Rush Rhees Library

History of Rush Rhees Library

The Library opened concurrently with the University in its first home in the former United States Hotel on Rochester’s West Main Street which it shared with the Rochester Theological Seminary.  The first book purchased for the library was Principles of the Mechanics of Machinery and Engineering by Julius Weisbach.

In the beginning professors were assigned oversight of the collection, a common practice for smaller colleges at that time.  The first Catalogue lists Tutor Albert H. Mixer as the University’s first Librarian.  In 1870, the first card catalog, containing records for 9,560 books, was handwritten by the Librarian Otis Hall Robinson and his assistants.  Prof. Robinson invented the rod-in-hole technique to keep the formerly loose cards in order.  The first separate library building was Sibley Hall, which opened in 1877 on the Prince Street campus north of University Avenue.  The building was used by the University as a library until 1955.  Four symbolic statues, which long adorned Sibley Hall, are now on the lawn south of Rush Rhees Library.  The sphinxes which guarded the entrance door of the Sibley Library are now located at the tunnel entrance between Lattimore and Morey Halls.  The original part of Rush Rhees Library opened in 1930 with the completion of the River Campus.  A major addition to the building opened in 1969.

The Library was named after Rush Rhees, University President from 1900 to 1935, during which time the UR evolved from a small college to a multifaceted research University.