Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library History: Part One

On October 4, 1971 the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library was dedicated, bringing health sciences library services to a permanent home at the University of Utah. From the beginning, we have been known for pioneering new ideas, new technologies, and innovative partnerships. This exhibition series will showcase our history, from the first health sciences library collection in 1908 to the present-day.

Part One: 1908-1971

By Bryan E. Hull, Heidi Greenberg & Joan M. Stoddart

Early Medical Libraries


1908 – First Medical Library

The first medical library on the University of Utah campus was established in 1908 as a department of the main campus library. The library was located in what is now the LeRoy Cowles Building on Presidents Circle and housed 12,950 volumes and provided seating for 100 students out of a student body of 765.

1935 – George Thomas Library

Medical, nursing, pharmacy, and pre-dental library department of the George Thomas Library at the University of Utah.

In 1935 the medical library collection was moved to the new George Thomas Library located on President’s Circle. The collection was originally located in a small reading room of its own on the first floor.

1944 – Salt Lake County Hospital Branch Library

Image shows a woman driving the library book cart through a ward at the Salt Lake County Hospital, March 1, 1921.

The Salt Lake County Hospital branch library was founded at the County Hospital in February 1944 with a gift of books from Dr. Clay Freudenberger, Professor of Anatomy. After transitioning the Medical School from a two-year to a four-year program, the County hospital became the teaching hospital for the school necessitating a library branch location be established. The room was comfortably furnished and seated 15 readers. The library was staffed and administered by the University of Utah Library and was open 80 hours per week. The College of Medicine contributed $8,000 in 1954, which supported both the George Thomas Library and Salt Lake County Hospital branch library collections.

Isabelle Anderson


First Certified Medical Librarian on Campus

1947 – Isabelle Anderson

Portrait of Isabelle Anderson, first certified medical library at the University of Utah.The first trained and certified medical librarian, Isabelle Anderson, was hired in 1947. Under her guidance, the small branch library at Salt Lake County Hospital was developed with funding from the hospital, medical school and university library. Miss Anderson was immediately praised by Dr. Louis Goodman who said he felt, “Miss Anderson is doing a splendid job and she has the reputation of being one of the best medical librarians in the country.” During her tenure as director, Isabel Anderson served as the president of the Medical Library Association. Isabel remained medical librarian until 1956 when she left to return to Colorado. (Quote from Executive Committee minutes of the School of Medicine, Nov. 3, 1947.)

1950 – Medical Library Expansion

In 1950, the Medical Library outgrew its original small reading room in the George Thomas library and shifted to more adequate quarters within the building. The seating was reduced to 85 from 200 seats as more stacks were needed to house the collection.

1964 – Notes from the Annual Report

“Members of staff continue to add to their knowledge and ability in various ways. One full-timer is working toward a bachelor’s degree, all part time personnel are enrolled at the University, and the acting medical librarian recently was certified by the Medical Library Association.”

1965 – Salt Lake County Hospital Collection Moves Back to Campus

The branch library at Salt Lake County Hospital was moved to the newly established University of Utah Medical Center in July 1965. This collection was clinical in nature and numbered 14,000 volumes. The main medical sciences collection remained housed in the George Thomas Library on Presidents Circle.


Priscilla Mayden


Priscilla M. Mayden, formerly librarian at the Veterans Administration Hospital Library in Salt Lake City, was appointed Medical Sciences Librarian in August 1966. She fought tirelessly for funding and approval for a dedicated medical library and became deeply involved in the project and dealing with academic politics.

She was a visionary, mentor, and a champion of librarianship. Her legacy lives on with an award established in her name to recognize projects in technology and medical information.

Librarians work at desks in the B-Level Medical Sciences Library at the University of Utah in the 1960's.1967 – Unified Medical Sciences Collection

In August 1967, the main body of the medical collection was moved from the George Thomas Library to the B-Level of the Medical Center unifying the entire medical library collection in one location.

1968 – Central States Regional Medical Library Group

Library becomes a member of the newly organized Central States Regional Medical Library Group.


Pictured: Nancy Eccles Hayward, Spencer F. Eccles, Hope Fox Eccles, Lucy Beth Rampton, and Frank Ebaugh

1969 – Groundbreaking of the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library

One of only eleven institutions across the United States which was funded through the Medical Libraries Assistance Act of 1965, the University of Utah received a federal grant which was supplemented by the Eccles family contribution and foundation donations by the Commonwealth Fund, John and Mary R. Markle Foundation, Utah Medical Foundation, Utah State Medical Association, and Salt Lake County Medical Society to construct the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library.

Additionally, the Medical Sciences Library was removed from direct administrative and budgetary relationships with the Main Library of the University of Utah to be exclusively under the purview of the Medical Sciences Center.

Pictured: Nancy Eccles Hayward, Hope Fox Eccles, Spencer F. Eccles, James C. Fletcher, Lucy Beth Rampton, and Kenneth B. Castleton (Source)



1969 – PHILSOM

Periodical Holdings in the Library of the School of Medicine (PHILSOM) began in St. Louis at Washington University in 1963 under the direction of Dr. Estelle Brodman. It was instituted in Utah in 1969 with a networking agreement with Washington University to combine their serials lists.

Batch processed punch cards were used until 1983 when an online system was installed.

The PHILSOM system meant that the serials title and holdings as well as a subject designation could be made available to the library staff and patrons wanting to know which volumes and issues the library had. It became the foundation of an inter-library loan program known as Octanet and ultimately Docline.


October 4, 1971

1971 – Dedication of the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library

Spencer S. Eccles Medical Sciences Library Dedication October 4, 1971.


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