The Oberlin College Library was formed in 1833 at the same time
the college was incorporated. Until Azariah Smith Root (1862-1927)
became the librarian in 1887, the library played a secondary role
in the College, since classroom assignments were based on textbooks
and not on other reading. As librarian, Root moved the library from
a relatively low-profile department to a prominent institution on
campus, a reflection of his own prominence in the library profession.
During Roots tenure the librarys collection experienced phenomenal
growth. By 1910 Oberlins was the largest academic library in Ohio;
by 1923 it was the largest college library in the country. The library
had become a place where a large part of all the work of the students
was done. A new library building (Carnegie Library) was constructed
in 1908 to accommodate the librarys changing role.
Julian S. Fowler (1890-1975) succeeded Root in 1927. For 28 years
Fowler worked to improve the librarys collection and services.
During his tenure, the endowment also grew from $250,000 to $436,000.
Fowler emphasized quality over quantity in the library. The book
collection was even made available to alumni, including those overseas.
In 1940, an extensive addition containing six stories of stacks
greatly expanded Carnegie Library.
Fowler was succeeded as librarian by Eileen Thornton (b.1909),
who served from 1956 to 1971. During her tenure, Thornton broadened
the scope of the collection, improved services, and planned and
secured funding for a new, multimillion-dollar library building
(Mudd Center). In addition to presiding over a 20 percent increase
in the librarys holdings, Thornton developed a major music library
to serve the Conservatory, a chemistry and biology branch library
in the Kettering Hall of Science, a separate College archives, and
a collection to support the East Asian studies program. Subject-specialist
librarians were also added in music, art, and science. By the time
she retired in 1971, there were 18 professional librarians on the
Herbert E. Johnson (b. 1934) was director of the libraries between
1971 and 1978. He oversaw the construction, equipping, and move
into the Mudd Learning Center (now Mudd Center). He presided over
major budget cuts during the mid-Seventies, the result of fiscal
stringency necessitated by a national economic recession and hard
times at Oberlin.
When William A. Moffett (b.1933) was named Oberlins director
of libraries in 1979, he faced the challenge of improving the librarys
funding and collection-management practices. The first online circulation
system was installed in 1978. Between 1982 and 1986, under the direction
of Systems Librarian Katherine A. Frohmberg (b.1949) and others,
the card catalog was converted to machine-readable records and,
in 1984, an automated acquisition and serials control system was
implemented. The second online circulation system with an online
catalog was purchased in 1986. The Oberlin Bibliographical Information
System (OBIS) became operational in 1989.
Scope and Content
These records (1815-1988) are organized around four subgroups.
The administrative file, which consists of 13 record series, documents
many aspects of the administration of the library at the levels
of both the directors and the individual departments. The material
also reflects the prominence women played in the administration
of the library. The annual reports, 1887 (1919-1988), of the director,
branch librarians, and department heads summarize the goals, objectives,
activities, and accomplishments of each year. Minutes and/or agenda
of the Library Council and the Education Commission are available
for 1902 (1956-1974). Correspondence of most directors, 1908-1988,
including Eileen Thornton, covers library administration, collection
development, building programs, and the relationship between the
Oberlin College Library and the Oberlin Public Library. Financial
records, 1938-1974, document budget development, in particular efforts
to build endowments and seek outside financial support. Personnel
matters, 1956-1974, includes information on benefits, professional
development, faculty status, salaries, working conditions, and staff
organization and unions. Library departments and collections, 1884-1983,
contain documents related to the operation and management of various
departments and collecting areas within the library. Records of
the librarys support of particular College programs, 1959-1969,
among which was the Peace Corps Training Program, are available.
The files on exhibits reflect the varying interests and concerns
of the Oberlin community. There are records concerning the establishment
of the Oberlin College Archives, 1947-1971, and the Oberlin Public
Library, 1888 (1910-1970). Among the records of the Ohio College
Library Center, 1965-1988, are files accumulated by Eileen Thornton.
The subgroup of records pertaining to the planning and constructing
of facilities, 1963-1976, covers Carnegie Library and the Seeley
G. Mudd Center. Publications (subgroup III) of the Oberlin College
Library, 1940 (1965-1988), include its newsletter, special collection
catalogues, and bibliographies of womens studies holdings. Materials
documenting the history of the library, 1815-1970, are located in