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History of the Friends

A Brief History of the Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries

By Sharon Stirler Yoshida, President 2003

All libraries need friends. Asa Packer was the first friend of the Lehigh University Libraries (LUL). Upon the death of his daughter, Lucy Packer Linderman, in 1873, Asa funded and endowed the University Library in her memory. In addition to the endowment, her family gave additional monies for the book collection.

The students, alumni and trustees have been constant friends. A book collection existed before there was a library building. A student literary society gave its collection to the University in 1874 which became the nucleus of the Linderman Library upon its opening in April of 1878. Active acquisition by Dr. William H. Chandler, Professor of Chemistry and first Director of the Library, made for a glorious beginning for the Lehigh University Libraries. Three early benefactors, friends, greatly enlarged the library collections. The widow of Eckley Brinton Coxe, a trustee, contributed a collection of some 11,000 books and pamphlets in technology in his memory prior to 1929. Dr. Harvey Bassler, '08, and a distinguished geologist deposited his collection of nearly six thousand volumes and a collection of fossils in 1929. In 1955, another alumnus and trustee, Robert Brodhead Honeyman, '20, and his wife gave the first books of their collection to the University, and made additional gifts in the following years (1). Subsequent gifts of books and papers were many. They included the Congressional papers of several Representatives of the 15th Congressional District, one of whom was Congressman Walter who served as the chair of the infamous House Un-American Activities Committee. Gifts for acquisition of resources continue to add to the depth of materials at the LUL. Friends continue to gift the LUL with library materials.

Friends were also responsible for enhancing the library facilities. Twenty alumni gifted the addition to the soon-too-small Linderman Library. This addition was completed in 1929. In 1968 the Mart family provided the naming gift for the Mart Science and Engineering Library in memory of Leon Mart, '13, and his son, Thomas Leon Mart, a Lehigh sophomore from the Class of 1951 who died in an accident. The Fairchild-Martindale Library, opened in 1985, benefited from generous friends including Harry Martindale and his wife, Elizabeth Fairchild Martindale. Curt, '35 and Rachel Bayer made a gift to restore and name the Bayer Galleria of Rare Books and the Bayer Family Room in 1985.

Berry G. Richards, Acting Director and then Director of the LUL in the period from 1977 to 1997 convened a steering committee for the formation of the group, Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries (FLUL), in 1980. Her thought was that "with a new building and automation program, the library could use a base of support (2)." In order to avoid competition with the Development Office, Ms. Richards directed the group's energies "to provide some cultural activities" and "convene people who had interests in libraries." She called upon personal friends connected to the University community to serve on the steering committee that drafted by-laws. Some of these "Friends" continue to work on the Board today in 2003.

The FLUL group sponsored several activities each year including an annual dinner and a book review program, Book Chats. One of the many popular activities was a regular concert/lecture series over a period of years by Professor David M.Greene, emeritus of the English Department. Note: An earlier David Green, '22 donated his Limited Editions Club, a rare book and fine printing collection, to Lehigh. There were also bus trips, a newsletter, and dramatic readings among other activities. The Friends of the Lehigh University Libraries continued to enhance the campus social and literary scene. With changing times, at the end of the 1996 academic year it was determined that reorganization was needed in order to revitalize the FLUL.

In 1997, the group was re-initiated after a hiatus "due to the merger and reorganization of the Lehigh libraries, media, computing, and telecommunications operations into the new Information Resources unit (3)." Programming was begun anew for the 1997-1998 season starting with a November High Tea to celebrate the refurbished Room 200 in Linderman Library for those who had been previously active in the group as well as the entire university faculty. The following year the new university president's wife, a librarian, was formally welcomed at a FLUL tea; Jean Farrington became the honorary chair of the FLUL Board in 1998.

During its history the FLUL has made it possible to add to the library's collection several expensive online databases as well as books requested by various university departments to further the learning and work of students and faculty. Gifts from the FLUL have been used to create a reading nook in Linderman as well as other user comforts in the LUL. In addition there are ongoing efforts to collaborate with other campus groups in the furtherance of support for the libraries with the offering of literary, musical and theatrical events. Current events include brown bag lunches that bring together authors and readers, researchers and interest groups, and those who make theatre and those who attend theatre. The Linderman rotunda has become the site of performances by various musical groups, most often student organizations and clubs, who enhance the cultural/multicultural richness of the Lehigh experience. The FLUL has sponsored visits and lectures by authors of renown. The FLUL also assisted in planning a celebration for the 125th Anniversary of Libraries at Lehigh in 2002-2003. With the campus community and Library and Technology Services, the Friends co-hosted concerts, special exhibits of rare books and old photographs of Linderman, and other events and festivities.

The FLUL foster acquaintance with and support for the maintenance and growth of the library facilities, resources and collections at Lehigh University. The Friends of the Libraries continue to partner with staff in the Lehigh Development Office to assist in meeting the university's overall fundraising goals as they relate to libraries and technology to meet the needs of students and faculty in a changing world.

Footnotes 

  1. From a 1967 press release and a history of the library by James Mack, 1976.

  2. From correspondence in FLUL files and an interview with Berry Richards

  3. From correspondence in FLUL files, a letter drafted by Sue Cady.

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