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S. Lyman Tyler papers

Identifier: UA 614

Scope and Contents

Contains correspondence (1952-1976), notes, research files and newsclippings, as well as drafts of books, articles and addresses by Tyler. Also found within this collection are assorted reports, budgets, minutes of meetings and correspondence of agencies and committees on which Tyler served. These agencies and committees include the Sons of the Utah Pioneers, the BYU Library, Utah Historical Society, the BYU Institute of American Indian Studies, the University of Utah Division of International Education, the University of Utah ad hoc Committee on Minority Education, the Bureau of Indian Services, the Center for studies of the American West, the Utah Heritage Foundation, the Utah Governor's Committee on Indian Affairs and the Church Office Building Occupancy Committee of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


  • approximately 1949-1979


Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to use material from this collection must be obtained from Reference Services at

Biographical History

S. Lyman Tyler (1920- ) was the Director of Libraries, Brigham Young University, historian, author, and advisor to the University of Utah's Center for Studies of the American West and Brigham Young Unviersity's Charles Redd Western History Center.

S. Lyman Tyler was born March 27, 1920, in a log cabin in Attica, Arkansas. Of his childhood, Tyler wrote, "During my early years I lived on a farm, where I was able to learn to work." In Tyler's youth, his parents joined the LDS Church and moved with their children to Twin Falls, Idaho. He recalled, "When we moved from the farm, I found employment in a grocery store [as a delivery boy] where it was impressed on me again that to be successful in life, it is necessary to learn to work effectively." (Letter to Marie Barton, 3/29/55.)

As his long list of accomplishments demonstrates, Dr. Tyler's journey from his humble beginnings to positions of prominence in the academic world and in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stemmed from this commitment to "work effectively."

Lyman attended high school in Twin Falls, Idaho from 1934-37, working after school as book keeper and grocery store delivery boy. Following his high school graduation in 1937, Lyman worked as an assistant manager for Safeway Stores, Inc., first in Gooding and subsequently in Boise, Idaho. Between 1940 and 1943, he served a mission for the Church in California, laboring part of that time as president of the Church's Riverside District. At the close of his mission, Tyler was asked to remain in California for three extra months as coordinator for Mormon servicemen living in California. As coordinator, Tyler worked under the direction of Elder Hugh B. Brown. In 1943, Lyman married Bessie Rhode of Los Angeles. In the following years, the Tylers became the parents of three children: Marie Ann, Michael and Steve.

Tyler worked as an assistant to Chaplain Glen Y. Richards of the Naval Training Station in Farragut following his return to Idaho in 1943. From 1944 to 1945, he served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific, working first as an instructor at the Radar Operators' School in Mare Island, California and later in the library of the Alameda Naval Air Station.

After World War II, Tyler and his family moved to Salt Lake City where Tyler enrolled as a student in the University of Utah. Throughout his student years, Tyler worked for Safeway Stores, Inc., as an assistant manager. He received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Political Science in 1949 and was awarded a research fellowship for graduate studies in history by the University of Utah. Two years later, Tyler received his Ph.D. in History and Public Administration.

In 1951, Tyler was awarded a research fellowship by the Social Science Research Council in Washington, D.C. During the next year, he studied the Indians of the American Southwest, working in the Mexican National Library and Archives, the Spanish Archives of New Mexico at Santa Fe, the Huntington Library and the Bancroft Library.

In 1952, Tyler joined the BYU faculty as an assistant professor of history. In that same year he began work as consultant in Indian Claims cases. During the years that followed, he worked for both the Indian Claims Commission and for Indian tribes as a consultant, conducting extensive research.

In November 1953, Dr. Tyler applied for the position of Director of Libraries at BYU. In his letter of application, Tyler stated his desire to "raise the academic standing" of BYU through strengthening the library. His experiences in academic research, personnel and business management and library work for the Navy, Tyler indicated, led him to apply for the position. Following their review of his application, the University administration named Tyler Director of Libraries at BYU in the spring of 1954. At the time, there were 175,000 volumes in the library. During the next twelve years, Tyler supervised the construction of a new library facility, the J. Reuben Clark Library (now the north wing of the Harold B. Lee Library) and oversaw the acquisition of new books and materials which increased the library's holdings to 600,000 volumes. He avidly pursued research and training in the library science and administration, writing several articles and attending the Rutgers Seminar for library administrators in 1956. At the seminar, Tyler became well acquainted with several prominent librarians, including Harvard's Librarian Emeritus, Keyes D. Metcalf. Tyler later persuaded Dr. Metcalf to act as a consultant in planning the J. Reuben Clark Library. Dr. Tyler served as President of the Utah Library Association in 1956-57, advocating the development of a state library. He also became a member of the National Council of the American Library Association. As BYU's Director of Libraries, Tyler conducted research for faculty members, President Ernest L. Wilkinson, and General Authorities, and served as library consultant for the Church Office Building Occupancy Committee from 1964 to 1966.

