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last updated: 7/11/2013

Frank and Lee Ann Hoffmann

A Day of Inspiration: The Collection of a Lifetime



Frank Hoffmann calls it his epiphany.

“It was that one day—an absolutely gorgeous, crisp fall day—when it really hit home for me,” says Frank, BA’71, MLS’73.

Frank was just 10 years old. His mother suggested the family walk across the IU Bloomington campus to meet Frank’s father, who worked for the university’s audiovisual department. For Frank, that walk is a treasured IU memory that’s inspired him to donate a massive media collection and an unrestricted financial gift to the IU Libraries.


The family began its walk near Dunn Woods. They strolled past the IU Observatory and the future site of the statue of Herman B Wells. “I actually met Dr. Wells on that very spot as a young boy,” notes Frank. “My parents had already told me about his historical importance to the university, so I was very much flattered that he seemed to care about what I had to say.”


They observed the Jordan River, Dunn Meadow, the lovely buildings, and everything else that has made the campus a special place for so many people over the years. “All I could think of was, ‘I’ve got to figure out how to work in a place like this,’” he says.


Frank ended up becoming a professor of library science at Sam Houston State University in Texas, which is, in fact, a beautiful campus. But his heart was always in his hometown, and now, thanks to the wonders of telecommuting, he and his wife, Lee Ann, have moved to Bloomington.


“I wanted to move someplace with four seasons,” insists Lee Ann, who is joining Frank in making their special gift. “Frank talked up Bloomington so much. When we visited, I agreed this was the place.”


Throughout his life, Frank had another love: music. It was a subject he would write about, publishing reference books and histories on popular music.


But unlike today, when you can easily summon any song on the Internet, Frank grew up in an era when you had to buy a physical copy.


And so began a collection that grew and grew. Today, it encompasses wax cylinders that play on special phonographs from the turn of the century. There are vinyl records with the bombastic art of the 1960s and 1970s. There are shelves and shelves of compact discs, alphabetized and organized.


Frank tends not to speak of individual parts of the collection. Instead, he says, “I really wanted to capture the complete history of sound.” He often added items for their cultural or historical value rather than for considerations of personal appeal.


Frank also added films, comic books, collectors cards, and other popular culture artifacts to his rapidly expanding collection. “These are things that, when I grew up, weren’t held at libraries,” he says.


But the heart of Frank’s generosity is not in the size of his collection or the amount of his gift. It is his decision to give it to IU without qualification.


“I don’t want it to be the ‘Frank Hoffmann Collection,’” says Frank. “I want my contribution to be added to IU’s and enhance what’s already there.”


As for the funds he and Lee Ann are giving, Frank says, “My own professional experiences have taught me that librarians are well equipped to know what they need. I trust them to make optimum use of the funds.”

last updated: 7/11/2013