THE CHEMISTRY LIBRARY has existed as long as the University of Texas. Its history closely follows the development and expansion both of the Chemistry Department and of the University Libraries, from modest beginnings in the late 19th century to national prominence today. Dr. John W. Mallet (left), the first Chairman of the Faculty and Professor of Chemistry, had noted the importance of an adequate library as early as 1882, a full year before classes began. But the information needs of faculty and students were treated rather casually by early administrators and Regents. Until 1890 the University consisted of a single structure, Old Main (right), and had no separate library building until 1911. (1)
Like most academic science libraries in the United States at that time, the Chemistry Library began as a departmentally-controlled collection that was only loosely affiliated with the University Library. The Chemistry Professor was responsible for spending a small library budget to purchase needed books and journals, which - although nominally owned by the University Library - were then housed in the department's labs and offices. The library had no staff apart from a secretary or stenographer doing double duty in the library room. Staff and graduate students had keys to the rooms where collections were housed, and oversight of the facility was minimal at best. But the faculty took their library resources seriously. The library received prominent mention in early course catalogues:
The University has the beginning of a well-selected chemical library, which will be open to the students at proper times. The principal foreign and American chemical journals on the shelves of the library offer to the advanced students all the current literature of the science.
-- University Catalogue, 1884-85, p.34
During the 1884-85 session, the Department's library appropriation was $200, not all of which was spent. In 1887-88 the Regents made no funding available for library purchases, but some journal subscriptions were maintained by student contributions. During this period the chemical library seems to have been located in Professor Everhart's laboratory in the basement of Old Main. The catalog of 1888-89 mentioned that the library was receiving the American Chemical Journal, Chemische Berichte, and Zeitschrift für Analytische Chemie.
The Chemical Laboratory, home of the Chemistry Department from 1892 to 1926.
It stood near where the Biology Greenhouse is today.
The enormous annual output of chemical research is an excellent index of the progress of chemical science.... In addition to the enlargement of the stock of apparatus and chemicals, it is sadly in need of better Library facilities. The immediate needs include: Liebig's Annalen, complete; organic solvents; chemicals; new tables, and plumbing. (2)
In 1899, with the Regents' help, the department raised $700 (about $20,000 today) to purchase a complete 1832-1896 run of Liebigs Annalen der Chemie (right) from Schmitt's Laboratorium in Wiesbaden, Germany. Schoch actually volunteered to take a leave of absence so that part of his salary could be used for the purchase. Harper called this event "one of the most important events in the history of the School of Chemistry." This and other acquisitions enhanced the collection, which already included runs of the American Chemical Journal, Chemische Berichte, Journal of the American Chemical Society, Chemisches Zentralblatt, The Analyst, Zeitschrift für analytische Chemie, and a handful of other major titles. Complete sets of The Chemical News and The Journal of the Society of Chemical Industry were acquired from the library of Sir Edward Frankland in 1901. By that year the collection contained over 3,000 volumes. Harper repeated his demands for better library funding in his 1901-02 annual report:
It is the firmly established policy of the School of Chemistry to add to its library complete sets of chemical journals when possible to do so; fully recognizing that such sets are of paramount importance, that they are of permanent value, that no school can present a valid claim to being well equipped for serious work until its library is well stocked with this type of literature. A good beginning has been made, but the school is still in need of larger additions in this direction....
The library received its first permanent quarters in the summer of 1901. During a renovation of the Chemical Laboratory to alleviate crowded conditions, Room 12 on the second floor was fitted out as a library room. But lack of adequate space was a perennial problem.
