The University of Texas

The Mallet Chemistry Library: A History

1892-1926 | Fire of 1926 | 1927-50 | 1951-78 | 1979-Today | Staff | Notes & Sources

Origins: 1882-1892

John W. Mallet Old 
Main, 1884THE 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.

Chem Lab Building
The Chemical Laboratory, home of the Chemistry Department from 1892 to 1926.
It stood near where the Biology Greenhouse is today.

Growth: 1892-1926

Liebigs Annalen 1832 The Chemistry Department moved from the basement of Old Main to the new Chemical Laboratory building in 1892. The library collection then numbered around 500 volumes, which were housed in Everhart's second floor office. When Dr. Henry Harper took over the Chemistry Department in 1894, he began a campaign to expand the library's collection and budget. Harper and his colleagues James Bailey and Eugene Schoch, who were trained in the German tradition of scientific research, felt strongly that a good chemical library was as essential to quality research and teaching as modern laboratory facilities and equipment -- a fact that remains true 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.

Annales de Chimie 1789 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.

Harry Lochte 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."

A Narrow Escape

Fire Ruins
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.

Evolution: 1927-1950

The library was relocated to temporary quarters on the third floor of the new Biology Building while a new chemistry building was constructed. This location was not ideal in many respects, as Lochte noted in his 1928 annual report: "[T]he Biology Building is closed at night plan of opening at night can be worked out. Among advanced and graduate students in chemistry library work should be done at night because their day light hours are taken up with laboratory work. We now have to reverse this order or omit library work." He also noted that the library's distance from laboratories and offices, which were now scattered in shacks around campus, caused library usage to drop off significantly. Repairs and replacements of books damaged or lost in the fire were largely completed by 1929.

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)

Chemistry Building, 1943
Chemistry Building, 1943

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
Library Door Window
Stained glass window in Old Library Door
library desk 1930s
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.

Alice Wupperman     Martha Thurlow     Ivan Trombley
Left to right: Alice Wupperman (1929-40), Martha Thurlow (1944-49), Ivan Trombley (1949-51)

Stability: 1951-1978

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.

Aubrey Skinner
Aubrey Skinner
Mallet Librarian 1951-85

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 sweltering 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 Library was finally air-conditioned in 1964.

Library interior, 1968
Mallet Library reading room, ca. 1968.
Two levels of stacks were located through the openings to the right.

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.

Welch Hall, 1978-2017

new library, 1984
The new Mallet Library facility opened in the fall of 1978.

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 total collection, including materials in storage, surpassed 100,000 volumes in 2012.

Library in 2013
The Mallet Library reference area in 2016.

In 2013, the first significant renovation of Mallet space since its 1978 opening removed a section of journal shelving in the southwest corner of the facility to make room for two glass-walled meeting rooms - part of the current evolution of library space from book storage to work spaces for people. Renovation projects in the aging Welch Hall also began in earnest: the patio courtyard, which forms the library's roof, was refurbished in 2009, ending many years of leak problems. The 1929 wing of Welch, where the library's door is located, was completely remodeled in two phases in 2011 and 2015-16. But the long-awaited renovation of the South (1978) Wing forced the Mallet Library to move out of its space in June 2017. With anticipated completion in 2020, the Mallet Library will reopen in the same space, although the onsite collection will be much smaller and the new design has yet to be determined.

Libraries in Transition: The Digital Revolution, 1980s-Present

The University of Texas was a pioneer in library automation, having implemented a punch card circulation system in some libraries as early as 1935. Later attempts to digitize circulation records, also using punch cards, began in the early 70s. The Chemistry Library automated its circulation functions in 1983 with the launch of the mainframe-based Interactive Circulation System. In 1988 the home-grown MARC-based online catalog, UTCAT, was launched, allowing users to search for books by author, title and Library of Congress subject headings, making card catalogs obsolete. Users and staff could search the catalog on Telex terminals located in the libraries, but at first the system was not available outside a library facility. Keyword search capabilities were added in the early 90s, as were online book renewals and recalls. A web version of the catalog debuted in 1995.

catalog cards
Catalog cards were originally hand-typed, then later preprinted. Filing cards was a major part of staff duties.
The card catalogs across the Libraries were closed to new filing in 1988, and Chemistry's file was recycled in 1992.

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. Many 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 far 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 a model based on ownership towards one based on access. 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 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 will 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.

