By Susanne K. Whitaker, Public Services Librarian
The Flower-Sprecher Veterinary Library has had a long and distinguished history in serving the information needs of the faculty, students, staff and other practicing veterinarians at the College of Veterinary Medicine. It was founded on September 21, 1897 with a gift from Roswell P. Flower, former governor of the State of New York. The library became the Flower-Sprecher Veterinary Library in 1992 when it was renamed to recognize Dr. and Mrs. Isidor I. Sprecher for their generous support of the College. A Centennial Celebration was held in conjunction with Homecoming on September 26, 1997 to mark the Library's 100th anniversary.
Located on the second floor of Schurman Hall since 1957, the Library was expanded into the Veterinary Education Center in 1993. It currently occupies almost 12,000 net square feetof space and can seat a total of 211. In addition to a large reading room that accommodates 82 patrons, there is lounge furniture; display shelves for current journals; areas for indexes, abstracts, and other reference books; and carrels with audiovisual equipment. The two levels of adjoining stacks include journals and monographs and are open to the public. A study lounge is projected for future renovation of the former third level stacks.
In addition, there are 32 public desktop computers and 28 laptops available on a first-come-first-served basis for searching the Cornell University Library's online catalog (listing the combined holdings of all campus libraries), bibliographic databases, electronic books and journals, and other resources. This eqipment also provides unlimited access to the Internet, email, and various office applications such as word processing and spreadsheets. Several digital image scanners and a photocopier round out the equipment available for personal projects. The Library is fully networked with Cornell's Red-Rover wireless communications system enabling patrons to utilize library resources and services from their own laptops and other mobile devices.
On June 30, 2006, the Library's in-house print collection contained nearly 100,000 volumes at its peak. This represents an internationally recognized selection of materials in veterinary medicine plus publications in the biomedical sciences. Related strengths include immunology, microbiology, parasitology, pharmacology, physiology, and human medicine. All of these resources are designed to support undergraduate, graduate, clinical, and research programs. Interlibrary loans and photocopied materials further supplement the research potential of the Veterinary Library, which is rich in historical and basic research resources as well as recent monographs and selected government documents.
Non-print media resource materials numbering in excess of 1,500 titles are available on CD-ROM, DVD, videorecordings, 35mm slide sets, audiotapes, and laser videodiscs. These multimedia resources enhance academic programs as well as provide opportunities for self-study.
Given the shift toward electronic resources and the need to vacate space occupied by compact shelving, a comprehensive collection review was conducted during 2006 and 2007. This involved moving older periodical volumes and books into off-site storage and withdrawing duplicated journal runs held elsewhere on campus. As a result, over 32,000 heavily used and current volumes remained in Schuman Hall at the end of fiscal year 2008/2009. In addition to maintaining an ever increasing number of electronic full-text resources, the Library continues to subscribe to about 300 current veterinary periodicals and series titles in print for ready access and literature preservation purposes.
A wide range of information support services is available to faculty, students, and staff. Among these include reference assistance, online literature searching, interlibrary loan and document delivery, photoduplication, instruction, outreach, and current awareness. Many bibliographic databases are available online for immediate access to the journal literature, including MEDLINE, CAB Abstracts, BIOSIS, and Web of Science. In addition, the searching expertise of an experienced reference librarian is available for conducting on-demand literature searches, IACUC protocol searches, and monthly current awareness updates.
In 2002, VetAccess was initiated to provide fee-based, on-demand research assistance and document delivery services to non-Cornell affiliated individuals, including practicing veterinarians and pet owners.
Original James Law Hall and Flower Gift
Shortly after Governor Roswell P. Flower signed into law the legislation establishing the New York State Veterinary College at Cornell University on March 21,1894, James Law Hall was constructed in the center of campus, where Uris Hall is located today. The plans called for two rooms on the second floor of the south pavilion to be designated as a library.
