Brains Before Books

| June 21, 2010

The Gottesman Libraries carry on the long tradition of service to Teachers College begun by the Bryson Library in 1887. The Industrial Education Association, precursor to Teachers College, was located at that time at 9 University Place in what is now the East Village.

Miss Grace Hoadley Dodge functioned as the Association’s acting president. Noted businessman and philanthropist George W. Vanderbilt visited the Association in early 1887 and was so impressed with the work going on that he offered to fund a library.

“But we do not want one,” replied Miss Dodge. “We first need some ‘brains’ to develop the work, to place it on a strong footing, and to teach people how to use a library.” The next day, Vanderbilt sent Dodge her “brain money” so the Association could hire it’s first paid president, Nicholas Murray Butler, a professor at Columbia University.  And later that spring Mrs. Peter M Bryson endowed the first library in memory of her late husband.

The library occupied one room and had a collection of about 1,000 books. Mary Medlicott, a graduate of Melvil Dewey’s new library school, became the first librarian in 1889.  You can learn more about the people and organizations that were the foundations of Teachers College, Columbia University in Grace Dodge’s private history A Brief Sketch of the Early History of Teachers College. published for limited circulation by Maynard, Merrill, & Company in 1899. You can trace the history of the library from 1880 to 1988 in The Millbank Memorial Library – An Almanac for the First Century compiled by Jane P. Franck in 1988.