Archival Collections
Columbia University Archives

Alice I. Bryan papers, 1921-1992 bulk 1935-1975 

Creator: 
Bryan, Alice I. (Alice Isabel), 1902-1992.
Phys. Desc: 
8.65 linear feet (8.65 linear feet 20 document boxes and 1 card file box)
Call Number: 
UA#0139
Location: 
Columbia University Archives
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Biographical Note

Alice I Bryan was born Alice Isabel Bever on September 11, 1902. She was the second child and only daughter of Ewald Bever, a banker, and Caroline Bever née Lawrence. Bryan grew up in the Arlington section of Kearny, New Jersey. After finishing high school in 1918, Bryan completed a two-year course of academic and secretarial studies at the extension division of Columbia University and then worked in the publishing industry. She also developed a lifelong interest in theosophy, mysticism, and parapsychology during this period. In 1921, she became an instructor for advertising courses offered by the Extension Division of the YMCA. She remained in this position when the program transferred to the Home Study Division of Columbia University. Bryan continued to teach advertising courses until 1929. She also earned three degrees in psychology at Columbia University; a bachelor's (1929), a master's (1930) and a PhD. (1934). During the Great Depression, Bryan taught psychology at both Sarah Lawrence College and the Pratt Institute, and also taught a research methods course at the School for Library Service (SLS) at Columbia University. She was later invited to teach a course in psychology for practicing librarians at SLS, and was offered an assistant professorship in 1939. Bryan was also considered a leading theoretician in the field of bibliotherapy (which she defined as"the prescription of reading materials that will help to develop emotional maturity and sustain mental health") during the 1930s. During the next two decades, Bryan pursued her interests in psychology and librarianship. She helped to bring women into the mainstream of the profession of psychology, and was a founder of the National Council of Women Psychologists (which became the International Council of Women Psychologists) in 1940. She represented this organization on the National Research Council's Emergency Committee in Psychology during World War II. She also served as executive secretary of the American Association for Applied Psychology, and worked on the revision of by-laws of the American Psychological Association. She published articles on both psychology and on its intersection with librarianship. Bryan pursued additional training to further her career at SLS and took a sabbatical to pursue a master's degree in library science at the University of Chicago, which she completed in 1951. At the same time, Bryan was recruited to conduct a study of library personnel being undertaken by the Public Library Inquiry (PLI) and the Social Science Research Council with funding from the Carnegie Corporation. Bryan's resulting report"The Public Librarian" (1952), was a groundbreaking work for which she had interviewed more than 3,000 librarians in 60 libraries nationwide. The American Library Association (ALA) honored her on the 40th anniversary of its publication in 1992, and she delivered an address on the study and its significance at the ALA convention that year. Bryan became an Associate Professor at SLS in 1953, and was the first woman to achieve a full professorship at SLS in 1959. She was also instrumental in the creation of its doctoral program, and was the chair of the doctoral committee for many years. She was designated as professor emerita upon her retirement in 1971. Bryan was married three times. Bryan's first marriage to Chester Ward Bryan in 1924 ended in divorce in 1934, but she continued to use his name professionally as it was the name in which she had established herself as a scholar and received her doctorate. Her second marriage to Frank Martin Blasingame, a sculptor and painter, ended in divorce after eight years in 1944. She married George Virgil Fuller, a retired colonel, in 1956. The marriage ended with Fuller's death in 1960. The George Virgil Fuller Award was established at Columbia University in his memory. Bryan had no children. She died on October 30, 1992, of leukemia.

Scope and Contents

Dr. Alice I. Bryan was a professor in the School of Library Service (SLS), but she also held a PhD. in Psychology and had professional interests in both disciplines. Bryan's papers document her professional career, and include material on her work at Columbia University and in professional associations, research, and special projects. Much of the material documents Bryan's career at Columbia University. Bryan kept files on her work both at SLS and within the larger University community. Her SLS records include correspondence, communications with the Dean's office, and material on committee work, curricula, examinations, and for her own courses. Her records related to work in the larger University community include correspondence, committee material, and meeting material for the Women's Faculty Club, School of General Studies, and the University Seminar on Public Communication. The papers also document Bryan's professional career outside of Columbia University. The records' coverage is strongest from the late 1930s through the 1950s. They document Bryan's research interests, special projects, public speeches, and work in professional associations related to both psychology and librarianship. These associations include the Association of American Library Schools, American Library Association, American Psychological Association, International Council of Women Psychologists, and the National Research Council's Emergency Committee in Psychology. Bryan's files on research interests and projects are divided into three areas within Series II, III, and IV. Bryan kept material related to special projects with her Professional Activities files in Series III, with two exceptions: files related to the library film forum project and the legibility of the Library of Congress Catalog are in the Research--Special subseries of Series II. She also kept a set of Special Subject Files; these make up Series IV. Bryan also kept bibliographies, correspondence, and reprints related to her publications (1930-1952). There is some additional professional material filed in Series V. There is some documentation of Bryan's academic work in her papers. There are a few research papers from her work on her bachelor's degree (1927-1928). She also kept notebooks and other material from her studies at the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago (1949-1951). There is a limited amount of personal material included in the papers. These materials include a few folders of personal correspondence, diaries (1976-1991), photographs, and a file on her personal travel immediately following her retirement (1972-1976). Bryan had an elaborate personal classification and filing system. Copies of the outline are filed in Box 2. Series I-IV follow the order of this outline, however, many folders in the system did not contain records and have been removed from the collection.