Light on the Hill, Volume II

Miller, Russell


A college or university library has often been described as the heart of an educational institution and yet is, paradoxically, one of the most neglected and impoverished of its components. Somehow, the impression has been created (and perpetuated) that libraries are provided automatically as part of the equipment and exist without visible means of support. The situation at Tufts has been, unfortunately, no exception.

Eaton Memorial Library, built in 1906 and opened two years later, served as the central study area and principal academic resource of the division of Arts and Sciences for more than half a century, until replaced in 1965. The library collection had, so far as financial priorities were conderned, been very much of an orphan for much of its history. It served primarily an undergraduate clientele before World War II, when Tufts was basically a teaching rather than research institution. The major research collection on campus (the library of the Universalist Historical Society) was not under university control. Hundreds of pamphlets, some quite valuable, donated to the library over the years, had gone uncatalogued for decades. At the time Wessell became president in 1953, there were less than 200,000 volumes in the entire collection.

Problems in the main library had begun to surface by 1955. Raymond L. Walkley, librarian since 1928, was forced to take a medical leave of absence that year because of failing health; he officially retired the following year. Dorothy M. Union - the only professionally trained librarian on the full-time staff of four, who had joined the staff in 1948 as Reference Librarian - served as Acting Librarian until a replacement could be found ofr Walkley. The library staff had experienced ocnsiderable attrition and those remaining had to depend on a parade of part-time assistants. A high school student served as a secretary (part-time) and the Order Librarian had to double as the Reserve Librarian and threatened to leave as a consequence. There were no departmental budgets or even an overall


library budget. The state of all of the libraries, and particularly Eaton, had become a matter of serious concern to the president. He told the trustees in 1955 that "not one of our libraries has kept pace in terms of staff or facilities with the needs of the division it seeks to serve or with what are considered adequate standards generally for institutions our size."

When Wessell became president in 1953 the library service for the institution was provided through three divisions, each with its own director, staff, budget, and housing. The medical-dental library was located in Boston; the Edwin Ginn Library served the Fletcher School; and Eaton Memorial Library served principally the division of Arts and Sciences and included four separately housed departmental and specialized libraries (chemistry, engineering, physics-mathematics, and that of the Crane Theological School). There was no formal relationship among the three divisions. Walkley, who had been hired as "librarian of the College," actually concentrated his efforts almost entirely on the division of Arts and Sciences. A recommendation made in 1941 that he be designated as the librarian of the entire institution had been tabled by the trustee Executive Committee.

Overlapping areas of interest, notably between the Arts and Sciences library and that of the Fletcher School, made some duplication of materials inevitable. Mutual availability amond libraries was provided to a limited extent, but considerable friction arose over the restrictions imposed by the Fletcher School on its use by undergraduates, including both materials and study areas. The Ginn Library was already handicapped by lack of space which was to become an even more critical problem with the passage of time. Because of their separate locations, the charging of materials for use outside, as between Eaton and the medical-dental libraries, required arrangement of inter-library loans - an awkward and inefficient arrangement at best.

The question of whether to consolidate all Arts and Sciences libraries on the Hill into one integrated system or to continue the partially decentralized departmental arrangement was never completely answered. While president, Carmichael had supported the idea that the central library should be supplemented by special departmental collections, largely for their convenience, and that policy was generally followed. The only consolidation effected during his administration had been the incorporation in 1952 of most of the biology libary, previously housed in Barnum Hall, into the main library.

A new era for the library opened in 1956 with the appointment of Joseph S. Komidar as the University Librarian, He came with an exceptionally impressive set of credentials and record of experience. He had been for several years at Northwestern University the Chief of Reference and Special Collections and Services. His responsibilities there had extended to Archives, Documents, Commerce, Rare Books, Browsing Collections, and Exhibits. He was appointed as the University Librarian and Associate Professor of Library Science at Tufts, effective in July 1956. As he pointed out in his first annual report, the Tufts library had come "uncomfortably close to a breakdown in organization and services" by the time he had been appointed. He immediately set to work to remedy as many of the deficiencies as he could, but warned tha dministration that it would take many years and much money to accomplish. He had to make up for the lost time caused by many years of relative neglect.

After familiarizing himself with Tufts library operations for some four months after his arrival, Komidar's first report (oral) to President Wessell was made in a conference in October, followed by a detailed written report submitted in January 1957. Instead of limiting himself to the cost estimates which Wessell had requested as a follow-up to their conversation, the newly appointed librarian provided "a fairly comprehensive view of the nature and the extent of the problems faced by the library." He labelled most of the needs he outlined as "immediate," emphasizing the urgency of providing solutions.