However, when the school opened in the autumn of 1896, it was noted by Simon Henry Gage, one of the original six faculty members, that "during the first year, the teachers and students had to depend upon their own textbooks and private libraries, and on the wholly inadequate works bearing on human and veterinary medicine in the University Library. The shelves in the Veterinary college library were empty". (Gage, p. 346)
1897 Gift of Governor Flower
Roswell P. Flower (1835-1899), U.S. Congressman, Governor of New York State (1892-1895), and Chairman of Cornell University Board of Trustees
In a 1930 paper on the Library, Professor Simon Henry Gage recalled a story originally told by Charles Ezra Cornell, Ezra Cornell's grandson, trustee of the University, and Secretary of the College Council (Gage, p.346-347). It was described by Dr. Ellis P. Leonard in A Cornell Tradition: Veterinary Medicine 1868-1908 (p. 210-211) as follows:
"Governor Alonzo B. Cornell and former Governor Roswell P. Flower were in Ithaca on the occasion of Mr. Henry Sage's funeral (September 20, 1897). While driving on the campus after the funeral, one of the horses drawing the carriage balked on East Avenue in front of the new Veterinary College. While the groom busied himself with getting the horse to move, someone suggested a visit to the new college.
The visitors were shown the new buildings and equipment by Dr. Law, the College's first Dean, and were pleased at the appearance of the new institution. Before leaving, Governor Cornell asked Dr. Law about any further needs of the college. Dr. Law replied, 'We need a good library'.
Turning to Ex-Governor Flower, Governor Cornell remarked, 'Well, Governor, there is your opportunity". Without hesitation Governor Flower took out his check book, laid it on Dr. Law's desk and wrote a check for five thousand dollars, a tidy sum in those days.
The Ithaca Journal in recording the event paraphrased Andrew [Dickson] White's favorite expression, 'He builded better than he knew,' by saying, 'Perhaps the balky horse balked better than he knew'." (Leonard, p. 210-211)
"The [Cornell University] Board of Trustees met on September 21, 1897 and accepted the gift with the following words: 'Moved and carried that the President J. G. [Jacob Gould] Schurman be requested to express to Governor Flower the sincere thanks of the Board for his generous gift of five thousand dollars to found a library for the Veterinary College. Resolved: that the library founded by Governor Flower be named The Roswell P. Flower Library.'" (Leonard, p.211)
The Library Grows
Over the ensuing months, the faculty discussed how best to utilize this generous gift. Topics included the purchase of books, periodical subscriptions, contingency expenses, allotments by department, and relocation of the veterinary literature from the University Library to the Veterinary Library. The first library committee composed of Drs. James Law, Veranus Moore, and Grant Sherman Hopkins was convened in February, 1898. Their activities lead to the establishment of a set of rules and regulations for everything from loans to a cataloging system.
In 1899, Professor Gage, a noted expert on microscopy, suggested a brass tablet or plaque be placed on the library door. A beautiful, solid brass tablet was hand-engraved by Cox Sons and Buckley Company of New York City for $128.00 with the inscription:
The Roswell P. Flower Library
This tablet currently hangs inside the Library's entrance on the right next to the engraved portrait of Governor Roswell P. Flower.
By 1901, 304 bound volumes along with unbound works, pamphlets, and water color illustrations had been purchased with $4,000 of the Governor's gift. This included the library of the late John Busteed, M.D., of New York, the founder of the New York College of Veterinary Surgeons, that included a number of rare and valuable books, dating from the work of Carlo Ruini (1602). Dr. Law indicated that "to the veterinarian it furnishes a valuable history of the science, while to the artist it provides the classic folios of Gurlt, Stubbs, Brunot, Leblanc and Trouseau, Snape, Blaine and Leisering, in artistic, descriptive and surgical anatomy". (Leonard, p.219) Additional gift volumes from the libraries of Dr. W.L. Zuill, former dean of the veterinary department of the University of Pennsylvania, Professor Gage, and others brought the total collection to about 1,754 volumes and 30 scientific journals by the turn of the century.
In 1901, when only $1,000 of the Governor Flower's original gift remained, the faculty felt that it might be appropriate to seek a permanent endowment to maintain the library. Interestingly, it was estimated that $500 per year would be needed to maintain the library.
Professor Simon Henry Gage (1851 - 1944)
Professor of Microscopy and One of the College's Six Original Faculty Members
Professor Simon Henry Gage, whose oil portrait currently hangs in the Library near the Reference Desk, was appointed to contact members of the Flower family who were involved in the investment banking industry on Wall Street and present the College's plan for a library endowment. Shortly thereafter in May, 1901, President Schurman received a letter from Sarah M. Flower, Governor Flower's widow, with an enclosed check for $10,000. This gift was to be used for the purpose of establishing a permanent endowment for the "purchase and proper binding of books and periodicals". The remaining $1,000 of the original gift was added to the endowment.
