was instituted on 28 February 1938 (previously the books had to be used in the library). Only one book per student was allowed, with most books only going out over night and some over the weekend. Interlibrary loans were also increasing, up to 103 books were borrowed during 1937-38, while 32 books were sent out on loan. Friends of the University of Florida Library was a support group started in the fall of 1937, it having been initiated by an interested member of the English Department. Some 253 members joined and they provided 385 gifts to the Library. Many other gifts were received as well, in particular materials from the Florida Historical Survey and State Archives Division.

    In 1940, the University of Florida President established a Library Survey Committee in order to determine the Library?s relationship to the university, the State and the region; to determine how it needed to improve its organization and administration; to formulate a plan of library development; and to indicate means by which Library resources could be used more effectively. The American Library Association (ALA offered to survey university libraries beginning in 1936 and the University of Florida was the fourth to be surveyed) appointed the following committee members: Louis R. Wilson (Chairman), Dean, Graduate Library School, University of Chicago; A. Frederick Kuhlman, Director, Joint University Libraries, Vanderbilt University; and Guy R. Lyle, Librarian, Woman?s College, University of North Carolina. These were some of the foremost librarians of their day and they produced a comprehensive 120 page report on the Library.

    Recommendations of the University of Florida Library survey are summarized here since they provide insight on what was, or was not, being done at the time: administrative control for all campus libraries should be centralized; the University Librarian should represent the library on university administrative and policy-making committees; the Library Committee should be informative and advisory rather than administrative; the library building is inadequate in space for stacks, workers or students; enlargement of other libraries, particularly the Agricultural Experiment Station Library and the Chemistry-Pharmacy Library, was also needed; the University Librarian should be in charge of budget matters for all campus libraries; allocation of a unified book fund should be made by the University Librarian with advice from the Library Committee and through consultations with university deans and department heads; deficiencies in the book collection, reference collection, and back files of journals in support of the graduate program needed to be remedied; the library did not have sufficient reading space or the books essential to adequately support the general college (undergraduate) program; additional staff needed to be hired and the salaries needed to be increased; although all the librarians had faculty status, their ranking, vacation, retirement and sabbatical leave needed to be clarified; a union catalog listing the holdings of all campus libraries was needed; provision should be made for prompt delivery of materials between campus libraries; and the library should assume responsibility for promoting the extension of library service to those taking correspondence or extension courses and to rural communities.

    Technology began encroaching upon library routines in 1941 with the use of International Business Machine sorting equipment and punch cards to handle circulation and fine records. Only three other universities were using this equipment at the time although the use of these machines in libraries had been discussed in the literature since 1939. For circulation purposes, three kinds of information were kept on each card: information on the book, due dates, and the individual who checked out the book. Alphabetical Accounting Machines (used jointly with the registrar?s office) kept track of fines and send monthly statements to the individuals owing the fines. This system was modified over the years and was still in use through the 1970s.

    During 1941/42 there were 14 librarians and 40 student assistants. Circulation and the loan periods increased (faculty loan periods increasing to one semester), as did interlibrary loans. Fines were levied for late books. The Library became a State Depository (for State documents) in 1941, receiving 50 copies of each document for exchange with other states. The Library also became a member of the Duplicate Exchange Union, which circulated lists of duplicate materials among 168 libraries. A Documents Department was created in 1943 when a Documents Librarian was hired (however, it may not have been an independent or separate department until 1955).

    Philip K. Yonge?s son Julian donated his family?s Floridiana collection in 1944 establishing the P. K. Yonge Library of Florida History. An existing collection of Floridiana (organized into a Florida Room in 1933) was integrated into the new Yonge collection in 1945, which was originally housed in the Law College building. Adding to this area were other collections acquired about the same time, including a companion collection on the West Indies and the papers of the state?s first U. S. Senator, David L. Yulee.

    Widespread changes in personnel continued throughout 1942-44, with not one person holding the same position by the end of this period. Even the University Librarian had left and Nelle Barmore became the Acting University Librarian in 1944. Additional monies were made available for purchasing books and journals. These acquisitions, along with some 2,500 volumes donated as gifts added substantially to the collection and increased the problems associated with the lack of space. According to the 1942-43 statistics of the Southern Colleges and Universities, the Library ranked sixth with respect to the number of volumes added during the year. However, the war years were about to interfere with this bit of progress, with its strain on the budget and the reduction in enrollment.

History by Vernon N. Kisling, Jr.

University of Florida Home Page