Under the faculty's guidance, the library continued to grow steadily during the first decades of the 20th century, adding back files and new subscriptions to major journals. (Left: A collection of Lavoisier's Annales de Chimie [v.1-96, 1789-1815] was purchased in 1914 for $325.) Yet the chemistry collection generally was not represented in the University's main card catalog, and the library's existence was largely unknown to persons outside the department. Access could be a challenge even to those in the know. Decades later, Schoch recalled: After 1913, when Harper became Graduate Dean, new issues of journals were sent first to Harper's office in Sutton Hall, and since he never had time to read them they remained there, unavailable to those who needed them. Schoch and Bailey eventually persuaded Harper to let the issues go directly to the library, in return for decreeing that they would not circulate, and that they would be shelved in a separate locked room to which graduate students could get keys for after-hours access. The library was otherwise open to all from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
There is no record of any specific person in charge of the library before 1924. In the 1920s, Prof. Harry Lochte (right) served as the library's faculty supervisor and de facto librarian. He wrote the earliest known report on the chemistry library to the University Librarian in March 1924. While Lochte was not trained in library administration, his reports over the next few years showed genuine insight into the problems facing academic libraries in any era: funding, cataloging policies, subscription currency, equipment, staffing, security, hours, and space. Lochte was particularly prescient in urging the Library administration to provide additional catalog cards so that items added in other branches would be known to users of the Chemistry Library -- a problem that would not be solved until the advent of online catalog systems in the 1980s. He also advocated for a deeper analysis of book content than superficial cataloging practice provided:
...the cataloguers, who are not trained in chemistry, through no fault of their own, are not able to catalogue the books as well as might be hoped. To be specific, when a volume has as much as a section or series of paragraphs on water analysis, for instance, there should be a card under this topic for the volume even if 'water analysis' does not occur in the title of the book. At present some of the best volumes on water analysis are not listed under this topic because the title did not indicate this. (3)Lochte was essentially arguing for indexing of book contents, and though in subsequent reports he claimed some success in this local effort, this problem still bedevils book users to this day.
In February 1926 Lochte reported to Winkler that a new chemistry building had been proposed, to replace the Chemical Laboratory, now 34 years old and increasingly inadequate. Collection security still took priority over staffing. Plans called for a journal and reference room with study tables to be locked when the staff was absent; a book room with study tables open whenever the building was to be open; and an office for the "stenographer-librarian" where the card catalog and reserves materials would be located. Lochte wrote that "the size of the rooms and tables proposed will accomodate all students who normally should wish to use the library as a work shop without encouraging its use as a social center--an undesirable thing when no full-time librarian is proposed."
Ruins of the Chemical Laboratory, the day after the fire.
The Chemistry Library survived a major disaster in the early hours of October 16, 1926, when a fire that started in aging wiring destroyed the old Chemical Laboratory building. Thanks to the foresight of Drs. Harry Lochte and William Felsing, the library had been moved earlier that year from its firetrap quarters on the second floor to a room near a ground floor exit. When the fire alarm was sounded, Lochte came to the scene and organized firemen to hold the flames at bay while the library's collection was covered with wet tarpaulins, and then carried out of the building. Most of the books and journals were saved, though some volumes bear the scars of smoke and water damage to this day. The rest of the building was a total loss, and many research notes, instruments, and most of the department's theses were destroyed.
The fire was front page news in Austin's dailies:
The famous chemistry library was being transferred to safe quarters as soon as possible after the fire this morning. According to Dr. Felsing, many of the journals and books kept here could not be replaced, being research reprints and notes that are not duplicated in print. One set is valued at over $1500, and there is a set of the "Annales de Chemique [sic] et de Physique" dating from 1789 that is very rare, besides about 3500 other journals and hundreds of books.
-- Austin Statesman, October 16, 1926.
Practically the only things saved of any value were the books from the library, most of which were taken out by firemen who took advantage of every opportunity to enter the building until they had removed most of them.... Practically all the books were taken out water-soaked as it was found necessary to play the hose on them from time to time to keep them from scorching and burning. They were removed and placed in a vacant room in H. Hall, which had been cleaned out preparatory to the removal of the shacks, and are being dried in heated ovens.
-- Daily Texan, October 17, 1926.
By the 1920s, departmental library collections at the University had been expanding out of control, and card catalogs and circulation files were not being properly maintained. Statistics on book holdings and use were not kept, and book losses were a growing problem. Services and hours were erratic. There was a clear need for closer supervision and oversight of the myriad branches. (4) During this period the University Library, under new head librarian Ernest Winkler, attempted -- without much success -- to exercise more control over the established departmental libraries scattered across the campus. (There were as many as 23 separate library collections and units on campus by 1922, a situation reinforced by lack of adequate facilities for a central library.) Staffing and hours did become more formalized in time. But the chemistry faculty strongly resisted an attempt to take away their library keys, so the Chemistry Library remained the only branch where non-library staff had access to the facility after hours.
