Tyler, Alice S.

Black and white portrait of Alice S. Tyler, Secretary of the Iowa Library (1900-1913). Source: State Historical Society, Iowa City.

1901, Dec. 31, LeMars, Iowa Library Commission & Alice Tyler Letter to LeMars Public Library About Circulation Reports

1902, Apr. 30, Council Bluffs, ILC to M.E. Dailey, Record recommendation letter

1902, Jun. 13, Maquoketa, A.S. Tyler to Mrs. A.B. Bowen, Iowa Library Commission Building Advice

1902, July 8, Maquoketa, A.S. Tyler to Mrs. A.B. Bowen, Iowa Library Commission Architect Details

1903, Jan. 16, Council Bluffs, ILC Letter

1903, May 6, Council Bluffs, ILA, Library update request

1903, May 8, LeMars, Alice Tyler LeMars Photo Request Letter

1903, Jun. 22, Council Bluffs, ILC to Thomas Rohrer, Photograph Request

1903, Jun. 22, LeMars, Library History Request

1903, Oct. 20, Council Bluffs, A.S. Tyler to M.E. Dailey, Employment letter

1904, Jan. 16, Council Bluffs, Alice Tyler, Art exhibit offer

1904, Jan. 26, Council Bluffs, Alice Tyler, Cataloging recommendation letter

1904, Feb. 18, West Liberty, Alice Tyler, Letter of Congratulations

1904, Apr. 18, Council Bluffs, Alice Tyler, Cataloging changes letter

1904, Apr. 18, Jefferson, Alice S. Tyler Congratulations Letter

1904, Aug. 5, LeMars, Alice Tyler LeMars Photo Response Letter

1905, Jan. 12, West Liberty, Alice Tyler, Dedication Speaker

1905, Mar. 27, Council Bluffs, Alice Tyler to M.E. Dailey, Cataloger job response

1905, Sep. 30, LeMars, Alice Tyler to Ira T. Martin Letter about LeMars Photographs

1906, Apr. 13, Ottumwa, Alice Tyler, ILC Report Letter

1906, Aug. 1, Council Bluffs, Alice Tyler, Book sales letter

1906, Sep. 11, Ottumwa, Mary Downey, Tentative Program Letter

1906, Sep. 21, Council Bluffs, A.S. Tyler, Shipping Boxes Inquiry

1906, Dec. 28, Ottumwa, Alice Tyler, Annual Report Letter

1907, Mar. 18, Council Bluffs, A.S. Tyler, Southwest District Meeting

1907, Mar. 23, Council Bluffs, A.S. Tyler, Request to Send Library Report to Yamaguchi, Japan

1907, Dec. 14, Council Bluffs, Alice Tyler, Government document organization

1909, Jan. 23, Council Bluffs, A.S. Tyler to Mrs. M.E. Dailey, Librarian Staff Shortage

1910, Jul. 7, West Liberty, A.S. Tyler To J.M. Ball, Library Class Details

1911, Jul. 9, Council Bluffs, ILC, Levy recommendation letter

1912, Feb. 26, Council Bluffs, Alice Tyler, Printing blocks offer

1913, Apr. 11, Cresco, Library Furnishing Recommendation Letter

1913, June 12, Hawarden, ILC, Tax Recommendation Letter

1913, Jun. 12, Eldon, Library Legislation Letter

1913, July 1, Cresco, A.S. Tyler to J.H. Howe, Desk Plan Delivery Letter

Undated, Council Bluffs, Library tax certificate

Undated, Ottumwa, Alice Tyler to Mary Downey Letter


Tyler, Alice Sarah (April 27, 1859–April 18, 1944)

In July 1900, State Librarian Johnson Brigham offered the position of the first Secretary of the Iowa Library Commission to Alice Sarah Tyler.1  Alice S. Tyler, forty-one at the time of her appointment, had worked in the Decatur Public Library in Illinois from 1887 to 1893.  In 1895 she became a graduate of the first library school class of the Armour Institute (which later moved to the University of Illinois) under Katherine Sharp.  From 1895 to 1900 she worked as a cataloging librarian at the Cleveland Public Library, where she first implemented some modern methods (the “new classification,” which presumably was the Dewey Decimal system, and the use of the typewriter) which was a characteristic of all her future endeavors.  According to Brigham, Tyler described herself as “only a cataloger, with a limited background as a small town librarian, — and I simply can’t make a speech.”  Despite her self-perceived limitations, Tyler served as secretary with the full confidence and approval of the members of the Iowa Library Commission from 1900 to 1913.


As secretary, Tyler guided the Iowa Library Commission through a period of unprecedented growth in Iowa libraries.  However, while Iowa communities wanted the expensive library buildings and opportunities provided by the Carnegie funds, Tyler was much more guarded in her endorsement of the Carnegie library grant program.  Her views are evident in the publications Tyler produced for the state of Iowa, which included the Iowa Library Quarterly (ILQ), a publication intended primarily for the state’s librarians, and the Reports of the Iowa Library Commission (RILC) which were submitted biennially to Iowa’s governors.  Additionally, at the October Iowa Library Association meetings, she presented an annual report entitled “Library Extension in Iowa,” in which she chronicled the growth and accomplishments of the year.


In all of her writings, Tyler carefully negotiated the discrepancies between the desires of Iowa’s communities and her own understanding of the potential problems incurred by Carnegie-funded libraries.  She saw a number of disadvantages inherent in the funding.  Tyler believed that leadership in the Iowa communities might be more interested in the physical appearance of the library buildings rather than library services for the community.  She also believed that a local donor, rather than a distant and unrelated philanthropist, would exercise better controls on building design, consequently erecting a better building.  It was likewise evident that Tyler believe that the financial requirement for the maintenance of the library building, especially for the smaller communities that were not county seats, would negatively impact the ability of the community to enlarge the library collections.  However, during Tyler’s tenure, 84 libraries Carnegie-funded libraries were erected in Iowa.2


In June 1913 Tyler submitted her resignation to the Iowa Library Commission, indicating that she had been “offered a position which presents an attractive field, at a considerable advance in salary.”3  She left for the directorship of the Library School of Western Reserve University, and in 1925, she was made Dean of the school and a professor of library science, and she remained active in the field until her retirement in 1929.4


                                                                                                                                                             SL Stuart

1 Excerpt taken from Shana L. Stuart, “‘My Duty and My Pleasure’: Alice S. Tyler’s Reluctant Oversight of Carnegie Library Philanthropy in Iowa,” Information and Culture vol. 48 n. 1 (2013), 92-93.
2 During her tenure, Oelwein (1903), Manson (1905), and Guthrie Center (1905) also received notification of their Carnegie funding, although each town ultimately declined the grants.
3 Stuart, 105.
4 Scott, Cora Richardson, “Alice Sarah Tyler,” in Pioneering Leaders in Librarianship. Ed. Emily M. Danton (Chicago: American Library Association, 1953), 192-194.