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Ralph E. Ellsworth Papers

 Collection
Identifier: RG99.0296

Scope and Contents

These materials date primarily from Mr. Ellsworth’s years as director of the State University of Iowa Libraries, 1944 to 1958. They are organized chronologically within each series and sub-series. Some subjects are addressed in more than one series. For example, folders regarding the Shambaugh Heritage Library may be found in the Correspondence series and in the Library Committees series.

One of the largest series in this collection documents the professional organizations Ellsworth served with, including the Midwest Inter-Library Center (MILC); American Library Association (ALA); American Research Libraries (ARL); American Association of University Professors (AAUP); Iowa Library Association (ILA); and correspondence from the Board of Regents for the state of Iowa.

Through ALA in 1956, Ellsworth served as Chair of Region IV of the Library of Congress Project to secure adequate representation of regional library holdings in the published National Union Catalog. He also worked through this organization for centralized interlibrary loan and centralized cataloging. He was a strong voice for establishing the Midwest Inter-Library Center (MILC) in 1949 for deposit of little-used books and journals submitted by member institutions, as well as newspapers on microfilm. Today this is an international organization called the Center for Research Libraries. Land for the MILC building was supplied by the University of Chicago and construction was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The organization was supported by the member institutions. Another large series is correspondence. Ellsworth’s candid correspondence with President Virgil M. Hancher reveals his frustration as they worked to fund the library building in several stages.

Through ALA in 1956, Ellsworth served as Chair of Region IV of the Library of Congress Project to secure adequate representation of regional library holdings in the published National Union Catalog. He also worked through this organization for centralized interlibrary loan and centralized cataloging. He was a strong voice for establishing the Midwest Inter-Library Center (MILC) in 1949 for deposit of little-used books and journals submitted by member institutions, as well as newspapers on microfilm. Today this is an international organization called the Center for Research Libraries. Land for the MILC building was supplied by the University of Chicago and construction was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation. The organization was supported by the member institutions. Another large series is correspondence.

Ellsworth’s candid correspondence with President Virgil M. Hancher reveals his frustration as they worked to fund the library building in several stages.

In addition, Ellsworth worked to grow the library collections at Iowa. The Gifts sub-series of correspondence provides the provenance for important library collections, such as the leaf of the Gutenberg Bible, acquired in 1952. In 1946, Ellsworth created the Tensions File (later named the Social Documents Collection) and began collecting right-wing publications. He established the Iowa Authors Collection in 1947.

Correspondence reveals that planning for the Shambaugh Heritage Library began in 1945. Located in the northwest corner of the first floor, this was created to benefit freshmen students with their core courses. The space occupied by the Heritage Library was reassigned during June 1953 due to a lack of space.

Library training courses at SUI began in fall 1900. The Library training sub-series provides course titles and instructor names. The librarians who taught library courses during Ellsworth’s tenure received retirement benefits and faculty status (the latter was twice defeated by Faculty Council). Library training became a separate school in 1966 and was later named the School of Library and Information Science.

Dates

  • -

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff.

Biographical / Historical

Ralph Eugene Ellsworth was born September 22, 1907, in Forest City, Iowa. He graduated from North Des Moines High School, Des Moines, Iowa, in 1925. He earned his B.A. degree in pre-journalism at Oberlin College in Ohio in 1929. With his experience working briefly at a Cleveland bookstore, Ellsworth developed an interest in librarianship, and he took his B.S. degree in Library Science at Western Reserve University in 1931. At Oberlin, he met his future wife, Theda Chapman. They were married in August 1931 and had two children, Peter and David.

Mr. Ellsworth accepted his first librarian and teaching position at Adams State College, in Alamosa, Colorado, from 1931 to 1934. He took his Ph.D. on fellowship at the University of Chicago in 1937, and then returned to Colorado, this time as Director of Libraries at the University of Colorado at Boulder, 1937 to 1943, where he was keen to design the new library building. Unfortunately, he was not able to use his modular design, which was vetoed by the architect, C. A. Klauder.

With another opportunity to build a modular library, Ellsworth was drawn to the State University of Iowa to serve as director on December 1, 1943. In 1944, Ellsworth wrote to a colleague, Earle Rugg at Colorado State College, that the “library plans should represent another step forward…bringing the library more closely in line with the instructional program of the University.” After seven years of working out designs and persevering the delay of World War II, the new SUI library building opened on March 26, 1951, and was dedicated January 25-26, 1952. The aluminum panels bearing the cartoons of Ding Darling, affixed to the exterior of the new library building, garnered much attention from the press, as did the modular design for flexible use of space. During the years he served as library director at Iowa, Ellsworth was consulted on the building designs of at least 20 libraries, including the Library of Congress.



Ellsworth was active during the 1940s and 1950s with the Iowa Library Association (ILA), Association of Research Libraries (ARL), American Library Association (ALA), and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL). Even with his many duties, Ellsworth made time each year to teach one course, “Introduction to Mass Communication Journalism.”



After 14 years at Iowa, Ellsworth returned to the University of Colorado as Director of Libraries in 1958. He was succeeded as director at Iowa by Leslie W. Dunlap on September 1, 1958. Dunlap served concurrently as University Archivist. Dale Bentz followed Dunlap’s retirement with the title University Librarian beginning July 1, 1970.



After his retirement from the University of Colorado in 1972, Ellsworth lectured in Europe, the Middle East and in South America on his modular library design. He received the L.L.D. (honorary) degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1956 and the L.H.D. (honorary) from Oberlin College in 1983.



Ralph Ellsworth died November 12, 2000, in Laramie, Wyoming.

Extent

9.50 linear feet

Language of Materials

English

Overview

The Ralph Ellsworth Papers consist of correspondence and files pertaining to donors of materials to the University Libraries.

Related Materials

University Library Records (RG 21.01.01), Series V: Library Building Planning.

Dale M. Bentz Papers (RG 99.0299)

Pauline Cook Papers (RG 99.0304)

Leslie W. Dunlap Papers (RG 99.0297)

Ellsworth, Ralph Faculty Vertical File (RG 01.15.03), 2 folders, 2.0 inches. Correspondence, clippings, University employment statistical sheet, vita, obituary.

Ellsworth, Ralph E. The Library as a Teaching Instrument. Iowa City: State University of Iowa, 1945. University Archives and Libraries Annex, Z675.U5I5. Ellsworth, Ralph E. Ellsworth on Ellsworth: An Unchronological, Mostly True Account of Some Moments of Contact between “Library Science” and Me, since Our Confluence in 1931, with Appropriate Sidelights. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1980. 163 pp., illus., bibliog. “Another Chance at Modular Planning at Iowa,” pp. 47-50; “Projects I Was Involved with at Iowa, 1944-58,” pp. 51-83. Main Library stacks.

Ambrose, Jennifer. “‘No Masterpiece of Architectural Design’: The Relationship Between Library Structure, Mid-Century Pedagogy and Student Reading Experience at the University of Iowa.” Class paper, University of Iowa, 2004. 23 pp. Ralph Ellsworth and the development of the University of Iowa Main Library. University Archives, in Historical Papers Collection (RG 01.01.03).

Persons, Stow. “Ralph Ellsworth and the University of Iowa Libraries.” Books at Iowa 49 (November 1988): 7-15, notes. “A Correction,” 50 (April 1989): 7. Main Library stacks.

Stueart, Robert, ed. Academic Librarianship: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. New York: Neal-Schuman, 1982. 273 pp., notes, bibliog. Festschrift for Ralph E. Ellsworth. Main Library stacks.

Language of description
Undetermined
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Archives Repository

Contact:
100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242
319-335-5921