Collection growth was not slowed by the fire. New journals continued to be added, including Journal de chimie physique, Gas- und Wasserfach, and Biochemische Zeitschrift. In 1928, a survey of chemical journal holdings in land-grant colleges published by the U.S. Office of Education ranked UT's library 11th in the nation. (5) A 1930 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education dedicated to "Chemical Progress in the South" showed UT at or near the top in most categories, including student body size, funding, and laboratory buildings. A comparison of chemistry library holdings ranked UT at or near the top in number of current subscriptions, complete back files, and books. (6)
In 1931, after five years in temporary quarters, the Chemistry Library moved into its new home on the second floor of the new Chemistry Building (today known as Welch Hall). (7) The Pharmacy Library moved in with it at this time, but was shelved separately from the chemistry collection, causing considerable confusion and misshelving in the ensuing years. The new facility had a seating capacity of 48 and was kept open on weekday evenings from 7 to 10 PM with the cooperation of 29 chemistry assistants and tutors, although hours and staffing varied from term to term. Around the time of the move, the library was named for Dr. Mallet, UT's first chemistry professor. (8)
Wall plaque in Old Library
Stained glass window in Old Library Door
Reference desk, ca. 1930s
Alice Wupperman supervised the Chemistry-Pharmacy Library from 1929 to 1940. (9) When she left to attend library school at Columbia University in 1940, Thelma Lynn, the new geology librarian, was drafted to oversee the Chemistry Library during the 1940-41 school year. Lynn was not impressed with the state of the library, and spent the year directing a major reorganization effort. (10)
The war years were a period of great turmoil and turnover for the entire campus, and clerical workers came and went frequently during this period. The library was overseen by part-time and largely temporary staff until Martha Thurlow took charge in 1944. Thurlow later took a leave of absence to attend library school at Columbia University, and returned in 1947 as the first professional librarian employed in the Chemistry Library. The position also became full time at this point. Thurlow departed in 1949 and was succeeded by Ivan Trombley (1949-51). The postwar period was marked by difficulty in restoring subscriptions to and filling gaps in foreign periodicals, many of which were interrupted during the war and its aftermath. War-related shortages of equipment and supplies also plagued the library throughout the decade.
In 1951, East Texas native Aubrey Skinner assumed the position of Mallet Librarian. He observed laconically in an early memo, "Library open 61 hours a week. Space a problem, need a useable typewriter." Skinner perservered to face the challenges, and over the course of a 34-year career became indelibly associated with the Mallet Library and well known in Texas for his interests and writings in local and library history. He served in this capacity until his death at the age of 57 in July 1985.
The 1950s and 60s were years of considerable stability for the library. The Pharmacy Library moved out in 1952, but the collection continued to grow rapidly, surpassing 25,000 volumes in 1965. This growth reflected the overall explosion of the scientific literature in the postwar decades, despite a perennially tight library budget for books and journals. But the overall nature of libraries and library services changed little until the advent of photocopy machines in the 1960s and electronic databases in the 1970s.
The primary challenges for the Chemistry Library during this period were a chronic lack of space and staff. Both shelf and study space were very cramped. In the 1940s the Chemistry Library had become the site for nutrition materials. (11) After the war the branch had also become the depository site for a rapidly growing collection of Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) documents. (12) The seating shortage grew so acute that in 1958 the library began to restrict access in the mornings to "legitimate" users of the library's materials, barring "newspaper readers, between-class loungers, and study groups."
