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Northwestern University (Evanston, Ill.). Library



Northwestern University was founded in 1850; classes began in the building known as Old College, at Hinman and Davis Streets in Evanston, in 1855, with an enrollment of ten young men. During the summer of 1856, Northwestern's board of trustees allocated $1000 to create a library. Initially the library was directed by faculty members, and borrowing privileges were restricted to faculty. Professor William Godman, one of the two original faculty members (teaching Greek language and literature), was appointed the first librarian. Godman oversaw the refitting of a room on the third floor of Old College for a library, and also acquired the first books, which by June 1857 numbered 1977. Godman was succeeded in 1858 by Daniel Bonbright, professor of Latin. Over the next 12 years, under Bonbright and his successor, Louis Kistler, the library grew slowly; a title list prepared by the library's first recorded student assistant, Charles Bannister, in 1868, includes about 3000 volumes.

The arrival of the Greenleaf Collection (described below) in 1870 increased the size of Northwestern's library sevenfold and coincided with its relocation from increasingly cramped quarters in Old College to the third floor of the new University Hall, an imposing limestone structure that remains a Northwestern icon. The library's new space measured 70 by 20 feet and was filled within three years, foreshadowing the space problems that would always plague the university library. In the following years the collection continued to be developed aggressively. In addition to acquiring libraries from retiring or deceased faculty, significant expansion was made possible, in 1876, by the designation of the library as a depository of U.S. government publications. By 1894, close to one-third of the library's collections consisted of government publications.

Student protests over limited access to the collection and over the chronic absence of the faculty-librarians led to the introduction of very circumscribed student borrowing privileges by the end of the 1880s. The practice of naming a faculty member as university librarian in ended in 1889; two senior student assistants—George Wire (1883) and Lodilla Ambrose (1887-1908)—went on to direct the university library. In 1890, university president Henry Wade Rogers convinced the trustees to finance a new library building, and in 1894, with much assistance from librarian Ambrose, the Orrington Lunt Library was dedicated and named after its major donor.

In the following two decades, Northwestern growing enrollment made the provision of first-class library services a high priority. Ambrose's successor, Walter Lichtenstein, had been a bibliographer at Harvard; at Northwestern, he worked to catalog hitherto “hidden” collections—roughly 40,000 volumes in his first few years alone—and to expand the collections. He conducted book-buying trips in Europe and, from 1913 to 1915, to South America, journeys that made possible the growth of Northwestern's book collections from 75,000 to 116,000 during his 10-year tenure—not counting the further growth of government publications from 50,000 to 85,000. Lichtenstein was replaced in 1919 by Theodore W. Koch, who oversaw the construction of the Charles Deering Library, which opened in January 1933 with a capacity of 500,000 volumes (not including government publications). Koch's reputation facilitated the gift of important books and collections to the university. Among other purchases, Koch acquired the collection now known as the Biblioteca Femina–3000 volumes assembled for the International Congress of Women, held during Chicago's 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition. Koch also exploited the depressed book market of the 1930s. During his 22 years as university librarian, which ended with his unexpected death in 1941, Koch saw the trebling of the collection from 120,000 to 377,000 volumes.

The Greenleaf (Schulze) Collection, which was accessioned and numbered separately from the other collections, represents the first great gift to the University Library, and one of the library's most fortuitous acquisitions. Northwestern professor of Latin Language and Literature Daniel Bonbright happened to be in Europe in 1869, where he heard that the library of Johannes Schulze had come up for sale. Schulze was one of the top members of the Prussian Ministry of Public Instruction and a much-feared book collector. At the time of his death, his personal library held some 11,246 volumes, and about 9,000 unbound pamphlets. The latter are chiefly dissertations from the German universities. Schulze's collection was particularly strong in the Greek and Latin classics; indeed, the collection contains 126 first editions of Greek authors and 8 first editions of Latin authors. Schulze had died earlier that year, but his son proved more interested in equestrian pursuits than bibliographical ones, and accordingly put the collection up for purchase. Bonbright, after traveling to Berlin to inspect the collection, had a unique opportunity to purchase the 20,000 volume collection for $7,000. Luther Greenleaf, an important landowner in Chicago and Evanston and supporter of Northwestern, supplied the funds—fortunately the purchase was made before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which wiped out many of Greenleaf's holdings. The collection arrived at Northwestern in July, 1870, where it became one of the foundational collections of Northwestern's library.

Found in 18 Collections and/or Records:

Lodilla Ambrose (1865-1927) Papers

Identifier: 9/1/7
Abstract The Lodilla Ambrose Papers document Ambrose's life and career at Northwestern University Library, spanning the years 1883-2001, with an emphasis on her time spent as Assistant Librarian at the University. Three biographies written about Ambrose (two in draft form) are filed at the start of the collection. Other biographical materials include high school, college and alumni records, mentions of speeches made by Ambrose, brief biographical listings in publications, and correspondence inquiring...
Dates: 1883-2001

Deering Library Construction Photographs

Identifier: 75/9/3
Abstract The series consists of four binders of black and white photographs documenting the construction process and the newly finished structure of the Charles Deering Library at Northwestern University. With two or three exceptions, all photographs were taken by the Chicago Architectural Photographing Company. The photographs document each state in the building's construction, from bare ground to completed but windowless exterior; and show the completed building (both general views, and...
Dates: 1931-1933

Theodore Wesley Koch (1871-1941) Papers

Identifier: 9/1/6

The Theodore Wesley Koch Papers fill three boxes and document Koch's life and work as University Librarian at Northwestern University, 1919-1941. The Papers include biographical materials, correspondence, and publications, but the bulk of the materials relate to Koch's involvement in the design and construction of Northwestern's Charles Deering Library (1933).