A ceremony was held on June 12, 1901 in the College's Amphitheater to found and endow the Roswell P. Flower Library. President Schurman, Dr. James Law, and Mr. Roswell S. George, grand nephew of Governor Flower spoke. The full text of Dr. Law's eloquent speech can be found in Dr. Leonard's first volume on the history of the College (p.215-220).
It is also worth noting this endowment was further expanded in 1928 to a principal of $19,000. The additional $7,000 was largely raised through the efforts of Dr. Frank H. Miller, a McGill University graduate and long time Cornell trustee who practiced veterinary medicine in New York City, who headed the campaign for the library.
As the collection and library grew, so did the needs for additional space. In 1924 another wing was built on the South Pavilion of James Law Hall. The addition of two rooms provided much needed space for the library's stacks, reference books and reading tables. A notable feature of that expanded reading room was the oil portraits of the first deans, Law, Moore and Fish, as well as other professors. Many of these portraits hang in the Library's Reading Room today.
As Dean Veranus A. Moore noted in his 1923/1924 Annual Report, "this had made the library far more useful, not only for students and faculty, but also for the veterinarians of the State" (Moore, p.12). Then, in the Annual Report for 1924/1925, Moore again indicated that "the library is now well housed in the South Wing of James Law Hall. A large reading room with ample reference shelves already has increased the usefulness by at least 50 percent. There is now in the Library 7,272 volumes, and 95 veterinary and medical journals and other of allied sciences are received". (Moore, p.13)
James Law Hall Library Reading Room, circa 1923
Also, in 1923, Miss E. Clifford Williams was appointed as the first full-time librarian. Previously, staffing was provided on a part-time basis by individuals serving in other capacities, such as the College Clerk.
The Roswell P. Flower Library was renamed in 1929. This was done to avoid conflict with the Watertown, New York, Public Library in Governor Flower's home town that was also named in his honor. Thus, the College's library became known as the "Flower Veterinary Library" from 1929 until it was renamed again about 65 years later to "The Roswell P. Flower - Isidor I. and Sylvia M. Sprecher Library and Learning Resources Center."
James Law Hall Library Periodical Room, 1955
James Law Hall Library Stacks, 1955
College Relocation to Schurman Hall (1957)
In 1957, the College made a major move from the center of campus to its present location at the eastern end of Tower Road. The Library was constructed on the second floor of Schurman Hall occupying about 9,200 square feet of space. This provided additional space for the collection which had reached over 30,500 volumes and received nearly 500 journal subscriptions. Three levels of stacks were adjoined by a large reading room with space for circulation, card catalog, staff offices, and an informal reading lounge.
Veterinary Library, Schurman Hall
Circulation Desk and Card Catalog, 1960
Veterinary Library, Schurman Hall
Reading Room, 1960
Veterinary Library, Schurman Hall
Informal Reading Lounge, 1960
Dr. Leonard Focuses on College History, 1969
Dr. Ellis P. Leonard took on a “second career” as a self-appointed historian and archivist of the College following his retirement in 1969 after being professor of small animal medicine and surgery at Cornell for over 20 years. Encouraged and supported on a daily basis by library staff, he began organizing materials related to the College’s history. Space was allocated in a locked area in the library stacks.
As the result of many years of research and writing, Dr. Leonard published a two-volume history of veterinary medicine at Cornell, A Cornell Heritage: Veterinary Medicine 1868-1908 (1979) and In the James Law Tradition: 1908-1948 (1982). Unfortunately, after Dr. Leonard’s passing in 1991, no other faculty member stepped forward to fill his shoes. It was not until 2002 when a temporary archivist became available for several years to update the materials Dr. Leonard had assembled, transfer them to Rare and Manuscript Collections in Kroch Library, and create documentation about the College's Archives. A bronze statue of Dr. Leonard commissioned by the New York State Veterinary Medical Society is displayed near the Library’s entrance.
Veterinary Library, Schurman Hall, Stacks, 1974
Moving into the Non-Print and Computer Search Age
In subsequent years, the Library’s collection continued to grow in support of the College’s missions of teaching, research and clinical service. By the early 1980s, the collection had expanded to approximately 66,550 volumes as of June 30, 1979.
