A native of Pennsylvania, Walter was born in 1874. After receiving a BLS and an MLS from the New York Library School, his first professional position was at the same institution from 1908 to 1919. He was appointed University of Minnesota Librarian in 1921. Upon his arrival, he participated in the planning of Walter Library, which was named for him in 1959. Walter taught library science and, with Ina Firkins’ assistance, organized a series of courses on library methods. In 1928, the Library School was established with Walter at its director. In 1937, he inaugurated a course for hospital librarians, one of the first in the country.
Walter’s philosophy is summed up in his statement, "in the modern scheme of education the university library is primarily a central service station of the entire university." He is remembered for his work in developing the University of Minnesota Library into one of the major research libraries in the country. During the Depression, Walter took advantage of the availability of WPA workers to catalog gift and exchange books and journals. After World War II, he acquired several valuable European collections. The library rose in rank from twelfth to sixth among North American university libraries. The collection increased from 250,00 to more than 1,250,000 volumes.
On the national scene, Walter was an active member of library organizations and served as President of the Association of American Library Schools and the Association of College and University Libraries. He contributed to scholarship in the subjects of history of bibliography and libraries, library printing, terminology and collection development. His unpublished manuscript (housed in the University Archives), Ninety Years of the University of Minnesota Library, 1851-1941 is an invaluable source of information about the early history of the library and the University. Walter died in 1945.
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