Born in 1865, Lodilla Ambrose oversaw Northwestern University's library under the roles of Assistant Librarian and head library administrator. It was during Ambrose's time at the Library that it moved from quarters Univesrity Hall to Orrington Lunt Library. She was a member of the Illinois State Library Association and the American Library Association amongst other organizations. Ambrose left the Library in 1908 and died in 1927.
Ambrose was born on June 17, 1865, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the daughter of Chautauqua lecturer James Clement (J.C.) Ambrose and Lodisa Welch Ambrose. She had three younger brothers, of whom the eldest, Jay, graduated from Northwestern University in 1890. The Ambrose family later moved to Evanston, Illinois where Lodilla attended the old Benson Avenue School and Evanston Village High School, where she graduated in 1882. She enrolled at Northwestern University that same year. Ambrose was an industrious student and active in extracurricular activities. She wrote for the Northwestern (the University's student newspaper) and the Chicago-based newspaper the Inter-Ocean, worked as a student assistant at the library, served as vice-president of her Junior class, and participated as a member and officer in the Students' Christian Association and the Ossoli Literary Society (women's debating club). Ambrose graduated from Northwestern in 1887 with a PhB in philosophy, receiving honors for general scholarship and special honors in natural history, and was a speaker at Commencement.
In 1888 she was hired as Assistant Librarian for the University Library. The next year, the administration ended the practice of placing a faculty member in the position of Librarian, and thus Ambrose became the head library administrator while retaining the title of “Assistant” for the remainder of her time at the University. As testament to her continued academic pursuits, she received a PhM in philosophy in 1890 and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in 1893. During her nineteen years in charge of the library, Ambrose oversaw its relocation from cramped quarters in University Hall to the new Orrington Lunt Library. In addition, with no formal training as a librarian behind her, she reorganized and classified the collection into five departments, incorporated the newest technologies of the typewriter and telephone into daily operations, increased the staff to eight, and implemented systematic record-keeping procedures including the use of Library of Congress catalog cards. As evidenced in her Annual Reports to the President, she constantly sought funding to improve the library's facilities and services. Ambrose was well known in library circles during her time at Northwestern, becoming a charter member of the Chicago Library Club, the Illinois State Library Association, and the Bibliographical Society of Chicago. She was also a member of the American Library Association and contributed articles to library journals.
In 1908 Ambrose left the University for unspecified reasons and after this time, documentation of her activities is scarce. She spent two years in Europe before returning to the country and taking up residence with her brother in New Orleans. Ambrose worked for a year at the daily newspaper The Item, and for a short time held the position of librarian for the Department of Tropical Medicine in the Medical Department at Tulane University. Thereafter she worked on and off as a free-lance research and editorial assistant and translator of foreign books. She died at 62 on July 20, 1927 in New Orleans.