Personnel (including salaries), space (particularly for the departmental libraries), and collection development headed the librarian's list of priorities. He calle dfor an overall increase of 44 percent in total budget for staff, including not only additional personnel, both provessional and non-provessional, but upward revision of salary schedules at all levels. His recommendations for books, periodicals, and binding represented a 31 percent increase (which he considered to be "moderate") over the current allocations.

In addition, Komidar called for staff and equipment necessary to conduct a complete inventory of all holdings in the main and branch libraries in Arts and Sciences, and to revise and update the main card catalogue and establish full catalogues for the branch libraries.

It was patently clear that such a set of requirements was far beyond the immediate capabilities of the university budget, but the librarian was insistent that Tufts face up to the fct that if the intent to redesignate it as a university rather than remain a college were to


mean anything, the library had to enter the twentieth century in every respect. He underlined the mission and future of the library as he saw them in an article in the alumni magazine in which he spelled out his conception of what was needed. He made it abundantly clear that the historic college library intended primarily for undergraduates needed to be supplemented by a greatly augmented research-oriented collection appropriate for the needs of the expanded graduate program which he (correctly) forsaw. He advocated consistently, from the beginning and throughout his tenure, combining the engineering and science collections into a science/engineering library. Above all, the librarian called for the long-range planning which had been totally lacking over the years. Planning for the future was, he told his readers, "an urgent necessity."

The librarian's first report to the president soon began to produce results. On Komidar's initiative a three-year budget projection was outlined. Grants from the Hellen O. Storrow Trust and from the Huntley N. Spaulding Charitable Trust enabled the library not only to start the inventory and cataloging projects but to strengthen the collection and fill in back files of some periodicals. The new librarian infused new life into the faculty Arts and Sciences Library Committee which had previously met in perfunctory fashion once or twice a year. In 1957-58 it met five times, gave strong support to Komidar's various proposals, and served, as he said, "as a sounding board and critic."

One of the actions taken soon after his appointment was to establish departmental budgets for the first time. According to a formula applied in 1961-62, slightly more than 75 percent of the book budget was allocated among twenty-three departments, and the librarian retained the remainder for general purchases. The regular book budget that year was $20,000, supplemented by a special grant from the Ford Foundation to support a graduate Humanistic Studies program. However, there was so much to be done in building up the basic general collection, which was the primary responsibility of the professional library staff, that the percentage had been roughly reversed by 1967.

In 1957 Komidar prepared a statement of Library Policy which became a blueprint for future administrative consolidation embracing the libraries of the entire institution. This was still an agenda item when Murray Martin succeeded Komidar as the University Librarian in 1981. A start was finally made in 1961 when Albert H. Imlah,


head of the History Department and long-time member of the library committee, proposed that an ad hoc university-wide library committee be established (which it was). An advisory Board of Visitors was appointed by the trustees in 1959 with David H. Howie, a strong supporter of a strengthened library system, as chairman. The board made its first visit in May of the same year. By the early 1960s the board had ceased to be active, and in 1963 President Wessell advocated its reactivation in view of the fact that a new library building, which he strongly supported, was about to become a reality.

A project begun in 1957 by the librarian was the establishment of a University Archives. He had already developed expertise in the field through his experience at Northwestern. Until Komidar's arrival the institution had no archives. The closest equivalent had been the so-called "Tufts Collection," consisting of considerable material concerning the history of the institution assembled over the years and located in Eaton Library. The University Librarian immediately perceived the possibility of using it as a base for the development of a bona fide institutional archives.

Impetus was given to the idea by a proposal by this writer, at the time a member of the History Department, to prepare an updated history of Tufts. The plan was enthusiastically endorsed by President Wessell. The librarian immediately proceeded, after obtaining the approval of the provost, to convene a series of meetings with deans and other administrative officials to identify and inventory appropriate archival materials. Komidar then prepared a Statement of Policy for University Archives which was approved by the trustees and was published in a professional library journal. The policy statement became a model for other institutions planning to establish archives, and requests for copies came from as far away as Japan. The University Librarian also initiated the policy of periodically microfilming archival material for safekeeping and developed a classification system to aid in retrieving information. The position of University Historian and Archivist was established through the efforts of the librarian and was approved by the trustees in 1964, and was placed under the supervision of the University Librarian.

