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University of Iowa Libraries

Library Overview

In 1847, fifty-nine days after Iowa became a state, the General Assembly established The University of Iowa. Its first academic year was 1855, however, and that year a newly appointed president shipped two boxes containing 50 books purchased for $106 which became the basis of the Libraries. Labeled "[Amos] Dean Library," they were stored unopened in a four-foot square room. The library grew steadily over the next 90 years, moving from building to building as space was needed; in the absence of a dedicated building, departmental libraries proliferated, at one time totaling twenty-one separate collections. Main Library opened in 1951, with space set aside for rare book and manuscript collections. These included the portion of the Daniel Talbot Collection of natural history that escaped a devastating fire in 1897; the Ranney Memorial Library of literature; University Archives, founded in 1931; the Luther Brewer-Leigh Hunt Collection; an embryo Iowa Authors Collection; and a then recently founded Tensions File, now called the Social Documents Collection. Three large inaugural gifts were the James Wills Bollinger Lincolniana Collection, the editorial cartoons of Jay N. "Ding" Darling, and the files of the Redpath Lyceum Bureau. The collections expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, with continued strong growth over the last twenty-five years. Existing collections were enlarged, and new initiatives developed significant strengths in railroad history; radio, film, and television, particularly screenwriting and direction; Iowa business and politics; hydrology; the Chef Louis Szathmáry II Collection of Culinary Arts; writers and writing; the John Martin Collection on medicine; the Charlotte Smith Collection of miniature books; Dada and Fluxus; fine printing and artists’ books; the Iowa Women’s Archive; and the M. Horvat Collection of Science Fiction Fanzines. Special collections today include over 200,000 print volumes and 15,000 linear feet of manuscript and archival materials.

University of Iowa Libraries
Special Collections & University Archives
100 Main Library
University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1420
(319) 335-5921 (t)
(319) 335-5900 (f)