In addition to his library responsibilities, Tyler was Chairman of the BYU Indian Education Committee (1954-60) and Director of the BYU Institute of American Indian Studies (1959-64). He also served on the Utah Governors's Indian Affairs Committee as secretary and later as chairman. In 1958 and 1959, he worked on a national commission sponsored by the Ford Foundation to study U.S. policy toward the Indians between 1925 and 1956. Motivated by concern for the welfare of American Indians, Tyler lashed out at unfair treatment of them. "I think the number one problem facing tribes today is prejudice...Too many people in our society haven't learned that color and race don't count. The person is all that counts--the individual," he told a group of news reporters in 1970. "After all, what does it matter if your skin is black, white, yellow or red? What is inside you--that's the important thing."

Dr. Tyler was also active in state historical work. From 1957 to 1963, he served as President of the BYU Chapter of the Sons of the Utah Pioneers. He was also instrumental in the organization of a research project dedicated to the compilation of a bibliography of Mormon sources, serving as editor in this project. Governor George D. Clyde appointed Tyler to the Board of Trustees of the Utah State Historical Society in 1962. He served in this position until 1965. In that year, he was named a member of the newly organized Utah Heritage Foundation, a non profit organization dedicated to historic preservation.

Tyler indicated in a 1963 letter that he was "not at all certain that I wish to continue in library work indefinitely." (7/19/63) In 1966, he resigned from the directorship of the BYU Library to accept as position as professor of history and director of the Bureau of Indian Services at the University of Utah. This federally sponsored bureau was responsible for assisting Indians residing in Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah in understanding and utilizing governmental funds and programs. In that same year, Tyler was appointed by Governor Calvin Rampton to Utah's State Board of Indian Affairs which subsequently became the Utah Committee on Indian Affairs. Tyler also became an advisor to the University of Utah's Western History Center.

In 1967, the University of Utah named Tyler assistant dean of the University's Division of International Education. He subsequently served as dean of that division from 1968-1971. As dean, Tyler was responsible for coordinating eighteen separate university programs including study abroad tours, Peace Corps recruiting, providing teaching aid to impoverished nations, intercultural and minority education, and ethnic studies. Tyler also organized and chaired the Utah International Education Consortium to promote and coordinate international studies programs at the College of Southern Utah, the University of Utah, Utah State University and Weber State College.

Tyler continued to be active in library administration and consultation, serving on the Friends of the BYU Library executive committee, the University of Utah's Library Council, the Librarian's Council for the Church, and the Churchs Library Coordinating Committee. This church committee correlated the church's library activities and procedures.

Following five years of service as advisor to the University of Utah's Center for Studies of the American West, Tyler became director of the center in 1971. As director, he supervised the university's American West Studies, American Indian research and service programs, documentation and oral history programs, social research and development efforts, experiential education program and intercultural and regional studies.

Tyler became an editor for Tanner Publications on Utah, the Mormons, and the West in 1973; a planning consultant for Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma 1976; and an advisor to the Charles Redd Western History Center at BYU in 1976. In 1977, Tyler joined the board of the Fort Douglas Museum Association, and from 1978-83, he chaired the David E. Miller lecture series. Tyler became a member of the Pauite Restoration Committee in 1979. In that same year, he was appointed as a humanities consultant for the American Indian Community Resource Center.

Dr. Tyler's publications and research reports are numerous. In a 1953 letter to President Harvey L. Taylor, S. Lyman Tyler lamented that many people with expertise in the social sciences "lack the imagination to create jobs for themselves." Creative historians, he continued, could make themselves useful in many fields. Tyler's accomplishments validate that belief. In diverse fields including teaching, library administration, research, educational administration, international development and ethnic studies, S. Lyman Tyler has risen to positions of responsibility and excelled.


50 boxes (25 linear ft.)

Language of Materials



Arranged in four series: 1. Personal papers. 2. Papers on church service. 3. Professional papers. 4. Research on Native American water rights.

Other Finding Aids

A more detailed finding aid is available in print in the repository.

Other Finding Aids

File-level inventory available online.

Custodial History

Dr. Tyler donated the bulk of the collection to the Harold B. Lee Library in 1981. He donated several additional folders containing research material on Canadian Indian Affairs in 1983.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated; S. Lyman Tyler; 1981, 1983.


University history (University Archives collecting policy, February 2010).

Related Materials

See also the Harold B. Lee Library records (UA 549).

Separated Materials

Numerous photographs of BYU and other university libraries, American Indians and Australian aborigines were transferred to the Photo Archives. Copies of the November, 1956, Revised Revolution Report on Brigham Young University, the Seven Year Report of the President of Brigham Young University (1950-1957), and the 1962-1963 BYU Annual Enrollment Summary were also separated from the collection.

Processing Information

Processed; David J. Whittaker; April 1984.

Register of the S. Lyman Tyler papers
David J. Whittaker
1984 April
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.
Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, 2007-2008

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections. University Archives Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo UT 84602 US