Tyler, Alice S. (1859–1944)

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Tyler, Alice S. (1859–1944)

American librarian and educator. Born Alice Sarah Tyler on April 27, 1859, in Decatur, Illinois; died on April 18, 1944, in Cleveland, Ohio; daughter of John William Tyler (a minister) and Sarah (Roney) Tyler; received professional certificate, Armour Institute Library School, 1895.

Alice Sarah Tyler was born in 1859, the youngest in a family of 14 children, and grew up on a farm five miles east of Decatur, Illinois, where her parents had pioneered as settlers. She went to local schools and stayed home with her elderly parents until their deaths. Interested in books, reading, and libraries as a young girl, she accepted a job in 1887 as an assistant in the Decatur public library. After her mother died in 1893, Tyler attended the library school at Armour Institute in Chicago and, at age 36, received her professional certificate. She then moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where she worked as head cataloguer in the public library. As the first professionally trained assistant to work there, she insisted on organization and quality, requesting that cataloguers be provided with typewriters to improve their work. She also taught at the summer school established at the library.

In 1900, she became secretary of the fledgling Iowa State Library Commission. Her position involved assisting all new libraries in the state, providing guidance to all libraries, and supporting the traveling library system. During her 13-year tenure, the number of public libraries in Iowa nearly tripled, and traveling book collections increased from less than 100 to more than 700. Tyler also served as director of a summer school for training librarians at the State University of Iowa from 1901 to 1912. She urged the use of local taxes to sponsor libraries and planned the development of libraries at all Iowa state hospitals. An expert in public relations, she was asked to speak at numerous engagements such as library dedications, conventions, and meetings. She also authored many articles for library publications and became editor of the Iowa Library Commission Bulletin in 1906. In addition, she worked as secretary of the first executive committee of the League of Library Commissions, founded in 1904, and served as its president from 1906 to 1907.

Tyler became director of the Library School at Western Reserve University in Cleveland in 1913. Under her leadership, the number of students in the school doubled. Previously, graduates of the course had received only a certificate, but in 1915 she instituted a combined four-year library science course that resulted in a bachelor's degree, and encouraged young men as well as young women to enroll. Tyler became dean of the school in 1925, receiving the title of professor of library science.

President of the Ohio Library Association from 1916 to 1917, and of the Association of Library Schools from 1918 to 1919, Tyler earned her greatest professional honor when she was elected president of the American Library Association in 1920, an office she held for one year. She was also founder and first president of the Cleveland Library Club from 1922 to 1923. After her retirement in 1929, Tyler continued to speak, to work as a library consultant, and to write for library periodicals until 1938, when a broken hip forced her to limit her activities. She died in 1944. "'The right books to the right person at the right time' is the slogan," she once said; "it seeks to make books vital factors in life."


Danton, Emily Miller, ed. Pioneering Leaders in Librarianship. Boston, MA: Gregg Press, 1972, pp. 188–196.

James, Edward T., ed. Notable American Women, 1607–1950. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1971.

Kelly Winters , freelance writer