Dates: 1894-1980

Eleanor F. Lewis (1882-1961) Papers

Identifier: 9/3/1

The papers of Eleanor F. Lewis (1882-1861) document her life and career at Northwestern University Library. The collection spans the years 1900-1977; the bulk of the materials relate to her retirement in 1948. Materials in this collection include: biographical materials; correspondence; articles; bibliographies; and a speech.

Dates: 1900-1977

Records of the Northwestern University Librarian, John McGowan, ca. 1969-1988 Subject Files

Identifier: 9/1/11
Abstract The Subject Files fill thirty-two boxes and cover a time of significant growth and change in the University Library. The bulk of the records date between 1971, when John McGowan assumed the post of University Librarian (shortly after the completion of the new main Library building), and 1988. A few records from the mid- to late-1960s predate McGowan's tenure. This series documents the day-to-day administration of a major research library, with an emphasis on the important change to a...
Dates: 1964-1988

Reports of the Northwestern University Librarian

 Collection — Box 1-2
Identifier: 9/1/2

Annual or biennial reports compiled by the University Librarian including printed, transcribed, or typed formats. Not all years are present.

Dates: 1856-1974

Northwestern University Library Accessions Catalogs

Identifier: 9/1/10

The Northwestern University Library Accession Records document the growth of the Library's collections over the course of sixty-three years, spanning the careers of seven librarians, and representing the holdings of four successive library spaces. The Accession Records contain lists of the books and other Library materials acquired between December, 1878 and July, 1941.

Dates: 1878-1941

Records of the Northwestern University Library Exhibits Committee

Identifier: 9/1/5
Abstract These records document the activities of Northwestern University Library's Exhibits Committee, created January, 1985, which is responsible for coordinating, scheduling, supervising and allocating funds for the planning and preparation of displays in the exhibit cases of Level 1 of the Main Library. The history and mission of the organization are described in the Library's newsletter, The Lantern's Core, and in the policies and procedures memorandum #PPM 882a-882e, as well as in the annual...
Dates: 1984-1998

Northwestern University Library Faculty and Student Book Circulation Records

Identifier: 9/1/3

Records of University Library book circulation to Northwestern faculty and students from the period 1874-1887 are contained in this volume.

Dates: 1874-1887

Newspaper Clippings Relating to the Northwestern University Library

Identifier: 9/1/4

This series consists of photocopies of newspaper clippings relating to the Northwestern University Library.

Dates: 1982-1992

Northwestern University Library Painting and Artifact Collection

Identifier: 9/1/18

The Northwestern University Library Painting and Artifact Collection contains paintings, prints, artifacts, sculptures, ceramics, and more that have been displayed within Deering and University Libraries. Items are mostly undated and were acquired individually by the library either for display or in some cases as part of an acquired collection over several decades.

Dates: circa 1300-2007 and undated

Northwestern University Library Scrapbooks, 1944-1975

Identifier: 9/1/17

The Northwestern University Library Scrapbooks contain five scrapbooks that detail the acquisitions of books and materials, exhibits and future planning of the University libraries and cover the years from 1944-1975.

Dates: 1944-1975

Jens Nyholm (1900-1983) Papers

Identifier: 9/4/1
Abstract Northwestern University Librarian Jens Nyholm's personal papers fill twenty boxes and are arranged in six subseries with two additions: biographical materials, education files, correspondence, professional organization files, research and consulting, files, and publications. These papers comprise Nyholm's personal files; the records documenting his service as university librarian at Northwestern may be found in University Archives' Series 9/4, Records of the University Librarian....
Dates: 1855-1983

Records of the Acting Librarian Effie Keith (1882-1969)

Identifier: 9/1/9
Abstract Effie Almira Keith held various positions in the Northwestern University Library from 1916 through 1949, most notably Acting University Librarian (1941-1944); but also head cataloguer (1916-1921), Assistant University Librarian (1921-1941, 1944-1947), and Special Consultant in Cataloguing (1947-1949). During her Acting Librarianship, she steered the library through the staffing shortages caused by World War II, negotiated the consolidation of three different departmental libraries into the...
Dates: 1933-2004

Thesis and Dissertation Rosters (Northwestern University)

Identifier: 9/1/16

This collection contains rosters of the titles and authors of Northwestern University master’s degree theses and doctoral dissertations, for the period circa 1892-1990.

Dates: 1892-1990

University Library Photograph Negatives

Identifier: 75/9/1

This series includes 30 rolls of negatives from photographs taken of the University Library. Most rolls total 36 exposures. The negatives, black and white and on Kodak Tri-X Pan film, are in 35mm format. The photographs, apparently taken during the early 1970s, are mainly of the interior of the University Library although some shots of Deering Library also are included.

Dates: ca. 1970

Records of the University Library Planning Committee Chairman, Clarence Ver Steeg

Identifier: 4/5/9
Abstract This collection documents the activity of the committee established to plan and oversee construction of Northwestern University's University Library building (completed in 1970), viewed through the lens of Clarence Ver Steeg, who chaired the committte for over a decade. The Planning/Building Committee held regular, monthly meetings in addition to engaging in ongoing, sub-committee duties, site visits, and research. The collection is centered around the working files of the committee,...
Dates: 1951 - 2001; Other: Majority of material found within 1961 - 1970; Other: Date acquired: 02/08/1984