History of the Library
The original Vanderbilt Library was housed in the Main Building, (later College
Hall and now Kirkland Hall) at the time of the university's founding in 1873.
The collection held approximately six thousand volumes and was open from nine
to two daily under the supervision of a junior faculty member. Senior faculty
members searched European bookshops in the summer to add to the collection and
many of the faculty eventually left personal libraries to build the collection.
Strenuous efforts to rebuild the library followed closely the fire of 1905.
The general library had been housed in one large front room of the second floor.
The fire took a large portion of the collection, although some tried to save
books by throwing them from the second story windows (most were too damaged
to be of use). Only the theological library, which was housed in Wesley Hall,
and small collections in chemistry and geology that were housed in Science Hall
Efforts to rebuild the collection were hampered by the need for funds to rebuild
the building. Several universities (notably Yale) donated books from their own
presses and the Library of Congress sent many duplicates to Vanderbilt. The
Superintendent of Documents sent a nearly complete set of governmental publications
and the U.S. Geological Survey donated many duplicate materials. The new collection
was housed in a structure built on the site of Old Main, called College Hall.
In 1914, Dora Sanders became the first official librarian. Following Ms. Sanders
as librarian were Will Ella Johnson Smith (1923-1930) and Isabel Howell (1931-1939).
In 1925, the collection was moved to the old chapel. While Ms. Howell served
as librarian, the Library operating budget rose to $25,000. The Nashville Union
Catalog, created in 1936, included the 200,0000 combined entries of Vanderbilt,
Peabody, Scarritt, Fisk University, Meharry Medical College, Nashville Public
Library, and Tennessee State Library. This was also the period of the Wesley
Hall fire (1932), when at least one-half of the collection of the School of
Religion's 4,000 volumes and pamphlets were destroyed.
Frederick Kuhlman (1936-1960) became the Director of Libraries in 1936. In December
1938, the Joint University Library Corporation [JUL] was created by trust indenture.
Participants were Vanderbilt University, George Peabody College for Teachers,
and Scarritt College for Christian Workers. Each institution appointed members
of its board of trust to a Board of Library Trust. Each institution paid an
annual fee based on student enrollment that covered operating expenses for the
library. One director ran the JUL, also known as the Central
Library. It was during Dr. Kuhlman's tenure that the General Library Building
was completed on the site of Old Wesley Hall. On December 6, 1941, one thousand
people attended the dedication of the new library, built with funds from the
General Education Board, the Carnegie Corporation, and the Vanderbilt community,
which was rallied to the cause by Nashville publisher James G. Stahlman. Due
to the defense priorities of the war, the building had to open without all of
its intended equipment. At the time of the opening, the Library held nearly
Upon Mr. Kuhlman's retirement in 1960, David Kaser (1960-1968) became Director
of Libraries. In 1961, the Library opened the stacks to undergraduate patrons,
a privilege once reserved for graduate students and faculty. The Vanderbilt
Alumnus suggested that the Library place aid stations throughout the stacks
in case students lose their way "in the maze of shelves and not find their
way out for days." In the same year, the library budget exceeded $500,000
for the first time. Dr. Kaser resigned in 1968 to become the Director of Libraries
for Cornell University. During his tenure, the library budget grew to one million
dollars (1965) and the one-millionth volume was added to the library (1966),
Liber Chronicarium (Nuremberg Chronicle) of 1493, which was donated by Jesse
Ely Wills. The H. Fort Flowers library wing (1969) was designed and begun during
Dr. Kaser's tenure.
Frank P. Grisham (1968-1984) established the Television
News Archives, the world's most available, extensive and complete archive
of television news, as part of the library system in 1968. The TVNA was created
by Nashville insurance executive and Vanderbilt alumnus, Paul C. Simpson, and
was originally located in the General Library Building. Also in 1968, the W.T.
Bandy Center for Baudelaire and Modern French Studies was founded as a joint
project of the Department of French and Italian and the Central Library, in
which it is located. In 1974, the Library began to catalog materials using a
computer-based network, OCLC, and Jean Heard established the Friends of the
Library. The Joint University Library Corporation was dissolved in 1979 with
the merger of Vanderbilt and Peabody and the system became known as the Vanderbilt
University Library. It was renamed the Jean and Alexander Heard Library five
years later, in honor of Chancellor Emeritus Alexander Heard and his wife Jean.
That same year Malcolm Getz (1984-1995) was named Director of the Library.
Under Getz, the library automation system was begun. Called "Acorn,"
the system reflected not only the presence of an acorn on the Vanderbilt family
crest, but also served as a metaphor for source, beginnings, nurture, compactness.
In 1992, the two-millionth volume was acquired: Journal of the Proceedings of
the Congress, held at Philadelphia, September 5, 1774, the first edition of
the official journal of the Continental Congress. Ridley Wills II donated it.
