By Bradford A. Osborne
In 1923, a small group of technical engineers and petroleum technologists who had been in the habit of meeting in Mrs. Baldwin's Tea Room in the Elks' Building, Tulsa, formed an organization which they called the Technical Club of Oklahoma. The first project of the club was to create a Technical Library for the use of members and others. In cooperation with the Board of Directors of the Tulsa Public Library a room on the third floor of the main library building, at Third Street and Cheyenne Avenue, was designated a Technical Department and members of the Technical Club donated approximately five hundred volumes as a nucleus collection. The library then engaged the services of a young woman graduate of the University of Colorado and Columbia University, Miss Florence Lundell, to operate the new department. Miss Lundell, with keen interest and enthusiasm, set to work building up the small petroleum book stock of 150 volumes and the collection grew rapidly in size and usefulness.
Located in the midst of one of the greatest oil producing areas in the world, the library, of course, did not neglect the field of geology in building up its collection of books. In 1925, a group of Tulsans, headed by J. H. Gardner, raised the sum of $2500 to purchase the 3000-volume geological library of Dr. Edward M. Shepard and presented it to the library. The addition of this collection made it necessary to move the Technical Department to larger quarters on the ground floor of the main building where it has remained to date.
Today, the Technical Department, manned by a staff of six, has over 12,000 volumes on petroleum and other technical subjects on its shelves. Virtually every book on petroleum in the English language is to be found here. In the last few years, it has been the policy of the Library to acquire everything on petroleum in or out of print and in any language. The collection includes books about petroleum written for children; a book of verse about oil; biographies of oil men such as Drake, Rockefeller, and Sir Henry Deterding, and novels like Upton Sinclair's Oil! and Alice Hobart's Oil for the Lamps of China. Such books are appropriate here since they serve as research material for writers.
Among volumes of historical importance is a copy of Abraham Gesner's A Practical Treatise on Coal, Petroleum and other Distilled Oils, dated 1861—less than two years after Drake's discovery. Other early and rare items are William Wright's The Oil Regions of Pennsylvania; Showing Where Petroleum Is Found, How It Is Obtained and at What Cost, 1865; Edmund Morris' Derrick and Drill; or can Insight into the Discovery, Development and Present Conditions, and Future Prospects of Petroleum . . .,
1865; and the Rev. S. J. M. Eaton's Petroleum; a History of the Oil Region of Venango County, Pennsylvania . . ., 1866.
Interesting items in the biographical collection include George W. Brown's Old Times in Oildom, 1911, and John W. Steele's Coal Oil Johnny; Story of His Career as Told by Himself, 1902.
The Technical Department has several hundred old photographs of early oil fields and equipment which have been borrowed from time to time by publishers to illustrate articles.
The government document section includes virtually all of the serial publications of the U. S. Geological Survey; the United States Bureau of Mines, and many of the bulletins of the State geological surveys. Early in 1941 the Tulsa Geological Society purchased a nearly complete set of Canadian Geological Survey publications and gave this valuable collection to the Library.
About 300 technical magazines are received regularly and of these one fourth pertain to geology or petroleum. Since technical changes and innovations in the petroleum industry occur so rapidly magazine articles rather than books must be relied upon to furnish information about new developments. Consequently, from the time the Department was established in 1923, a subject index to magazine articles on petroleum and geology has been maintained. This card file, now containing some 80,000 entries is undoubtedly the largest one of its kind in the world. It is, of course, very useful for compiling comprehensive and up-to-date bibliographies on technical phases of the industry. Acid treatment of wells, air and gas lift, core analysis, emulsions, flooding, and repressuring have been the subjects of some of the bibliographies. The Technical Department has received requests for these lists from oil men all over the United States, from Russia, the Near East, and South America. At every International Petroleum Exposition, held biennially in Tulsa since 1923, the Department has taken part by exhibiting petroleum books, magazines and bibliographies. At the last Exposition 5000 bibliographies were handed out to interested visitors.
Library microfilm and photocopying facilities, available since early this year, have permitted oil companies and research men here and in other cities to acquire at a nominal cost, copies of articles in rare and out-of-print petroleum publications to be found in this Library.
The Department also maintains a large collection of circulating books on science and industrial arts and is particularly strong on aviation since in recent years Tulsa has become an important aviation center. However, as long as oil flows from the ground of Oklahoma, petroleum and geology will be the major subjects of this Department and this Library will continue to serve the petroleum industry with what is believed to be the most complete collection of petroleum literature in the world.