In preparation for a meeting with several members of the University of Maryland’s Medical Library, I prepared a brief timeline of the history of MedChi’s Library.
|Samuel Baker, MD|| |
John Fonerden, MD
The first catalogue was printed in 1833 and numbered 569 books. In 1835, the Library was relocated to the home of Dr. Samuel Chew, on Lexington Street, and by 1840, it had moved to his office at 88 N. Howard Street. In 1846, a catalogue of the Library’s holdings was printed and distributed to every member.
By 1855, the Library had begun its decline, and subscriptions to all of the periodicals and books were discontinued. Although the Library was reported to have 1,250 volumes, there were significantly fewer, as members, against the rules, had borrowed many of the books and not returned them. By 1858, the Executive Committee had voted to close the Library due to its sad condition. But the Library held on, with the books remaining in its possession.
In 1874, the Library had added no books, held no meetings and only had $60 in its accounts. But 36 volumes were donated to the Library, regardless. In 1876, $350 was allocated to the Library and each member was assessed $4.00 to help rebuild the Library. By 1879, a card catalogue system had been established, one for authors and one for book titles.
By 1880, the Library was on an upward trajectory, and there were more than 2,700 volumes on its shelves. Although there’s no mention of the location of the Library, it was most likely at the Faculty’s Hall on East Fayette Street. The Library had become one of the most important facets of the Faculty by 1882. It was at this time that the Library Committee began to look for a building which could house the Library and which was also fireproof.
By 1886, the Library had relocated to the Mercantile Library Rooms, which had glass-fronted shelves which could hold up to 50,000 volumes, although they only had one-tenth that number of books. Members paid the sum of $1 a year for a key to the reading rooms. The Library was by now subscribing to medical journals from England, France, Germany and other countries which had major medical universities. The card catalogues were in order and so were the books.
By 1888, William Osler, M.D., had arrived in Baltimore and he was a great bibliophile. In his work bridging Johns Hopkins Medical School and the greater medical community in Baltimore, he became active in the Faculty’s Library. The Library’s volumes had increased to more than 9,000 and another permanent location was being investigated. It was with his urging that the Frick family made a significant gift to the Library to establish a separate reading room, purchase books on topics which Dr. Charles Frick had been interested and to support the Library and reading room and Library with an annual contribution.
In 1896, it is reported that “a lady librarian has been hired” and she’s Marcia Crocker Noyes, who turned out to be the Faculty’s librarian for the next 50 years. The Library also begins keeping full hours – from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. More than 3,000 visitors had come to use the library, which by then had more than 7,500 volumes. The Library had also moved again and it was located in an antebellum mansion on North Eutaw Street, and an apartment was provided for Miss Noyes on the premises.
In the year of the Faculty’s centennial, the Library was doing better than it ever had and had more money in its coffers than anyone would have imagined. In addition to the books it purchased, it also received numerous donations of the libraries of deceased members. In 1899, that numbered more than 1,200 volumes.
By 1909, the Faculty had moved yet again, but this time into its new purpose-build headquarters. A four-story stacks library was included in the original plans, and a large sunny reading room was included as well. There was an office for the library staff adjacent to the reading room, and the librarian, Marcia Noyes, was on-call around the clock.
When the building was constructed, the Faculty built her a “penthouse” apartment on the top floor of the building. This meant that she could be reached at any hour of the day or night to provide assistance to the doctors who called searching for a particular book.
Sir William Osler’s role in the library cannot be underestimated. It was his drive and reputation that helped bring the library into prominence in the country. When he left Baltimore, members of the Faculty raised money for a special fund for the library and Osler’s colleague at Hopkins, Max Brödel designed a bookplate for these volumes. Sir William would send special and valuable books to the library even after he had moved to England. Upon his death, another fund was established to provide books for the library.
Max Brödel, the premiere medical illustrator at Johns Hopkins, also designed the seal for the Medical & Chirurgical Faculty and it was used as the bookplate for the library, along with plates he designed for John Ruhräh, M.D., and Thomas S. Cullen, M.D.
At its peak, the Library housed more than 65,000 volumes, dating from the 1500’s to the late 1900’s. In 2004, the decision was made to eliminate the position of librarian and to de-accession some of the Library’s more valuable volumes, in part because MedChi lacked the financial resources to care for the books. Members were invited to come and select the books they wished to have for their own libraries and the stacks were closed to the membership.
However, more than 50,000 books remain, and there is still the occasional query for a specific volume. The card catalogues, with their thousands of cards, many hand-written, still remain, and anyone wanting to hunt for a specific book would be welcome to try and find it.