A graduate of the University of Southern California Library School, Eldred Smith left his position as Director of Libraries in the State University of New York, Buffalo to become University Librarian in 1976. Several challenges faced Smith in his new position. Book and journal prices were inflationary and the library was fully engaged in providing computer access to the collections. Smith was instrumental in adopting the Professional/Administrative staff class for newly appointed professional librarians.

During Smith’s administration, the Library of Congress classification system for books and the SuDocs classification system for government documents were adopted. In 1977, the Library began using the national OCLC system to catalog online, utilizing MARC format. In 1980, the Library became a member of the Research Libraries Group, a consortium of research libraries. The Library received several significant grants, including $1,250,000 from the Bush Foundation to convert over a million catalog records to a machine readable format. With this grant, the Library became the first major academic library in the U.S. to convert its card catalog to an online format. The Libraries became increasingly automated during Smith's tenure with LUMINA, the online public access catalog going "live" in 1987.

Smith served as President of the Association of College and Research Libraries 1977/78 and the Association of Research Libraries.

Smith resigned as University Librarian in 1987, but held a position with University Administration until his retirement. In 1990, Smith published The Librarian, the Scholar, and the Future of the Research Library (Greenwood Press).

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