In 1980, the Library assumed managerial responsibility for the Autotutorial Center which had been established in 1978. It was initially located on the second floor of the Small Animal Clinic to provide non-print resources for student course study and independent learning. Among the materials were 35mm slide sets, videotapes, and audiotapes acquired from a number of different sources, including those produced by the College’s own Biomedical Communications department. This collection was later moved “down the hall from the Library” to the second floor of Schurman Hall in the pathology wing in March, 1987 thereby increasing its space by over 82 percent. The AT Center later merged into the Library physical facility in spring 1991.
Autotutorial Center Located over the Small Animal Clinic, 1979
As the use of microcomputers became more widespread in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Library added a computer-assisted literature search service, called COMPASS at Cornell, in 1981. This service enabled a qualified reference librarian to perform mediated bibliographic database searches, such as MEDLINE, on demand for faculty, research personnel, and students. The Library also shifted its in-house cataloging functions to another campus library thereby initiating what would become a long-term trend toward consolidating technical service functions on campus. That system produced catalog cards and also entered records into the OCLC database. The Library’s journal holdings were also entered into the Library of Congress’s national CONSER (Conversion of Serials) database.
Librarian Performing a Mediated Literature Search, circa 1983
By the mid-1980s, bibliographic databases were starting to become available on CD-ROM for patron use at individual computer workstations. The Library received its first demonstration disc containing MEDLINE citations in November 1986 with Vet-CD, Agricola, and other bibliographic databases soon to follow. It is interesting to note that only about 15 percent of faculty, who responded to a questionnaire in May, 1987 replied that they did their own searches. This would change dramatically in years to come.
As the demand for public access microcomputers grew, the Library partitioned off an area near its entrance to accommodate up to six computers that students could use at any time. As more equipment was needed to meet the growing demand, the Microcomputer Center was relocated into significantly larger space down the hall from the Library in 1988. Under the daily supervision of the Library, a grant from IBM Corporation supplied 25 much appreciated PC computers which helped to set up the facility for DVM student computing use. However, in September 1994, responsibility for this student-oriented computer center was shifted to the Office of Educational Development. Later, when those rooms were needed for other College purposes, the Center was closed in January 2006 and all of its public computers were moved into the library joining the 12 already available for public use by students.
Veterinary Library, Schurman Hall, Computer Area, 2008
The 1980s also heralded the early development and implementation of the NOTIS online library catalog which would later replace the long-standing printed card catalog in spring 1988. With project funding from the Research Libraries Group, the Veterinary Library’s shelf list was converted to machine readable form thereby creating electronic catalog and holdings records as of June, 1987. This led to the generation of pre-printed barcode labels which were affixed to classified books. Another major effort was then begun to apply barcode labels to all journal volumes in the Library and link them to the developing catalog database in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Once completed about 1993, the Veterinary Library joined other Cornell libraries in utilizing a shared online circulation system. Computer-based systems made possible further changes in acquiring materials, recording the receipt of new journal issues, and processing interlibrary borrowing requests using automated systems.
Expansion into the Veterinary Education Center (1993)
Early in the 1990s, the College began a major capital building expansion effort. In addition to the completion of the Veterinary Medical Center and the new Cornell University Hospital for Animals, the Veterinary Education Center building was constructed. It included nearly 5,700 square feet of space for the Library to bring its total about 15,250 n.s.f. The Library’s entrance was moved from Schurman Hall to a main traffic area in the atrium of the Veterinary Education Center. Compact shelving for up to 45,000 volume equivalents of older journal holdings was added on the ground level along with additional space for reference services, journal display, and staff offices.
Sprechers' Contributions Honored
In August 1992, the library's name was changed to "The Roswell P. Flower - Isidor I. and Sylvia M. Sprecher Library and Learning Resources Center" in recognition of the significant contributions made by the Sprecher's to the College over the years. Dr. Sprecher was a 1939 graduate of the College and practiced small animal veterinary medicine for many years in Waterbury, Connecticut. Dr. Sprecher donated his 1939 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine diploma to the Library at its renaming ceremony. This diploma currently hangs inside the Library's entrance on the left.
