A Decade of Recovery: The Sherlock Years, 1945–1955
Cameron’s successor, Marjorie Sherlock (1903–1982), was born in Lethbridge, Alberta. After graduating with honours in English at the University of Alberta in 1927, she took further degrees at Oxford (BA, MA) and Toronto (BLS, 1932). After serving as Chief Cataloguer at the University of Saskatchewan (1933–1940) and Queen’s University (1940–1945), she returned to her alma mater as Chief Librarian. In an interview published in The Gateway on October 12, 1945, she declared that, “As a westerner, who has lived in the East for five years, I am happy to be here, and as an Albertan who has been away for 15 Years, I am even happier.”
That year, 450 returning war veterans helped swell the University’s enrollment to a record total of 4,811, an increase of 2,132 over the previous year. The following year, the University anticipated that an additional 2,400 veterans would seek to enrol, 500 of whom would be married. To cope, the University had, since VE-Day, hired an additional 60 full-time and 40 part-time instructors. These numbers created a student and staff housing crisis that President Newton described in his 1945–1946 report as the University’s own “Battle of the Bulge,” citing the example of the Chemistry Department, serving students in several other disciplines, with laboratories equipped for 800 students that had been forced during the previous term to accommodate 2,000. What was true of Chemistry, was more than doubly true of the Library, with its paltry 285 reading room seats.
In her first annual report, in the spring of 1946, Miss Sherlock addressed the obvious need for a proper, new library building. As interim measures, 50-seat reading rooms were opened in both the Arts and Education Buildings; study tables were added in the Men’s and Women’s Common Rooms; and 30 seats were added in the Law Library, at the expense of moving 3,000 books into a storeroom beneath Convocation Hall. More significantly, she announced that plans had been completed for a new library building. In her annual report the following year, Miss Sherlock recorded the first of her most lasting and significant achievements: “In March 1946 a revised salary schedule for the Library was approved by the Board of Governors. Members of the Library staff now have academic status and their salaries are graded accordingly. This is a reform long needed, and one in which this University is leading the way for other Canadian universities.” Curiously, although her second annual report was replete with details and statistics of library operations, she made no further mention of the design of the long-delayed library building, which had finally been approved for funding by the Provincial Government in 1947, although she took the greatest pains over its design, building, and equipping.
On November 25, 1948, the Hon. John Campbell Bowen, Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta, laid the cornerstone of the new library, fittingly named for the late Alexander Cameron Rutherford, but progress was slow because of post-war shortages of structural steel and delays in receiving and installing hardwood. Work was at last completed in the late winter of 1951, and over the course of eight days in May, 150,000 books were moved from libraries and offices across campus. On May 15, 1951, 600 guests and faculty members crowded into the general reading room for the opening ceremony, at which Dr Robert Charles Wallace, former University President, delivered the principal address. Over the next three days, more than 5,000 visitors attended a public open house, and toured the new building. The editors of The Gateway thought the new building provided more reading space than would ever be required, little realizing that within seven years library space would once again become a pressing concern.
The war-time and post-war dislocations in the publishing industry and the book trade left a large, reserve surplus in the Library’s book fund, helping to swell the fund from $6,758 to $14,884 between 1945 and 1947. This enabled the Library’s collections to support the large increases in enrollment that were propelled by the returning veterans, but post-war price inflation soon drained these reserves. So in 1953 the Library Sub-Committee petitioned the Board of Governors to approve an increase in funding. As a result, the annual student library fee was raised from $5 to $8. Collected with minimal complaint, this revenue stream continued to provide the core of the book budget until 1959, when book purchasing was made a specific category within the Library’s operating budget. By Sherlock’s final year of service, 1954–1955, the annual book fund had reached $30,000, and the rate of acquisitions was averaging 9,000 a year.
For these books, the Cutter classification system had long been a cumbersome anachronism, its official schedules unrevised since before World War I. On April 8, 1952 Cutter was discontinued, and conversion to the Library of Congress (LC) system begun. A decade later, LC reclassification was extended to the Library’s medical books. Also in 1952, a long-standing tradition was ended when fines were authorized for overdue books. Although initially applied only to titles on the reserve shelves for short-term loans, this break with the past provoked criticism from both faculty and students. At the same time, centralizing the Library within the new Rutherford building brought together the four subject departments of Applied Science, Education, Law, and Medical Science; the combined staff increased almost three-fold to 32; and in 1953, the Library began building its collection of maps and atlases to support the new geography curriculum introduced that year under the direction of Professor William C. Wonders. (Today the William C. Wonders Map Library ranks as the second-largest map collection in Canada, and the third largest among North American research libraries.) Then in August 1955, after bringing to fruition the Library’s first dedicated building, overseeing the re-cataloguing of the collection, and achieving academic status for her librarians, among other accomplishments, Sherlock resigned to marry Dr H. Grayson-Smith, then head of the Department of Physics.