Miss Estelle Lutrell: an exhibit about UA Library History

1905-1920s: Estelle and the University of Arizona Library's Early Years

Old Main circa 1891
Old Main circa 1891.

Classes began at the University of Arizona October 1, 1891, in an unfinished building now affectionately known as “Old Main.”  The only other buildings on campus at that time were the “Pump and Engine” house and a “Horticulturalist’s Cottage.”

Howard Judson Hall
Howard Judson Hall.

Howard Judson Hall, one of the six original faculty members, had been hired to head up the “Preparatory Department” and to teach English.  He was also officially given the title of Librarian, but he also had a full schedule of classroom teaching and was not a full-time librarian. By 1893, however, there were about 700 bound volumes, and the “supervised reading room” was open six hours daily for students. By 1902 the collection had about 6000 volumes and 70 periodicals. Old Main could not serve much longer as a home for the Library.  Hall campaigned for more money and a separate building.  A professional opportunity found Professor Hall leaving Tucson in 1904 to take a life-long position in Stanford University’s English Department.

Enter Estelle Lutrell.

When Estelle arrived in Tucson in 1904, Old Main was still the hub of campus activity and the library was located in the basement. Upon seeing the library for the first time, Estelle beheld a disorganized collection of books and newspapers placed wherever they could fit on the shelves. (See quote from Estelle accompanying Old Main's Original Library photo ). Estelle immediately began a major reorganization campaign to find a way to house the University’s growing book collection and she contributed to the final planning of a Library and Museum Building (now called “Douglass”), that was being constructed.

Old Main's Original Library
Old Main's Original Library.
New Library & Museum Bldg., 1905
New Library and Museum Bldg., 1905.

Estelle came to the UA Library with a degree in English and modern languages from the University of Chicago, hired as a librarian and instructor in English by President Frank Yale Adams. With a new library facility already planned and started, she could focus her much needed energies on its development.

The new Library and Museum Building, completed in October 1904 by the firm of Rosewell and Graf, was architecturally designed by Rossell, Muran, and Garden of St. Louis. The Library was located on the second floor in a handsome, functional, and spacious room, credted to “serve all needs for all times to come” upon its opening. Soon, though, even this new facility would become inefficient and cramped. The University was growing at a steady pace, and the size of the Library collection did too.

1905 Reading Room
1905 Reading Room.

The 1910s witnessed dramatic changes and expansion of the University. President Rufus Bernard von KleinSmid strived to make the University of Arizona competitive with the other institutions in the United States, and worked closely with the many departments of the University to meet their demands. By the end of the decade it was evident that the 1905 Library was completely outmoded as different sections had to be relocated to other buildings on campus. At Estelle’s recommendation, President von KleinSmid initiated plans for a larger and more sufficient University Library. However, other buildings were needed too and dormitories, a Science Hall, the Agriculture Building, Mines and Engineering, Steward Observatory and Mechanic Arts labs would be built before the Library Building could become reality. Ground breaking for a building for the Library finally took place in January 1924.

1918 Coffee Club
1918 Coffee Club.

In the meantime, Lutrell was also conducting research into the status of Arizona libraries in general and taking steps towards the creation of a statewide library association.