Komidar also paid considerable attention to the relations of the central library with others in the Greater Boston area. It was on his initiative and that of the Director of the Boston University Libraries that in 1958-59 the librarians of six colleges and universities began exploratory discussions on ways and means of cooperation. The intent was to make the resources of each library available to the students and faculty members of the other institutions, and to assist in eliminating unnecessary duplication of research materials and thereby


reducing acquisition costs for each library. It began with a program of reciprocal use for faculty and graduate students and was expanded to include undergraduates. Besides Tufts and Boston University the institutions originally participating were Boston College, Brandeis University, Northeastern University, and Wellesley College. Although the outlook seemed promising at the time, there were so many complications and other priorities demanding attention that what became the Boston Consortium, an association of college and research libraries, did not actually come into existence until 1970. By 1975-76 the library consortium consisted of nine academic institutions and two affiliate members. The Boston Public Library, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst had been added. The affiliate members were the Massachusetts State Library and the University of Massachusetts at Worcester. Although the Ginn Library of the Fletcher School belonged to the consortium through its connection with Tufts, its policy regarding access differed from those of the other libraries; no materials in its collections circulated outside the library. The consortium made available books and other materials in excess of 10 million items. Tufts library services were also expanded by the extension of inter-library loan privileges to undergraduates.

The Tufts central library had compiled, by 1962, a dramatic record of improvement under Komidar's leadership. In less than a decade after his arrival, expenditures for library purposes had doubled. Even though higher costs had reduced the impact, the record was still impressive and the results were evident throughout the library. But there was much yet to be done. Space was at such a premium that the university had finally committed itself to building a new library on the campus. However, new problems of great urgency had appeared and demanded attention. One was the proliferation of doctoral programs even before the gaps in the basic collection had been filled. The adoption of a PhD program in the Department of Government (Political Science), with international relations as one of the fields of study, brought to the fore not only the need to strengthen library resources in that area but raised the old question of duplication of materials in the Fletcher library. The problem was never satisfactorily resolved. A combined degree program in international relations as between Tufts social science departments and Fletcher did very little to solve the problem. Neither did the introduction of an international relations undergraduate major.

Systematic long-range planning had been the keystone of Komidar's policy from the very beginning of his tenure as the University Librarian. At no time did he allow the solution of day-to-day prob

lems to interfere with his longer perspective. The librarian never lost sight of the necessity of planning for the future. The Arts and Sciences Faculty Library Committee in 1967 prepared a detailed forty- seven page report on "The Present State and Future Direction of the Tufts University Library" which was submitted to the trustee Educational Policy committee. (The report excluded the medical-dental library as well as that of the Fletcher School.) It was a hard-hitting assessment of the university's library needs.

The thrust of the report was aimed, not at the University Librarian, but at those generally responsible for the welfare of the institution at large. The brute fact was that, despite the valiant efforts of the librarian, the resources of Wessell Library were being rapidly outpaced by increased demands. The entire Tufts library system was, in simplest terms, deficient in meeting even the rudimentary needs


of its clientele, including the College of Engineering as well as Arts and Sciences. There were still significant gaps in the basic collection, and the multiplication of new doctoral programs (ten by 1962-63 alone) had made the deficiencies in research resources even more glaring. Faculty concern was growing over the lack of many essential materials, including specialized reference tools. It was a matter of increasing embarrassment as well as irritation that students had to be referred all too frequently to other libraries. Some Harvard graduate students who taught sections in English 1-2 told their students to bypass Wessell Library completely because it had no materials at all to meet student needs even for short freshmen papers. The note of urgency in the report and the emphasis on the library?s deficiencies were undoubtedly a reflection of the views of Nancy L. Roelker, a member of the History Department faculty who served as acting chairman of the library committee. She held a PhD from Radcliffe College, and was of course familiar with the unparalleled resources of the Harvard library system. She invariably made comparisons in which Tufts was put at a distinct disadvantage.

The first step recommended to overcome the deficiencies identified in the report was a sharp increase in the next budget. The annual allocation to build up the collection, beginning in 1964-65, had been set at $25,000 over an eight-year period. The report called for $100,000 instead, with an additional $400,000 over a period of years, starting in 1968-69, for collection development apart from and in addition to annual budgets. The building up of the collection on the scale proposed naturally necessitated a corresponding increase in staff. Whether or not the development program went into effect, three additional positions were called for immediately, and ten more by 1971-72, at least four of them with professional status.

One of the most telling statistics included in the committee report and indicating the lack of Tufts library facilities was the ratio of library expenditures to institutional expenditures. Of the sixteen other institutions, both public and private, with which Tufts was compared, it ranked close to the bottom, with only 2.2 percent of operating expenses devoted to the library. Harvard, Princeton, and MIT were not included. Yale was listed in order to point up the sharp contrast between Ivy League institutions and Tufts. In terms of library dollars spent per full-time student (admittedly a rather artificial measurement), Tufts ranked, at fourth from the bottom. It was an understatement to say that, by most yardsticks, the library facilities at Tufts left much to be desired in spite of the vast improvements that had taken place as a result of Komidar's unremitting efforts.