Persons in Charge of the Chemistry Library

Dates Name
? 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 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 Skinner 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.

Notes and Sources

  1. Moloney, Louis C. A History of the University Library at the University of Texas, 1883-1934. (D.L.S. Dissertation, Columbia University, 1970), 208-9, 256-60, 265-66. The unnamed library building, now known as Battle Hall, was designed by famed architect Cass Gilbert, who had refused to consult with the university librarian about its design or layout. When occupied the building had no stacks, no equipment, no elevator, less stack space than in Old Main, and very poor accessibility for all concerned. The reading room floor began to crack almost immediately under the weight of hastily erected bookcases. Part of the collection had to remain in Old Main until the end of 1913, when the move was finally completed. Battle Hall now houses the Architecture and Planning Library, and while it is considered one of the finest buildings in Texas its structural and space shortcomings persist to this day.
  2. Harper's annual report of 1898-99, published in the University Record, August 1899.
  3. Annual Report, March 12, 1928. Aubrey Skinner later wrote that in the 1952-53 session he "removed two and one-half trays of these analytics, which bore such headings as 'Qualitative Analysis - Easy Book,' 'Freshman Chemistry - Good Book,' &c."
  4. Moloney, op.cit., p.325-27. In 1926 Winkler complained in a letter to T.F. Mayo that the Chemistry Library objected to lending books via interlibrary loan, even though its faculty borrowed liberally from other libraries.
  5. Klein, Arthur J. Survey of land-grant colleges, 1928. U.S. Office of Education. Bulletin 1930 no.9, v.1. (Washington: GPO, 1930), 657-58.
  6. Mills, J.E. "Chemical libraries in the South." Journal of Chemical Education, 7(10) 1930, 2247-57; 2449-98. At this time UT's main rival for unofficial title of top university in the South was Duke University, which was also highly ranked in chemical library holdings.
  7. The library's room number was then CB 219 (now designated WEL 4.132 after UT later standardized its floor numbering policy). The reading room - now used as a seminar room - looks much the same today as it did then, but the former stacks areas have been walled off and converted to offices.
  8. The actual circumstances of the library's naming are sketchy, but the annual report from March 1932 specifically refers to it as "the Mallet Library." There is no indication that this name was ever applied to the library prior to the 1931 move.
  9. It is not clear whether Wupperman was employed by the Library or the Chemistry Department, or split between the two. A report of her duties in 1932 indicated that half her time was spent doing secretrarial work for the Department. (A full-time secretary was hired in the chairman's office in 1939, and this workload was finally removed from the library supervisor.) Wupperman was not a professionally trained librarian while at UT, although she used the title "Chemistry Librarian" on her reports.
  10. Lynn's extensive annual report for 1940-41 painted a picture of considerable disarray. The books were so out of order on the shelves that a complete reshelving was necessary. Card catalogs, shelflists, journal checkin cards, and circulation records were in extreme disorder and had to be completely refiled. The dual organization of the library (chemistry and pharmacy) and many conflicting shelving locations made locating anything quite difficult. Many books were unaccounted for and never found.
  11. The origins of the nutrition collection are unclear. The arrival of Prof. Roger Williams and the founding of the Biochemical Institute in 1940 were possible factors in the location of these materials in the Mallet Library at that time, but no records in the library mention this connection.
  12. The AEC document collection had swollen to over 26,000 print documents and over 80,000 microcards by the mid-1960s, eventually eating up over 20 linear feet of shelf space per year. The collection was moved to the Physics Library in 1969 and later withdrawn.
  13. Smith, Leland. Personal communication, 2003.
  14. Conde, Carlos. Daily Texan, Oct. 31, 1958, p.7.
  15. Undergraduates had been restricted from the main library collection since 1903, when it was still in Old Main.
  16. The Undergraduate Library (UGL) opened in 1963 and closed in 2005. Its floor space and collection had been shrinking for years as non-library uses of the Flawn Academic Center had expanded.
  17. While more spacious, the new facility was plagued by water leaks and occasional floods for many years due to the haphazard construction of Welch Hall. These were finally resolved with the renovation of the courtyard in 2009.
  18. Entlich, Richard, et al. "Testing a digital library: user response to the CORE project." Library Hi Tech, 14(4) 1996, 99-118.

This article was written by David Flaxbart and is based largely on notes and archival materials assembled by Aubrey Skinner, and on annual reports in the library's archives.

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.


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