Dr. Isidor and Mrs. Sylvia Sprecher with 1939 Diploma, 2005
Developments Since 1993 Library Expansion and Renaming
The next two decades or so brought extensive changes to the Flower-Sprecher Library and its collection. Among these included providing support for a revised D.V.M. curriculum, transitioning to more user-friendly literature search interfaces, replacing the outdated online catalog system, implementing further automation and centralization of various library processing functions, and building a more digitally-based collection in coordination with other Cornell libraries throughout the University.
At the same time the College completed construction of the Veterinary Education Center, a new problem-based curriculum was in the first stages of implementation for the 1993/1994 academic year. This meant organizing students into small tutor groups for self-directed learning from actual case studies rather than attending large structured classes with required textbooks and final exams. In response, the Library significantly enlarged its reserve collection by relocating multiple copies of about 300 heavily used textbooks to open shelving in the reading room for unlimited reading and consultation. The collection and its use has continued to grow each year thereafter.
Veterinary Library, Schurman Hall, Core Resources, 2004
Interestingly, soon after the new facility was occupied, some veterinary students suggested incorporating a few hazardous houseplants near the large windows in the index area (now used for current journal display) at the back of the Library. This began a project, aided by the College’s veterinary toxicologist, to establish a small collection of living plants in support of a D.V.M. course and as a supplement to the outdoor Muenscher Poisonous Plant Garden located behind the James Hall Auditorium. Many of these specimens continue to grow on display in the facility.
Computer-assisted literature searching also expanded in popularity and sophistication. For example, in 1993/1994, library staff conducted 1,343 searches for library patrons. That same year, the Library signed a fixed fee contract with the National Library of Medicine (NLM) to obtain “connect hours” to search the MEDLINE database online via Grateful Med. This replaced single-station CD-ROM access, was greatly received, and stimulated a burgeoning trend toward faculty, staff and students conducting more and more of their own searches. Soon thereafter, NLM would develop an improved user-friendly interface for MEDLINE called PubMed in 1996 and offer free access to everyone on the World Wide Web a year later. Reference Update was loaded on a College computer server and became available electronically in 1995 as a current awareness tool to help the College community keep up-to-date with the recently published journal articles.
By June 30, 1995, the Flower-Sprecher Library’s collection of print volumes had grown to about 85,900 volumes with 1,050 serials being received on an ongoing basis.
A Centennial Celebration was held in conjunction with Homecoming on September 26, 1997 to mark the Library's 100th anniversary. It featured several speakers followed by a reception on the landing outside the main entrance to the Library.
The decade of the 2000s saw the replacement of the aging NOTIS online catalog with a new Voyager system with its improved online catalog interface in 1999/2000. The Flower-Sprecher Library’s first Web pages were implemented in 1998 in association with the College’s Internet site. Veterinary Library patrons were also able to take advantage of enhanced networked capabilities afforded by the Cornell University Library Gateway, later to become the main Home Page, with its many connections to the Library Catalog, databases, and various service functions.
On March 9, 2001, a kickoff celebration was held in West Palm Beach, Florida hosted by Dr. and Mrs. Sprecher to inaugurate the creation of the Flower-Sprecher Veterinary Library Society. This group of friends and supporters of the Library gathered to praise the Library and its accomplishments, honor donors, and encourage others to provide similar support for its activities.
In 2002, a study of services being frequently requested by individuals outside the University was conducted. The result was the establishment of a formal program, called VetAccess. It was intended to provide fee-based, on-demand research assistance and document delivery services to non-Cornell affiliated individuals, including practice veterinarians and pet owners.
Beginning with the spring 2004 distribution course period, a veterinary librarian assumed responsibility for coordinating the one-credit, 8-week course for D.V.M. students titled, “Introduction to the Professional Literature”, when a faculty member left the University.
While several small book collections were set up in the large and small animal clinics in the late 1970s, adequate maintenance in crowded rooms declined over time. It was not until many years later in 2002 that interest re-surfaced when the Library was asked to organize and catalog Community Practice Service (CPS) and Center for Animal Research and Education (CARE) departmental collections. This involvement led to the establishment of nearly a dozen “satellite” collections dispersed throughout the College by 2009, especially in the Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA) and Animal Health Diagnostic Center (AHDC). Purchased by the library, these important books are intended to provide rapid access to clinical information when it is inconvenient for students, hospital residents, and faculty to come to the library in person.
