The TCL Time Machine: Touro’s First Library (Part 2 of 2)

Touro College quickly built a solid foundation after admitting its charter class of 35 students in 1971.  The first graduates received their diplomas in 1975, and the school continued to grow and flourish, slowly but surely.  The library was then manned by a staff of five, including Touro’s first Director of Libraries, Max Celnick, two assistant librarians, and two library aides.

spring 1976 Library Guide
A Guide to the Touro Library, 1976

In the spring of 1976, Touro published a four-page guide for using its library, located in the historic Yale Club building at 30 West 44th street in midtown Manhattan. In the days long before proprietary desktop publishing applications and inexpensive color printing put impressive-looking promotional materials within easy grasp of any office worker, this no-nonsense guide was simply typed on Touro’s office stationary (and presumably photocopied for distribution).

The library collection, now 70,000 volumes strong, included “90% of the books recommended in Opening Day Collections,” a template provided by the American Library Association.  Just five years after admitting its first class, Touro held subscriptions to 454 journals and periodicals, and offered another 329 titles on microfilm.

micro (1)

Vintage microfilm reader ca. 1970s, showing photo image of an old newspaper. (Image: NYPL;  retrieved from

In the 1970s, microfilm and other microform media (such as microfiche) were among the most common means of storing and accessing information. Essentially a reduced size photo image of a document, microfilm allowed for far more economic and efficient storage of information than retaining full sized copies of the original sources. Limited only by the number of available film readers – essentially illuminated magnifiers which provided full-size images to users – microfilm was a perfect solution for academic libraries in the days before internet access to electronic databases. Touro’s microfilmed collections were designed to provide uninterrupted access to consecutive issues of journals and periodicals dating back as far as 30 years.

But while the college’s administration succeeded in providing their students with the required academic resources, the 70-year-old building housing them posed another problem.  Because the weight of the books and other media and modern equipment surpassed the load bearing capacity of the original Yale Club’s library space on the second floor, the now aging giant columns and chestnut pilasters would have required significant reinforcing.


The second floor library and lounge, as it appeared in the days of the Yale Club residency. (photo found on Daytonian in Manhattan.blogspot, source unknown).

As a result, Touro’s rapidly growing academic library was spread out over several of the building’s lowest floors; the 1976 guide indicates 60,000 of the collection’s 70,000 holdings were located on compact mobile stacks in the basement.  These books covered subject areas including Slavic studies, Yiddish language and law.

The first floor featured an open stack area with the circulating collection, all medical subject materials and microform formats.  The card catalog, circulation desk and a reference librarian were located there, as were three microfilm readers.


The second floor library and lounge area, as seen in 1973, shortly after Touro was established in the building.

The second floor of the building, with its high ceilings and tall windows providing generous natural light, once again served as a ‘lounge’ of sorts.  The 1976 guide indicates it was the main reading room of the library, with study space for up to 125 people.  A library staff member was on hand to assist students and faculty with access to reference materials housed on this level. Also available were an additional microfilm reader and “a coin-operated Olivettii Copia III for student use.”


Are you a student needing to make copies?  Is it the mid 1970s?  Then here’s what you’re looking at…talk about a time machine! (Image: Olivetti; retrieved from

The guide advises students of such policies as a two-week loan period for all circulating books, with a ten-cent fine per day for overdue items.  Reserve books were available for two-hour loans and carried steeper overdue fines of 25 cents per hour or $2.00 per day.  Medical volumes were available on three-day loans. Interestingly, TCL’s overdue fines for books are much less steep today, adjusting for inflation, although fines are still slightly higher for overdue CDs and DVDs.

From this one centralized campus, Touro has certainly grown by leaps and bounds since 1971. It now features over a dozen library sites in New York City, with four in Manhattan alone.  TCL is now staffed by over 50 people worldwide – more than Touro’s 1971 charter class of 35 students!

The libraries currently provide services far beyond books, periodicals and microfilm, with an ever-increasing array of remote access and interactive platforms.  Just one example of this is the recent addition of iPads being made available to students and faculty;  with a valid Touro ID you can borrow an iPad for 24 hours. And the library web site offers tutorials that can help you conduct research, outline a paper, cite your references and avoid plagiarism.

Yes, we’ve come a long way from one library, 35 students and a typed four-page library guide!

All images provided by and property of the Touro College and University System Archives, unless otherwise noted.

4 thoughts on “The TCL Time Machine: Touro’s First Library (Part 2 of 2)

  1. Sal February 26, 2014 / 9:26 am

    I remember it well. Very interesting. Sal.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s