That year the Television News Archive began reporting to the Office of the General
In 1996, Paul M. Gherman was named University Librarian. The Television News
Archive became part of the library once again in 2002. Gherman led the effort
to host the Electronic Tools and Ancient Near East Archives project [ETANA]
at Vanderbilt, a digital database established in 2002 to facilitate access to
original research in ancient history and archeology. Mr. Gherman has been actively
involved in creating new collaborative efforts between Vanderbilt and groups
such as SOLINET, NALA, and ARL. Current projects include SFX and Metalib, tools
that enable users to search across multiple databases, and the Institutional
Repository, a digital archive for university working papers, classroom materials,
school traces its history from the Davidson Academy (1785), later named Cumberland
College, and finally to the University of Nashville (1826). After the Civil
War, philanthropist George Peabody established the Peabody Normal College at
Nashville (1875), reviving the University of Nashville. The normal school grew
and developed into a college and became the George Peabody College for Teachers
In 1889, the library began cataloging its books according to the Dewey Decimal
System. This was the first library to be cataloged according to the Dewey system
in Tennessee, and probably in the South. The Peabody Library building was a
gift to Peabody College from the Carnegie Corporation and was one of more than
100 academic library structures endowed by Andrew Carnegie. The building was
constructed from 1917-19 and opened its doors May 30, 1919. Peabody's library
became the Education Library in 1974, with a new focus on collecting in the
areas of education, special education, psychology, human development, and library
and information science. With the merger of Vanderbilt University in 1979, the
Education Library became part of the University library system. In 2002, the
Education Library was renamed Peabody Library.
For more on the history of the Education Library, go to http://www.library.vanderbilt.edu/peabody/about/history.html.
The Law School began collecting law books when it was established in 1874.
However, no official library was established until 12 years later. Plans for
a Law School
Library were formed in 1880, with the idea of asking judges and attorneys to
donate their used books to the school. By 1886, they had outgrown their two
bookcases in Main, and general reference resources were moved to the University
library. In 1889, when the school moved to the Law and Dental Building, the
library was given two rooms for its collections. This led to the hiring of a
law librarian, Wilbur F. Barclay (at $1,000 annual salary). By 1891, the collection
numbered approximately 6,000 volumes. The library moved to College Hall in 1916
and to the new Law School building in 1962. In 1982, the library was expanded
and named the Alyne Queener Massey Law Library in honor of Mrs. Jack C. Massey,
an alumnus and principal benefactor.
School of Religion Library was established in 1881 in old Wesley Hall. The fire
of 1932 destroyed half of the 4,000-volume collection and the library was re-established
in Calhoun Hall until it relocated to the General Library Building in 1941.
It initially inhabited the south reading room on the second floor, as well as
the first stack area. In 1984 the area was renovated and the Divinity Library
moved to the north wing reading room, where it is housed today. In 1990 the
Divinity School received a major donation from the Raymond Zimmerman Family
Foundation that has allowed the library to expand and enhance its Judaica Collection.
There was no Science and Engineering Library until 1972, when the departmental
collections were consolidated and moved into the new Science Library in the Stevenson Center for the Natural Sciences. Prior to that time, the Geology and
Pharmacy libraries were located in Old Science Hall (1889); the Biology Library
was established in Old Science Hall (1900); and the Chemistry Library was established
in Furman Hall (1907). In 1929, the Biology Library moved to Buttrick Hall and,
in 1932, the Geology and Physics Library moved to Garland Hall. Today, the Science
and Engineering Library is named for Sarah Shannon Stevenson, wife of Eldon
B. Stevenson ('14), for whom the Stevenson Center is named.
Medical Library was first established at the School of Medicine in 1906. Its
collections included those of the former library of the Nashville Academy of
In 1925, the Medical Library was established on campus when the School of Medicine
relocated from College Hall. At that time, the Library contained about 9,000
volumes, a number that increased to 26,000 volumes by 1932 (after its merger
with the School of Nursing Library in 1930). In 1964, the Medical Library moved
into the new wing of Medical Center North, and in April 1994 the new Annette
and Irwin Eskind Biomedical Library building was dedicated. Library holdings
include over 210,000 print volumes, of which about 81,000 are monographs and
about 129,000 are serials. A unique collection of rare books, photographs and
historical items, founded in 1933, can be found in the Historical Collections
Room. The Eskind Biomedical Library Medical Center Archives, located in the
library's lower level, is a repository for manuscripts and institutional records
reflecting the history of the Medical Center and the history of medicine.
For more on the history of Biomedical's Historical Collections, go to http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/biolib/hc/.
The Music Library was established in 1947 in the Social-Religious Building
(now the Wyatt Center) on the Peabody Campus. In the late 1970s, the music department
was eliminated at Peabody. The Blair Academy, a community music school, was
granted school status in 1985 by the Board of Trust and the Music Library moved
to the Blair School of Music. In 2001, the Library more than doubled its space
in the Blair School of Music. The Anne Potter Wilson Music Library was named
for one of Vanderbilt's major benefactors, the granddaughter of Myra Jackson
Blair, after whom the school was named.
Collections originated as the Treasure Room or Rare Book Room in the south wing
of the fourth floor of the GLB (1941). Later, the Treasure Room was moved to
the 8th floor, to what is now the W.T. Bandy Center. When Special Collections
was established in 1965, part of the department's mission was to establish and
maintain an archive of university-related material to document the history of
the university. At the time of its establishment, records and university publications
were scattered all over campus. The patient efforts of Woodrow W. Wasson, Vanderbilt's
first University Archivist, brought all these diverse materials together in
one location. When the H. Fort Flowers wing of the library was built in 1969,
Special Collections was moved to the new wing and featured a Fugitive Room that
showcased the Jesse E. Wills Fugitive/Agrarian Collection.
For more on the history of Special Collections and University Archives, go
The Management Library was established in 1970 as the Resource Information
Center at the Owen Graduate School of Management, then located at 2505 West
End Avenue. It was renamed the Management Library in 1976 and moved to the new
Owen School when that building was completed in 1981. The Library is named in
honor of Anne Marie and Thomas B. Walker, Jr., generous benefactors of the business