Saturday, November 19, 2011

19 November 1953: Opening of the Ilah Dunlap Little Memorial Library

On this day in 1953, the new Ilah Dunlap Little Memorial library opened on the North Campus of the University of Georgia. 

Ilah Dunlap was born in February of 1874 to Mary Anne and Samuel Scott Dunlap in Bibb County, Georgia. She was the fifth daughter in a family of six children. Her father was a Captain in Phillips Legion during the Civil War, who started out as a farmer, then later became a successful merchant and city alderman in Macon. 

In 1896, Miss Dunlap married Leonidas A. Jordan.  Mr. Jordan owned Oakland Plantation in Lee County, Georgia, and died within four years of their marriage. In 1900, Mrs. Ilah Jordan is listed as the 26-year-old widowed head of a household in Macon that included her brother Samuel S. Dunlap, Jr.; her profession listed as "Capitalist." She was regularly featured in the Macon Telegraph Society page, often in relation to bridge club meetings or trips to Atlanta and New York. 

In 1906, she married John D. Little, an Atlanta lawyer, and moved to Fulton County. She was already widowed when she died in late July, 1939, on a vacation with a friend in German-occupied Czechoslovakia, just one month before Hitler's invasion of Poland and the start of World War II.  Though her will left $400,000.00 to the University of Georgia for a library, the settlement of the estate took a prolonged period of time.  Much of her jewelry and effects took more than a year to be returned to her executor in Macon, as both the American consulate and German officials had greater priorities than her estate, and faced disruption in communication, the latter sometimes noted in the communiques between various government agencies.

Mrs. Little's bequest gave the impetus to fund a much-needed upgrading of University of Georgia library facilities. UGA had only 185,000 volumes, compared with 751,000 at the University of Texas and 352,000 at the University of Kentucky. The cost to build the library was $2,000,000.00, and the operating budget for the library was increased dramatically as well. The University of Georgia President, Harmon Caldwell, argued that a $1,000,000.000 operating budget was necessary to make the library one that could compete with other southern schools after World War II.

The day after UGA's library opened , the Georgia Institute of Technology had the grand opening of their new Price Gilbert Memorial Library, and the weekend was a series of festivities in both cities to celebrate the events. 

Among those who participated in the celebrations were now University System Chancellor Harmon Caldwell; University of Georgia President O. C. Aderhold; Georgia Attorney General Eugene Cook; and members of the University Board of Trustees. Invited guests included Dr. K. Y. Metcalf of Harvard University; Derner Clapp, Acting Librarian of the Library of Congress; and Ralph Ellsworth, Director of Libraries for Iowa State University. Claude Davidson, Jr., director of the UGA news bureau, even composed a poem for the occasion.

In his dedication address, Dr. Ellsworth praised Georgia for opening two major libraries, stating that, "Only a vigorous University can overcome the terrible inertia that always seems to develop when a new library building is needed. Universities that are on the decline don't build new libraries."

UGA recently completed construction on a new Special Collections Library on Hull Street. Such collections as the Richard B. Russell Library, the Hargrett Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and the Peabody Awards collection are in the process of moving into their new space. The building will open officially in January, 2012.

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