University of Louisville’s Kornhauser Health Sciences Library Celebrates 175th Anniversary

Submitted by Elizabeth M. Smigielski, Assistant Director175th_Logo
Kornhauser Health Sciences Library, Louisville, KY

 Who is joining the 175th anniversary celebration of Kornhauser Health Sciences Library? Frankenstein, Harry Potter and his pals, a 19th century frontier doctor, a host of guest speakers and distinguished alumnae. This varied group marks the featured events for Kornhauser Health Sciences Library’s 175th anniversary celebration in the form of ongoing exhibits, public events with period actors, trivia contests, and other activities occuring throughout the year.

 Kornhauser Library is the oldest medical library west of the Alleghenies and the largest medical library in Kentucky. Initially the library for UofL’s School of Medicine, also celebrating its 175th anniversary, it now serves the entire health sciences center which represents 50% of the university faculty and 90% of grant recipients. As a member of the NNLM, it serves health care professionals in the western half of Kentucky.

At the Derby - note the tote bag!

Kornhauser Library was named in 1970 after Sidney Isaac Kornhauser, PhD, anatomist and long-time chair of the school of medicine’s library commitee. Under his and librarian Blake Beem’s leadership, the library became a full-scale, professional library. When the needed funds were not available for books and periodicals, Dr. Kornhauser would request donations from his friends and former students. As far as is known, he was never turned down. Some historical highlights include:

      • The original book collection, now the core of the historical collection, survived a fire by being thrown out the window of the old medical school and into a dung heap. The books have since been cleaned.
      • When the library opened, the collection consisted of approximately 1200 volumes for the students attending the Louisville Medical Institute
      • Holdings of the library in 1847, 3175 volumes, were greater than those of both Harvard and Yale Medical School Libraries.
      • A fire in 1865 claimed one-third of the volumes. Legend has it that the remainder were saved by tossing them out the window to a cow pasture next door.
      • The first librarian, a secretary from the Jefferson County Medical Society, was Miss Ada Walker who served from 1921-1935.
      • During the devastating 1937 Ohio River flood, although he believed there was no threat, the Dean of the medical school finally gave in to the Librarian’s insistence that all books in the basement be moved to the 2nd floor. Her perseverance saved the collection.
      • From 1935-1960 Miss Blake Beem, a professionally trained medical librarian, expanded the library from a one-person operation to a staff of three professional librarians and many student assistants.
      • During World War II many foreign medical journals had to be re-routed through neutral countries to be sent on to the library.
      • Dr. Kornhauser invented an autopsy table with a larger surface area and a roll-top cover. These improvements allowed easier access to the body and helped preserve it.
      • Hemoglobin

        From approximately 1961-1973 the library cat, Hemoglobin, assisted in day-to-day library activities. During a kitchen renovation in 2008, a rather old can of cat food was found behind the cabinets.

    • In 2000 Portland Brewing Company named its seasonal summer beer “Kornhauser’s Oast”, in honor of master brewer Alan Kornhauser, great nephew of Sidney Issac Kornhauser.
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