Marcia Croker Noyes

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Marcia Crocker Noyes, late 1890s

Marcia Crocker Noyes (1869 - 1946) was the librarian at The Maryland State Medical Society from 1896 to 1946 and was a founding member of the Medical Library Association.[1][2][3]

Early life[edit]

Marcia Crocker Noyes was born in 1869 in Saratoga Springs, New York. The youngest of four children, she studied at Hunter College and the Normal School of the City of New York.


Marcia Croker Noyes began her career as a librarian after moving to Baltimore to live with her sister. She took a position at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, led by Dr. Bernard Steiner where she worked for three years. In 1896, Sir William Osler, MD became the President of The Maryland State Medical Society and began searching for a new librarian. Because of her work at the Pratt Library, Dr. Steiner recommended her for the position.

In her first year on the job, Noyes developed a book classification system for medical books, based on the index medicus, and called it the Classification for Medical Literature. The system uses the alphabet with capital letters for the major divisions of medicine and lower-case ones for the sub-sections. "The system has not been revised since Miss Noyes' death, and it is now out of date, but the Noyes' Classification is still used at the Medical and Chirurgical Library for all original historical material."[3]

In 1904, the library was reorganized, and Noyes assumed the role of secretary. However, she would not be formally appointed to the position of Executive Secretary until 1925.[3]

Marcia Crocker Noyes at the midpoint of her career.

Within ten years, the library had outgrown its space, and plans, spearheaded by Marcia and Sir William before his move to Oxford, were made to build a headquarters building, mainly to house the library's growing collection of medical books and journals.

New Headquarters[edit]

Marcia was instrumental in the design and building of the new headquarters. She travelled to Philadelphia, New York and Boston to look at their medical society buildings, and eventually, the Philadelphia architectural firm, Ellicott & Emmart was selected to design and build the new Faculty building. Every detail of the building held her imprimatur, from the graceful staircase, to the light-filled reading room, and all of the myriad details of the millwork, marble tesserae, and most of all, the four-story cast iron stacks. She was on-site, climbing up unfinished staircases, checking out the progress of the building, which was built in less than one year at a cost of $90,000.

Among the features of the new building was a fourth-floor apartment created for Marcia to her specifications, including a room for her maid. She referred to it as the first penthouse in Baltimore and it had a garden and rooftop terrace.

The library collection eventually grew to more than 65,000 volumes from medical and specialty societies around the world. Journals were traded back and forth, and physicians eagerly anticipated the arrival of each new issue.


At the same time, Marcia was involved in the Medical Library Association as one of eight founding members. The MLA promotes medical libraries and the exchange of information. One of the earliest mandates of the MLA was the Exchange, a distribution and trade service for those who had duplicates or little-used books in their collections. Initially, the Exchange was run out of the Philadelphia medical society, but in 1900 it was moved to Baltimore and Marcia oversaw it. Several hundred periodicals and journals were received and sent each month, a huge amount of work for a tiny staff.

In 1904, the Faculty had run out of room to manage the Exchange, so it was moved to the Medical Society of the Kings County (Brooklyn). But without Marcia's excellent administrative skills, it foundered and in 1908, the MLA asked Marcia to take charge once again. In 1909, when the new Faculty building opened, there was enough room to run the Exchange and with the help of MLA Treasurer, noted bibliophile and close friend, Dr. John Ruhräh, it once again became successful.

Additionally, Marcia and Dr. Ruhräh combined forces to revive the MLA's bulletin, which had all but ceased publication in 1908, taking the Exchange with it. This duo maintained editorial control from 1911 until 1926. In 1934, around the time of Dr. Ruhräh's death, Marcia became the first “unmedicated” professional to head the MLA. During her tenure, the MLA incorporated, the first seal was adopted, and the annual meeting was held in Baltimore.

Marcia wanted to write the history of the MLA once she retired from full-time work at the Faculty, but her health was beginning to fail. She had back problems and had suffered a serious burn on her shoulder as a young woman, possibly from her time running a summer camp, Camp Seyon, for young ladies in the Adirondack Mountains. In 1946, a celebration was planned to honor Marcia's 50 years at the Faculty. But she was adamant that the physicians wait until November, the actual date of her 50 years. However, they knew she was gravely ill, and might not make it until then, so a huge party was held in April. More than 250 physicians attended the celebration, but the ones she was closest to in the early years, were long gone. She was presented with a suitcase, a sum of money to use for travelling, and her favorite painting which she had persuaded the Library committee to purchase many years earlier.

Marcia Noyes in her apartment at the Faculty building

The painting was of Dr. John Philip Smith, a founder of the Medical College in Winchester, Virginia. It was painted by Edward Caledon Smith, a Virginia painter who had been a student of the painter Thomas Sully.[4] She adored this painting and vowed, jokingly, to take it with her wherever she went.

The painting was not to stay with her for very long, for she died in November 1946, and left it to the Faculty in her will. Her funeral was held in the Faculty's Osler Hall, named for her dear friend. More than 60 physicians served as her pallbearers, and she was buried at Baltimore's Green Mount Cemetery.


In 1948, the MLA decided to establish an award in the name of Marcia Crocker Noyes. It was for outstanding achievement in medical library field and was to be awarded every two years, or when a truly worthy candidate was submitted. In 2014, the Faculty began giving a bouquet of flowers to the winner of the award in Marcia's name, and in honor of her work. Much evidence exists for this tradition, as we know that the physicians, especially Drs. Osler and Ruhräh, frequently gave her bouquets of flowers. Marcia also cultivated flower gardens at the Faculty and decorated the rooms with her work.

Marcia Noyes with the Osler sideboard


  1. ^ "MedChi Archives blog". Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  2. ^ "Marcia C. Noyes, Medical Librarian" (PDF). Bulletin of the Medical Library Association. 35 (1): 108–109. 1947. PMC 194645. Retrieved 6 March 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Smith, Bernie Todd (1974). "Marcia Crocker Noyes, Medical Librarian: The Shaping of a Career" (PDF). Bulletin of the Medical Library Association. 62 (3): 314–324. PMC 198800. PMID 4619344. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Edward Caledon BRUCE (1825-1901)". Artprice. Retrieved 2016-03-07.