Ethel Louise Lyman and the Beginnings of the Indiana University Music Library

By Anderies, John F. | Notes, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Ethel Louise Lyman and the Beginnings of the Indiana University Music Library


Anderies, John F., Notes


In May 1959, on the occasion of the retirement of Ethel Louise Lyman (see fig. 1), the first librarian of the Indiana University School of Music, Library Notes, the University Library's staff newsletter, described the beginnings of the Music Library:

Some years ago there was a small, red, frame building behind what was then called Science Hall. Here in one corner of the building in a room with green blinds drawn against the heat of the day, and flies buzzing against the window panes, there was a small collection of books, somewhat hopefully called the Music Library. There were, of course, music scores housed somewhere in the building, sufficient for purposes of instruction, but records of any kind, either shellac or circulation [sic] were almost non-existent. This dim and musty condition did not augur well for the future of music education at Indiana.

The signs couldn't have been more wrong. Before long a fine new building was constructed with what appeared then to be ample space for the Music Library, and in 1939, a new era was inaugurated with the appointment of Miss Ethel Louise Lyman as Music Librarian. Here she remained until her retirement this year at the end of February, serving well the faculty and students of the School of Music, and others, with her wide knowledge and expert librarianship. (1)

This paper traces the life and work of Ethel Louise Lyman--her time at Indiana University (IU), and prior to that, her years at Smith College, and at Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts. It also looks at the early history of the Indiana University Music Library (since 1996, the William & Gayle Cook Music Library), before Lyman's appointment. With the exception of the biographies of such library luminaries as Charles Ammi Cutter or Melvil Dewey, little has been written about the lives of early American librarians, and especially the lives of women librarians, of whom few were administrators, and consequently not well remembered.

The story of Ethel Louise Lyman is in many ways unremarkable. Even among her music library colleagues there are others who accomplished more, and, at least for specific contributions, are remembered better. The short biographical sketches of pioneering music librarians included in Carol Bradley's book American Music Librarianship attest to this. (2) Included are the notable accomplishments of a dozen music librarians, but nothing on Ethel Louise Lyman. Yet her story is probably that of many women librarians and of many music librarians. She chose a career and remained unmarried, as anecdotal evidence suggests did many female American librarians of her generation and before. She dedicated herself to the promotion and growth of music libraries and music librarianship. She witnessed and perhaps helped create some of the standards of music librarianship that we follow today. She helped shape the collections of several important music libraries, most especially the Indiana University Music Library.

THE BEGINNINGS

Music instruction at Indiana University began in 1893, and official course credit began to be offered when the Department of Music was inaugurated in 1910 under the direction of Charles Diven Campbell. In 1919, B. Winfred Merrill became head of the department, then located in Mitchell Hall, (3) and when the department was reorganized as the School of Music in 1921, he was named its first dean. Merrill was succeeded as dean in 1938 by Robert L. Sanders, who in turn was followed by Wilfred C. Bain in 1947.

The first talk of a music library at Indiana seems to be from the early 1920s. Among the topics on the agenda of the faculty meeting of 9 December 1924, the minutes report that "The planning of a Music Library was also discussed." (4) Certainly, by 1928 this library was established, and was of sufficient size or importance to be listed as a departmental library in the university's newsletter. (5) Just two years later, the minutes of a faculty meeting on 15 March 1930 reflect that "The need for a larger Library" was discussed; in the minutes of 22 October of the same year, the suggested needs for the following biennium included "Money for chorus music. …

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