The library was always short on staff. A full time librarian had only a few part-time student assistants to monitor the library during open hours, which averaged 60 hours a week during regular sessions. Leland Smith, a graduate student from 1946-50, recalled: "There was a [staff member] on duty during open hours, but he/she was usually a student and not a graduate librarian. We were on our own to locate what we needed -- a bit bothersome at times but excellent training in finding things." (13)
A 1958 Daily Texan article on the library reflected the department's continuing emphasis on the library as a place for research, not socializing: "Some libraries on the campus are notorious as places for students to sleep, but there's one which caters exclusively to research work and frowns on its use as a study hall." Skinner was quoted saying "this is a library mostly for graduate students. Students don't start using this library until...their junior or senior years. Most of the material here is rather technical." (14)
Discouraging undergraduates from using research libraries was not unique to chemistry or to UT during this period. Many major academic libraries in the U.S., including UT's Main Library, then located in the Tower, were closed-stack facilities accessible only to library staff and privileged researchers. (15) This was partly out of concern for the security and integrity of valuable collections, as well as insufficient study seating. But there was also an implicit belief on the part of faculty, administrators and even librarians that undergraduates were not intellectually capable of using a "real" library. This was manifested in the presumption that underclassmen didn't need research materials, which in turn justified their tacit exclusion. Around this time some large universities, including UT, built undergraduate libraries to serve their lower division students with collections developed specifically for curricular needs and offering additional reference and instructional services. But some students must have undoubtedly felt unwelcome in research libraries as a result. (16)
Longstanding tradition among chemistry libraries, coupled with inadequate staffing and limited open hours, dictated that faculty, staff, and graduate students could have keys to the library for after-hours access. Use of these keys was very heavy, made clear by the number of journals left out on tables overnight. Smith reminisced about late-night library runs:
As senior graduate students we had a key to the building that also opened the library door, operated the elevator, and opened a locked toilet stall in the men's room. They trusted us in those days. I never heard of anyone abusing the privilege. Many the night I went next door to the library after hours to check some point. Many the night did I leave about 2 AM in the utmost dark, with my flashlight to guide my way out of the locked building.Liberal key privileges took a serious toll, however. Regular inventories indicated that a substantial portion of the collection was unaccounted for. Mostly these were monographs, as journal volumes rarely disappeared. Some of the missing books had likely been discarded or checked out and not returned, victims of poor record keeping over the years, but most were believed spirited out by students and faculty under cover of night. The library was re-keyed on several occasions to cut down the number of active keys, but eventually access would get out of control again. An inventory in 1975 counted over 1,200 items missing from a collection of 35,000 volumes.
The Chemistry Library obtained its first in-house photocopy machine in 1963. The Xerox 914 was the world's first plain paper copier, and though it was slow (26 seconds per copy) and weighed 650 pounds, it revolutionized the copying of materials, which previously had to be duplicated via laborious wet-process methods.
The searing summer heat of central Texas had always been hard on students and books alike. During some summer terms, the library had opened as early as 7 a.m., so that students could do their library research in the marginally cooler early morning hours. The Chemistry Library was finally air-conditioned in 1964.
The opening of the Collections Deposit Library in the mid-1960s helped to relieve some of the overcrowding on the shelves. Many lesser-used volumes were moved to this storage facility, located at the corner of Red River and MLK Jr. Blvd. In 1973 the Home Economics Reading Room collection and the Chemical Engineering Laboratory Collection were absorbed into the Chemistry Library.
The Mallet Library had long since outgrown its fourth-floor location, but it was not until 1978 that a major addition to Welch Hall provided new quarters (WEL 2.132) under the new central courtyard. This 10,000 square-foot facility, more than four times larger than the previous library, contained 150 seats. At the time of the move, the collection filled less than half of the 14,000 linear feet of shelving. (17)
In 1993 the Library Storage Facility opened on the Balcones (now Pickle) Research Campus in north Austin, enabling the library to store additional materials (including those formerly located in CDL) in a climate-controlled high-density warehouse. In 2006 the nutrition materials were transferred to the Life Science Library. The library's collection surpassed 100,000 volumes in 2012. The following year a renovation project - the first one of any significance in 35 years - removed some journal shelving to make room for two glass-walled meeting rooms in the southwest corner of the facility, part of the evolution of library space from book storage to work spaces for people.
The transition to the "digital library" began in the 1970s. Change was gradual at first, since databases were few and hardware was hard to come by. The first online searches of the Chemical Abstracts database were done in the mid-70s, using primitive teletype terminals connecting by phone to the Lockheed database system (later known as Dialog). This kind of searching was expensive and required extensive training in order to be both efficient and accurate, and most searching was carried out by librarians.
