A Brief History of the
University of Louisville Libraries,
1837-1996

Part 2 of 2
by Ralze Dorr,
Former University Librarian, Interim

Nearly a decade after the completion of the new University Library building (now Schneider Hall), plans were made for the construction of a new Medical Center to replace the century-old building at 1st and Chestnut Streets. The plans included provision for a Health Sciences Library that would allow collections and reader space for the schools of medicine, dentistry, nursing and Allied Health. The new building was fortuitous, indeed, because the Medical School Library lacked space in its old quarters for all of its collections, had little reader space and virtually no separate staff work space.

(right) Groundbreaking ceremony for the Kornhauser Health Sciences Library, ca. 1966. (from left to right) Joan Titley (Adams), Medical Librarian; Dr. Charles H. (Harry) Jarboe and Dr. Donn Smith, Dean of the Medical School.

In the mid 1960s a new Life Sciences Building was constructed and the Life Sciences collections in the General Library were moved to the new building to form a Life Sciences Library. This library was abolished and reintegrated into the general library once the Ekstrom Library was built in 1981.

The next library expansion occurred in the early 1970s with the construction of a new Law Library in a wing adjacent to the west end of the School of Law. By this time, the University had become a state supported institution and its enrollment was increasing by leaps and bounds. By 1975, the University Library building was out of space with thousands of books stored in the Reynolds Building. In 1978, funds were approved by the state for the construction of a $14 million dollar University Library building. Completed in 1981, the building was named William F. Ekstrom Library. During construction of the Ekstrom Library, funding was approved for a new School of Music building and a second addition to the School of Law. Both of those projects included space for libraries. Thus, the author, who was the Planning Officer for the University Libraries, at that time, found himself working on plans for three library building's simultaneously. Fortunately, the Ekstrom Library was already planned and under construction by the time the other two projects were started in earnest. What remained in regard to the Ekstrom Library was to select and order furnishings (not a simple task).

A number of years prior to the construction of the new buildings, the libraries had begun their initial efforts in preparing for computer-based systems. UofL joined SOLINET in the early 1970s and began creating machine-readable records of all new acquisitions, converting retrospective holdings as time allowed. Around this time, some commercial computer databases became available and searches were made for patrons by reference librarians. In 1982, the University Libraries established automated circulation, using the DataPhase system. Even at the time the limited circulation system was implemented, it was recognized that the libraries needed a comprehensive and fully integrated computer system. In the late 1980s, planning of the new system was begun and a decision was soon made to utilize the NOTIS system, a primary factor being that the system could be run on an IBM mainframe already in the University's Computer Center. Soon, many functions of the NOTIS system were up and running and in subsequent years additional functions were added and upgrades made as they became available.

Ekstrom Library under constuction, ca. 1980

During this latter period of the librariesí development (from 1981 - 1991) a number of significant changes were made in the administration of the libraries. In 1981, all of the professional school libraries (except for Law) were placed under the direct control of the University Librarian (thus ending the arrangement whereby the heads of those libraries reported to the deans of the various professional schools). This new arrangement brought with it a centralization of planning and budgeting for the entire library system, centralization of policy making and the establishment of a single University Libraries faculty. Another change in administration of the libraries was the abolishment of the Life Sciences Library and its integration into the Ekstrom Library and the abolishment of the Natural Sciences Library and its integration with the Speed Scientific School (Kersey) library. In the early 1990s, an addition to the Kersey Library was constructed to meet the expansion of the combined libraries. It was also during this period that an effort was launched by the University administration to create a combined administrative unit composed of the University Libraries and the University Computer Center. Strong opposition to this proposal was voiced by the University Librarian, the University Libraries Faculty, and the Faculty Senate. In response to the opposition, the president of the University appointed a committee, composed of members of the Board of Overseers, to study the issue. This committee, in its report to the President, opposed the combing of the libraries with the Computer Center, stating that the libraries should be the primary agency to determine the information needs of the University, with the Computer Center supplying the technical and networking support necessary to the librariesí plans. The University administration accepted the recommendations of the Overseersí Committee but required that the libraries and the Computer Center develop a close working relationship. Such a relationship was developed through administrative channels and joint committees, arrangements that created positive relations between the personnel of the two units and success in carrying out major projects to the benefit of the entire University.

By the latter part of the 1990s, over 100 electronic databases were made available by the libraries, LANs connected the library systems and CD-ROMs proliferated, replacing many printed indexes. During this time, over 90% of the libraries' retrospective holdings had been converted to machine-readable form (including the remaining holdings still classified in the Dewey Decimal System). The card catalogs were dismantled and removed, excepting for a few cabinets in the Ekstrom Library containing records in non-Roman alphabets.

Additional changes in the administrative structure of the libraries were made in the latter part of the 1990s. One of these entailed the reorganization of the Division of Technical Services (in the Ekstrom Library) and the creation of a new University-wide Collection Management Office. The Collection Management Office provided for centralized coordination of planning and budgeting for collections throughout the library system. Another change in administration created the new Office of Information Literacy with a full-time director and the renovation of part of the main floor of the Ekstrom Library to install an electronically-equipped classroom, a computer commons area for use independently by students, in addition to conference rooms and staff work space. Similar facilities were planned for the other libraries in the system, to be implemented as funds became available.

In concluding this very brief history of the UofL Libraries from 1837 - 1996, it needs to be pointed out that only some of the major highlights of the libraries' rich history have been cited. A complete history would include not only many other highly important developments but also would elucidate the significance of those developments. In addition, a complete history of the libraries would include some dramatic and colorful episodes that would make the narrative far more interesting to the reader--not least among which would be reference to the personalities of many of the notable librarians and staff members who were the life force of the UofL Libraries over the past century.

I wish also to note the inestimable help, in writing the early history of the libraries to Joyce Estella Bruner's The History of the University of Louisville Libraries. M.A. Thesis. University of North Carolina. Chapel Hill, NC, 1953.