Herman Howe Fussler

May 15, 1914—March 2, 1997

Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice.
Reader, if you seek a monument, look around you.

Herman Fussler was Director of the University Library from 1948 to 1971, and was named the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor of the University's Graduate Library School in 1974. He came to the University of Chicago Library in 1936 to establish a microphotographic laboratory, and stayed at the University until 1986, when he moved with his wife, Gladys, to Raleigh, North Carolina, to be near his daughter and her family.

The Joseph Regenstein Library is Herman Fussler's creation. He formulated the principles on which it was designed during the many years that he struggled with inadequate library space, as circumstances kept preventing the University from moving forward with a new centralized library. The Regenstein is generally considered one of the great research libraries of the world. As Fussler had planned to do, he resigned as director a year after the Regenstein was completed in 1970, to teach full time in the Graduate Library School.

Fussler received his baccalaureate degree, with a major in mathematics, from the University of North Carolina in 1935 and an A.B. degree in library science in 1936. Beginning in high school, and continuing through college, he had served as a student assistant in the Department of Physics at the University of North Carolina. Working with spectroscopic photography in the physics lab, he became interested in photography in general and microphotography in particular. Fussler's interest in this new technology attracted the attention of M. Llewellyn Raney, Director of the University of Chicago Library, who invited Fussler to work at Chicago. The new microphotographic laboratory was an experimental and testing facility as well as a producer of film.

Fussler immediately established his presence in the University of Chicago Library and the Graduate Library School, where he earned his M.A. and Ph.D. and taught throughout his career. The microphotography laboratory flourished. He branched out from the laboratory, taking on the additional responsibility of science librarian in 1941 and soon thereafter the management of the library resources of the Manhatten Project. Orders for books and journals for the project were intermingled with those for the University Library in order to conceal the subject interests of the project. He was appointed Director of the Library in 1948.

The Regenstein Library was a great achievement and stands as a monument to a great librarian, but Herman Fussler's contributions were much broader. A leader in the library profession, he was one of the founders of the Center for Research Libraries in 1949, a central collection storage facility for a national consortium of large research libraries. In the 1960s he saw the potential for computer technology to improve access to information and secured several large grants for a pioneering project to create the first automated library system. The development of information technology has turned out to be much as he described it in grant proposals. As a teacher in the Graduate Library School, he influenced the lives and minds of hundreds of students, who learned from his example of rigorous analysis and precise expression and were inspired by the intense interest and excitement he brought to his work. Though the Regenstein is tangible evidence of his understanding of scholarship and research, his broader contribution to the development of research libraries is immeasurable.