The Chemistry Library installed its first microcomputer in 1988, an outdated IBM XT, soon followed by an even more antiquated IBM PC. A modem provided a slow dial-up connection to the outside pre-Internet world of remote databases. Students and faculty now could have direct access to Chemical Abstracts via the low-cost Dialog "U-Search" service offered in the library. The librarian could also conduct fee-based searches on the STN network, including ASCII-based chemical structure queries in the CAS Registry database. The DOS-based SANDRA software provided the first graphical structure-drawing search mechanism for the printed Beilstein Handbook. The library also had a CD-ROM player, and the first database mounted was the "Aldrichem DataSearch" CD in 1990. A CD-ROM network was established across the General Libraries in 1992, enabling users to access various bibliographic databases from any library.
The development of the Internet inspired more user-centered access with early interfaces such as Telnet and Gopher. But it was the advent of the World Wide Web that accelerated the revolution by making many resources available on one's own computer with standard, user-friendly browser software. The Mallet Library's first web page went online in 1994. Scientific journals began launching Web versions in the mid-1990s, after several years of pre-Web experimentation, which had garnered a deceptively lukewarm response from chemists. (18) Initial reluctance was quickly overcome, and within a decade electronic journals had largely replaced the corresponding printed journals, though publishers continue to print them. E-journals from the American Chemical Society were licensed by UT System in 1999. In 2000 the Libraries began to drop the print subscriptions to many journals in favor of their Web counterparts, in order to save the incremental costs of processing, binding and housing print journals. More than two-thirds of the Chemistry Library's journals were electronic-only by 2008. Online access to Beilstein Crossfire (first licensed in 1997, later known as Reaxys) and CAS' SciFinder (2000) made searching the chemical literature from one's desktop much easier.
Technical innovation, however, was only part of the story. The economics of information were pulling in the opposite direction. Beginning in the 1960s, the number of scientific journals exploded, a by-product of vastly expanded R&D activity during the Cold War. Most of these new journals were published by for-profit firms such as Elsevier, John Wiley, and Springer-Verlag, who sensed a lucrative market that was beyond the capacity of the traditional scholarly and professional societies that had dominated scientific journal publishing up to that time. The new journals were typically priced higher than their society counterparts, but university libraries, initially flush with money from the same R&D expansion, bought them anyway. That heyday was short-lived. Financial pressures in the late 1970s and early 1980s began to erode education and library budgets nationwide. As a result, research libraries found themselves unable to afford all the new materials demanded by researchers. Relentless inflation of journal prices, which frequently exceeded ten percent per year, far outstripped a library's ability to maintain its collections. After many decades of steady growth, libraries entered a period of contraction relative to the growing mass of scientific literature. In 1986 price inflation forced the UT Libraries to cancel journals for the first time. This painful ritual was repeated in 1988, 1990, 1992, 1995, and also in more recent years. By the second decade of the 21st century, UT-Austin was spending over $1,000,000 per year on chemical information resources in all formats, yet was actually acquiring a smaller proportion of the literature than ever before.
Still, the challenges of "just in case" collection building have been somewhat offset by innovations in the "just in time" delivery of information to those who need it. Improvements in interlibrary loan, on-demand article scanning, and demand-driven e-book purchasing have enabled users to discover and access a wider universe of information than was ever held within the walls of the traditional research library. Libraries are moving steadily from an ownership model towards an access model. Not everyone agrees this is a good thing, but such change is an economic necessity.
All libraries are in a period of profound transition, from repositories of printed knowledge to gateways to vast aggregations of digital information. The library of 2050 will probably look nothing like the library of 1950. Changes that were unimaginable two decades ago have transformed the nature of scientific communication and information retrieval, and will continue to do so. The printed scholarly journal itself may soon be a quaint relic. But the library will not disappear. It is uniquely positioned to organize and provide access to a wide array of information resources, and to help the University produce information-literate graduates for industry and academe. As Henry Harper envisioned over a century ago, the Chemistry Library is, more than ever, a vital resource for teaching and research, and it is one of the most valuable assets of both the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the University of Texas.
