Miss Estelle Lutrell: an exhibit about UA Library History

The 1920's and Early 1930's: A New Library for the University

New Library going up in 1925
New Library going up in 1925.
New Library from the southeast
New Library from the southeast.
1926 Galli-Curci.
1926 Galli-Curci.

January 17, 1924. Estelle Lutrell turns the first spade of earth and Dean J. J. Thornber plows the first furrow on the former athletic field. Estelle then leads Dean Thornber and President Cloyd H. Marvin across the field in the groundbreaking ceremonies for the new University Library. At last, the Library would become a reality. Unfortunately, former president von KleinSmid would not be there to witness the success of his collaborative efforts with Estelle; he had stepped down in 1921 to accept a new position at the University of Southern California, and was ultimately succeeded by Marvin. Von KleinSmid would return later, however, to enjoy the new Library dedication ceremony with Estelle.

1924 Groundbreaking ceremonies.
1924 Groundbreaking ceremonies.

While construction on the library proceeded through the mid-1920s, Estelle, also a great music lover, was actively involved in the Saturday Morning Musical Society which she helped to found. She also served in the UA chapter of the Phi Kappa Phi honors society, and increased her research activities in preparation for establishing an Arizona Library Association. In 1924, she distributed a questionnaire to the libraries in communities, public schools and other colleges throughout Arizona. The survey requested statistics about the facilities, services and numbers and types of books that each library had to offer to its patrons. With this information, Estelle was able to determine the needs that a new library association could provide to assist Arizona’s libraries. 

Dedication of the new Library, 1925
Dedication of the new Library, 1925.
The new upstairs reading room
The new upstairs reading room.

Meanwhile, some areas of the new University Library had been built and were in use. In 1927 the Library was finally completed, and dedication ceremonies were held in May. The University Glee Club provided the music, and the ceremony was presided over by President Byron Cummings with various dignitaries, Estelle, and former UA President von KleinSmid in attendance on the podium.

The new University Library was a grand facility, modeled after the famous Public Library in Boston and featured the distinct UA red-brick-and-roof-tile architecture of the other prominent campus buildings. Great arched windows faced the Main Gate entrance to the campus, allowing generous sunlight to illuminate the upstairs reading room that mimicked the grand hall of some Spanish castle. Detailed stenciling decorated the ceiling vigas, and the entire building offered more-than ample space for the ever-growing collection and all the library-related activities and services. A charming open-air porch on the Library's east side allowed students to read outside during the cooler times of the school year. One unique feature of the Reading Porch was that Estelle strictly upheld her “no smoking” rule in an era when smoking was a widely accepted social activity.

The reading porch
The reading porch.
Estelle's 1930 Grand Canyon tour
Estelle's 1930 Grand Canyon tour.
One of Estelle's library surveys
One of Estelle's library surveys.

While the move into the new University Library was taking place, Estelle was still actively involved in the creation of the Arizona Library Association. Her efforts would result in libraries across the state being stocked and staffed to meet the needs of their students and communities. By the end of the 1920s, Arizona had become competitive with the rest of the nation in library services. In 1930 Estelle even arranged a “side tour” to the Grand Canyon for delegates on their way to the American Library Association’s national convention in Los Angeles. The main purpose of this diversion was to impress the delegates that Arizona was no longer a backwater library state.