Although the intent of the report was both to educate the trustees and to stir them to action, no immediate response to it was forthcoming. The university's limited resources were being strained to the utmost in the late 196os, which made the support of major library development called for in the report unlikely at the time. The committee's work did at least generate some faculty interest and support for the library.

The substantial increase in the number of black students on the campus in the 196os and the organization of the Afro-American Cultural Center in 1969 by the Afro-American Society had some temporary impact on the library. The Society, which insisted on having its own separate library at their campus headquarters, called for a basic collection at an estimated cost of slightly over $7,000, all expenses to be borne by the university. The Class of 1969 donated $3,000 toward the purchase of the library materials needed, and the institution made up much of the remainder, which amounted to considerably less than requested. All told, almost 500 titles in the Center library were duplicates of material in Wessell Library. After prolonged and sometimes delicate negotiations, an understanding was worked out whereby the university library assumed responsibility for purchasing and cataloguing the books but the Center was responsible for preparing them for use and supervising their circulation - a division of responsibilities which left the University Librarian less than happy.

By 1976 the Afro-American library, which had shrunk by an estimated one-third because of losses, had become largely a browsing collection of current materials acquired through the Center's own budget. This had been the University Librarian's original conception of what the collection should have been, but pressure from the Tufts black community and the desire of the administration to comply with their wishes, had made the establishment of a more or less self- contained library the alternative which had prevailed. The residue of general and scholarly books which had been catalogued by the Wessell staff and bore the university label were inventoried and integrated into the general library collection. The one positive result of the library involvement in Afro-American concerns had been some strengthening of the collection in black history and culture.

Much more important in historical perspective than the AfroAmerican episode were the positive accomplishments of the University Librarian. One was the introduction of automation which had become widespread in the library field by the 1970s. Komidar arranged for membership in the New England Library Information


Network (NELINET). The Tufts library was also one of the first academic libraries in New England to participate in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). Both involved computerized cataloguing. Computerized literature searching was begun also, and a start had been made by ig8o in retrospective conversion of the central library shelf list into machine readable form, the ultimate goal being an on-line catalogue. The Wessell Library was fully embarked on utilizing the revolution taking place in library technology. One of the primary tasks of the librarian who succeeded Komidar was to take even fuller advantage of automation.

Of all the permanent additions to the resources of the central library which Komidar had accomplished by the end of his tenure, the retrospective acquisition program had been one of the most basic. Komidar, with his staff and the participation of many of the faculty, had expended countless hours in filling gaps in the library's collections of both books and periodicals. Programs of both instruction and research benefited immensely.

In his quarter-century as University Librarian, Komidar accumulated an almost perfect attendance record at faculty meetings and at committee meetings involving subjects which might have direct impact on the library, such as the various curriculum committees. He made an unvarying effort to keep abreast of every new program and every new course being considered, so that the library could add to its resources and be of maximum service. In 1978-79, for example, special attention was devoted to obtaining books and recordings in the field of ethnomusicology in order to support new courses in this area. Similar efforts were made when such fields as urban affairs, anthropology, nutrition, and international relations were introduced or expanded.

The same story can be told of the development of the fine arts collection, the direct result of the progression of the program from an appendage to the Museum School of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts into a full-fledged and growing department. Much the same can be said of the music collection, which had evolved from modest beginnings to a major department library housed separately from the main collection, and with its own specialized librarian in charge.

The initial development of the microfilm collection was another signal accomplishment of the Komidar era. It was not only an integral part of the general acquisitions program but a means of alleviating the growing space problem. The very first microfilm reader had been acquired little more than a year after Komidar had arrived in 1956, after the Class of 1961 had raised $307 toward its purchase by con-


ducting a car wash in a campus parking lot. Audio-visual materials grew slowly but steadily during Komidar?s administration. An additional resource in the library collection was provided with the development of a curriculum laboratory (library) program originating from a textbook collection in the Department of Education and augmented by materials from the Eliot-Pearson curriculum library after it became the Department of Child Study in 1964. Plans were laid for use of the curriculum laboratory by teachers in both the Medford and Somerville school systems. Among other accomplishments for which Komidar could take credit were the creation of a union catalogue in the central library indicating the holdings of both the medical-dental library and that of the Fletcher library. The government documents collection for which Tufts had been a selective depository for many decades, was also completely reorganized and made more usable through Komidar's efforts.