Veterinary Library, Schurman Hall, Rare Book Room, 2004
In addition to continued collection growth, various types of materials in the Veterinary Library were being reallocated to different locations. In particular, about 1,000 rare books and historically significant volumes from the Library’s Rare Book Room in Schurman Hall were sent to Rare and Manuscript Collections in Kroch Library in 2005 thereby providing improved protection for these irreplaceable materials. In addition, the Library’s extensive collection of foreign veterinary theses were donated and shipped to the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago in spring 2008.
When it became necessary to vacate space allocated to compact shelving that contained older periodicals, a complete review of the collection was initiated and conducted during 2006 and 2007. This activity resulted in storing about 64,600 volumes in the high-density off-campus Annex Library and withdrawing non-veterinary print journal runs that were duplicated in other campus libraries. As a result of this activity, the number of bound volumes held by the library in Schurman Hall decreased by about two thirds to approximately 32,000 volumes as of June 30, 2009.
Veterinary Library, Schurman Hall, Compact Shelving, 2004
Progression Toward Electronic Resources and Digitization
With each advancing year in the 2000s, technological advances were rapidly being made in computer hardware, software, digital storage capacity as well as networked communications. Academic libraries around the world, including the Flower-Sprecher Library and other libraries at Cornell, were quickly taking advantage of these capabilities, especially in the scientific and biomedical disciplines.
In progressing toward more emphasis upon electronic resources, most of the Veterinary Library’s biomedical and life sciences print subscriptions were cancelled beginning in 2008 in favor of electronic-only full-text versions. Veterinary College patrons also gained access to many e-journals as the result of cooperative licensing and cost sharing arrangements among the science libraries on campus and the Weill Cornell Medical College Library in New York City. Backfile sets have been acquired as they become available from publishers to further expand Cornell’s online holdings. Nevertheless, the Library continues to maintain about 300 print journals, newsletters and other serials specifically in veterinary medicine for archival and long-term preservation purposes.
Concerning the historic collection, nearly 4,000 older, pre-1922 veterinary books were included in a Cornell University Library digitization project in 2008. This effort enabled these monographs to be made available electronically to researchers and historians on the Web. Additional scanning and digitization projects are planned for 2011 and beyond.
In addition to books and journals, all senior seminar papers back to 2002/2003 were scanned in 2009. These files are currently stored in the Cornell University Library’s digital repository known as eCommons@cornell. Such efforts provide online access and long-term preservation for one-of-kind materials.
As part of the University’s 2010-2015 strategic planning initiative, a comprehensive review of the Library was conducted by a special faculty committee. Because of the Library’s distant location in relation to other campus libraries, consideration for the immediate information needs of veterinary students, and moderate percentage of materials in veterinary medicine currently in electronic format, the Flower-Sprecher Library will remain in its present facility in the College complex for the foreseeable future and continue its long tradition of service to veterinary medicine.
A number of individuals served as part-time librarians in conjunction with their other duties, such as College Clerk, until 1923 when Miss Williams was appointed as the first full time librarian.
Those responsible for the Library over the years include:
Charles Ezra Cornell (1897-1902); Ralph Minthorne Brown (1902); Arthur Malcolm Bean (1903); Philena B. Fletcher (1904-1907); Grace Elinor Kinney (1907); Helena Haight (1908); Allen J. Thomas (1908-1911); Francis B. vanZandt (1911-1922); Clayton E. DeCamp (1922); E. Clifford Williams (1923-1946); Alice Purrington (1946-1952); Mia Reinap (1952-1978); Susanne K. Whitaker (1978-1998); Susan J. Barnes (1998-1999); Erla P. Heyns (1999-Present).
References and Additional Reading
Gage, Simon Henry. The Flower Library of the New York State Veterinary College. The Cornell Veterinarian 1930;20:345-350.
Leonard, Ellis Pearson. A Cornell Heritage: Veterinary Medicine 1868-1907. Ithaca, NY: New York State College of Veterinary Medicine, 1979. pp. 210-222
Moore, Veranus Alva. New York State Veterinary College Annual Report 1923/1924, p.12
Moore, Veranus Alva. New York State Veterinary College Annual Report 1924/1925, p.13