Indiana University's William & Gayle Cook Music Library: An Introduction

By Davidson, Mary Wallace | Notes, December 2002 | Go to article overview
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Indiana University's William & Gayle Cook Music Library: An Introduction

Davidson, Mary Wallace, Notes

It has been said that great oaks from little acorns grow, and so it is with the William & Gayle Cook Music Library. The "acorn" first appeared about 1918, in the form of a Victrola, a player piano with plenty of rolls (then standard in supporting music appreciation courses), and a few books and scores gathered into what the first head of the Music Department, Charles Diven Campbell, "liked to call a 'musical reading room.'" (1) Three years later Dean Winfred Merrill moved the collection into glass cases in his office, under the supervision of his secretary.

The cataloged collections now consist of a total of some 560,686 items: 83,140 books and bound journals, 100,620 scores plus 222,377 performance parts, 134,640 sound recordings, 1,956 videocassettes or discs, and 17,953 microforms--but no player-piano rolls. Its growth has of course paralleled the similar burgeoning of what is now the School of Music, founded as a department in 1910, and as a school in 1921.


The growth of the library during its first twenty years was slow. By 1938, the first year in the new music building (now Merrill Hall), the collection numbered only 1,500 volumes, "supplemented by collections of scores and recordings." (2) Dean Robert L. Sanders wrote in his first annual report in June 1939 that the library "was little more than a good beginning and was without effective supervision." (3)

On 1 July of that year, the first full-time librarian, Ethel Louise Lyman (1893-1974), arrived to take up her position after nearly seventeen years as music librarian at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Some of Lyman's success that followed was no doubt due to her long years of experience, and previous analytical visits to major collections elsewhere, beginning with the Sibley Music Library at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester in 1923. During a sabbatical leave in 1936 she had undertaken a survey of fifty-three American libraries, including the Library of Congress, and completed this study during the year after she left Smith College. While Sanders doubled the size of the School of Music faculty during the World War II years, Lyman increased the size of the library's collections within her first five years by nearly ten-fold, to 15,000 volumes and 3,000 sound recordings. Between 1948 and her retirement in 1959, she more than doubled the collection again, to 35,000 books, 80 sets of periodicals, more than 137,840 items of printed music, and in the Record Library 12,000 recordings plus 1,000 study scores. (4)

Lyman must have been influenced and supported in her second decade at Indiana by the legendary Wilfred Bain, dean of the School of Music from 1947 to 1973. In his view, there were three foundations, or "posts," on which a great music school must rest. The first was a "splendid" orchestra, the second a "good" department of theory, and the third, "a good library, especially of scores and recordings." (5) Bain was particularly conscious of the isolated position of the university, in the midwestern section of the United States, fifty miles from the nearest city (Indianapolis), and two hundred miles from a metropolis (Chicago) with a major orchestra and an opera company. His strategy was to assure quality by quantity. Frequently he was heard to repeat

his favorite aphorism: "It takes an awful lot of milk to get to the cream." (6) By 1960 total student enrollment had passed 700, and was still growing at a rate consistently higher than the university as a whole. (7) Lyman, too, shared that strategy in building the l ibrary's collections to support the growing faculty, student body, and curriculum.

Musicologist Carol MacClintock oversaw operations in the library on an interim basis after Lyman's retirement in 1959 until the appointment later that year of Dorothy Ann Eckstrom, who had a B.M. from Northwestern University, and was pursuing an M.A. in library science at Indiana University.

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