The opening of Wessell Library in 1965 had not, with one exception, changed the basic pattern of organization or library relationships on campus. The Crane Theological Library was removed from the ground floor of Paige Hall and brought into the central building. There was some opposition from the Crane librarian during the planning stage for the new library. He felt that the autonomy of its library was somehow being threatened. The University Librarian wished to eliminate the separate Crane library and incorporate it into the main collection, while the Crane librarian, supported by some members of its faculty and administration, wished to preserve it as a separate entity. President Wessell and the provost arranged a compromise whereby the Crane library was housed in Wessell as part of the total collection but in separate space. After the theological school was closed in 1968 the Crane collection was dispersed, part of it incorporated into the main collection and part of it donated to other libraries. The library of the Universalist Historical Society, which had comprised a major research collection and had been on the Tufts campus since 1869, was transferred to the Andover-Harvard Theological Library of the Harvard Divinity School in 1975. The move was prompted not only by the closing of the Crane School but by the growing shortage of space in Wessell Library.

Geography precluded any close relations with the medical-dental library, although the suggestion had been made in the Carnegie SelfStudy in 1958 that some parts of the medical and dental schools be moved to the Medford campus. Relations had not changed with the Fletcher library, which continued to operate with its own budget and to set its own policies regarding acquisitions, access, personnel, and


budget. This remained a source of chronic frustration for the University Librarian, who took his title seriously but was largely unsuccessful in making it truly meaningful. The historic evolution of the Fletcher School as what it considered to be a semi-autonomous unit militated against any closer administrative relationship than had previously existed.

The existence of trustee-appointed Boards of Visitors to the library provided valuable means by which the university?s overall library resources and operations could be periodically assessed and special needs be made known to the trustees. The board was particularly active in the 19705 under the chairmanship of Frederick Johnson. Typical was the report for 1974 which called attention to the most urgent needs of the library system. The problem demanding most immediate attention was that of space. This problem had al


ready reached a critical stage in the Ginn library of the Fletcher School and the situation of the mathematics-physics library was considered "intolerable." The medical-dental library space problems were considered the most complex and most critical of all. Less than io,ooo square feet were available; 7,000 volumes had to be placed in the New England Storage Warehouse, and the only space available on the premises was in the New England Medical Center garage. The only long-range solution seemed to be either the renting, leasing, or purchase of an existing building, or the construction of a new building. It was the latter course that was eventually followed.

The Board of Visitors also repeated a recommendation made several times earlier that the total library program be administered through a single officer as University Librarian or Director of Libraries. There still appeared to be excessive fragmentation and lack of coordination. An ad hoc committee was appointed in the fall of 1974 to consider the two major problems identified by the Board of Visitors: space and library administration. The first was studied in cooperation with the University-wide Advisory Commitee on Libraries which functioned as a facilities planning committee, and an interim report was submitted to the trustees.

By the end of Komidar's twenty-five year tenure as University Librarian the progress in strengthening library resources and expanding its services had been most impressive, notwithstanding all the handicaps that he faced. He was, in fact, described by one of his friends and supporters as ?an unsung hero? on the campus whose efforts had not always been sufficiently appreciated. Komidar's determination "to make up for lost time" and his success in initiating numerous programs left an unusually firm foundation on which his successor could build.


[] "From College to University Library...A Look Ahead," Tufts Alumni Review (February 1957), pp. 7-9.

  • Light on the Hill, the second volume of the history of Tufts University, was published in 1986, covering the years from 1952 to 1986. This doucument was created from the 1986 edition of Light on the Hill, Volume II.
This object is in collection Subject Temporal Permanent URL
Component ID:
To Cite:
DCA Citation Guide    EndNote
Detailed Rights
View all images in this book
 Title Page
1. Setting the Stage for the Second Century
2. Long-Range Planning
3. Bricks and Mortar 1952-1967
4. The End of Theological Education at Tufts
5. Ever-Widening Curricula for Liberal Arts and Engineering
6. Jackson College: A Search for Identity
7. Defining the Role of the College of Special Studies
8. The Arts and Sciences Faculty I
9. The Arts and Sciences Faculty II
10. The Central Library
11. The Changing Character of the Student Body
12. Fraternities and Sororities at Tufts: A Cyclical History
13. A Beehive of Activity: From Trustees to Students
14. From Wessell to Hallowell
15. The Hallowell Administration: Years of Trial and Tribulation
16. The Hallowell Administration: Continued Trial and Tribulation
17. Educational Ventures, Successful and Otherwise
18. The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
19. Medical and Dental Education I
20. Medical and Dental Education II
21. Taking Stock of the University in the 1960s and 1970s
22. The Mayer Administration: A Preliminary View
23. The Mayer Administration: Consolidation and Expansion