|? to 1929||Dr. H.L. Lochte, Faculty Supervisor*|
|Sep 1926-Nov 1929||Beatrice Clark Cairns*|
|Dec 1929-Aug 1940||Alice M. Wupperman was born to German-speaking parents in 1905 in Seguin, Texas, and graduated with a bachelor's degree from UT in 1926. She left UT in 1940 to pursue a library science degree at Columbia University. She later worked as a technical librarian at Sperry Gyroscope Company on Long Island. Married to an engineer, her family moved frequently before settling in Southern California in 1959. She held various librarian and volunteer positions over the years, including head medical librarian at Harbor Hospital in Torrance. She died in Orange, California, in 2000, at the age of 95.|
|Sep 1940-Jun 1941|| Lorene Nagel|
(During this year the Chemistry Library was under the general oversight of Thelma Lynn [later Guion], Biology Librarian.)
|Jun-Aug 1941||Mary E. Wynne|
|Sep-Nov 1941||Alice S. Becker|
|Nov-Dec 1941||Helen R. Keith|
|Jan 1942-Sep 1943||Marian S. Sweeney|
|Nov 1943-Jan 1944||Anabel Lee Nunn|
|Jan-May 1944||Helen R. Keith|
|May 1944-Aug 1946;
Sep 1947-Feb 1949
|Martha Thurlow was the first professional librarian to oversee the Chemistry Library. She received a B.A. from Goucher College (Maryland) in 1936, and a B.S. in library science from Columbia University in 1943. She started out as library supervisor and part-time chemistry instructor, then took a leave of absence to pursue her master of library science degree at Columbia University. She returned in September 1947 as a full time librarian, and also served as a chemistry instructor in 1948. She left in 1949, and was later a librarian with the Enoch Pratt Free Library system in Baltimore, Maryland. She died in 1976.|
|Sep 1946-Jun 1947||Mia Reinap (acting)|
|Jul-Aug 1947||George Anne McCune (acting)|
|Mar-Jul 1949||Catherine Springer|
|Jul 1949-Aug 1951||Ivan Trombley was a native of upstate New York and received a B.S. in chemistry from Clarkson University in Potsdam NY in 1948, and his MLS from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn in 1950. He left UT in 1951 to take a position with the R&D Library at Pittsburgh Plate Glass (now PPG Industries) in Corpus Christi TX, where he spent the next 32 years as librarian.|
|Sep 1951-Jul 1985||Aubrey Eugene Skinner was born in Vernon, Texas, in 1928, and graduated from Kilgore High School in 1945 and as co-valedictorian from Kilgore Junior College, with an Associate of Arts degree in chemistry, in May 1947. In 1951 he received a Bachelor of Arts in library science from North Texas State College. He earned a Master of Library Science degree from UT in 1977. An enthusiastic amateur historian, Skinner authored two books, Rowena Country (1973); and Texas Library History: a Bibliography (1983), and he edited Frank Kaiser's Reminiscences of a Texas Ranger (1967). Skinner also wrote over thirty articles and book reviews. His papers are archived in the Center for American History. He died in 1985 following a long illness. The Skinner Library Endowment for the purchase of library materials in chemistry was established in his honor in 1985. In 2002 Skinner was named one of one hundred Texas Library Champions by the Texas Library Association, in honor of its centennial.|
|Aug 1985-Oct 1986||Karen Lemunyon (acting)|
|Oct 1986-Nov 1991||Christine Johnston earned her MLS at the University of Illinois in 1975, and worked at Illinois, Providence (RI) Public Library, and Houston Public Library, before coming to Austin in 1986. After leaving Texas, she had positions at Georgetown University, CARL Corporation, and Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland.|
|Nov 1991-May 1992||Jo Anne Newyear (acting)|
|May 1992-||David Flaxbart earned degrees from the Universities of Tulsa and Michigan, and an MLS at the University of Arizona. He was a Library Resident in the Chemistry and Engineering Libraries and acting head of the Chemistry Library at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor before coming to Austin.|
* employed by the Chemistry Dept. |
Photo credits: Chemical Laboratory courtesy of the Center for American History. Alice Wupperman photos courtesy of Bob Lundy. Trombley courtesy of Ivan Trombley. All other images are from the Mallet Library archives.