Monday, April 4, 2011

The library in the 1890s

Last time we looked at the early library of the Collegiate Institute era, 1835-1866. In 1867 Brockport became one of the new state "Normal" or teacher training schools, and this led to increased demands on the library. As a teacher training school the state supplied the textbooks, and these were housed in a special part of the library. The library also held a smaller collection of "miscellaneous and reference" books, as well as continuing to house the "philosophical apparatus," the lab equipment of the day.

As time went on in the Normal era expectations for research by students and faculty increased, leading to greater demand for library resources. For some time funds were limited, and the need was met by two of the Greek letter societies of the day, Gamma Sigma for men and Arethusa for women. They maintained a small library of several hundred books each, housed in the rooms given to the use of the societies in the building at that time.

For much of the 19th century the library was maintained by one of the faculty as part of their duties, William Lennon and then Herman Burlingame doing this until the early 1890s. During the time Burlingame was overseeing the library it acquired a set of rooms of it' own, rather than simply being a set of shelves in one of the rooms.

Then in1894 Jeanette Reynolds '73, who had been a secretary at the school, became the first person to be full time as a librarian. Early in her tenure as librarian she arranged and cataloged the books according to the then new Dewey Decimal system, secured the recognition of Brockport as a Federal government depository, a status still held today, and in general established a modern library.

(The photos are from the first yearbook, a one time effort in 1899. Some years later the early Stylus ran an annual yearbook issue ca1916-1928. After that the student yearbook was the Saga, which ceased being published in the 1990s.)

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