History of the Library, Pt. 3

This is the third in a series of posts about the history of the library at Iowa State.  Want to catch up? Read the first and second posts!

The library has been through many expansions through the 20th century to meet the demands of a growing student population. Iowa State had a new library in 1925, but as quickly as 1930 the collection was too large for the bookshelf space. In 1940, an off-site storage facility was built to handle some of the overflow that had been stored in the Memorial Union and the Engineering Exhibit Hall.

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Lois Johnson Smith checks a request for books, University photos, box 2046

While the collection already exceeded the size of the library, there were other pressures put on the library space starting in the mid-century. The university experienced a great period of growth after WWII due to the GI Bill and the Cold War, when the government was eager to fund the scientific research done at Iowa State.  This period of growth was exacerbated by the incoming Baby Boom students.  All of these factors put great pressure on the amount of study space in the library.

To address these issues, the first expansion opened in 1961. The new addition had 5 floors and added 52,000 square feet. One big innovation for this addition was open stacks, allowing students to browse the shelves and pick out books themselves. A glass rotunda was built for the new entrance on the south side of the building complete with staffed circulation desk to make sure materials did not make their way out of the library without being checked out.

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Students check out materials by the new South entrance, 1961, University photographs, box 147

Even brand new, the expanded library could only accommodate 75% of the 520,000 volume collection and did not contain the amount of study space recommended for the size of the student population. Tellingly, even as they were building the addition, it was referred to as the “First Addition”, which brings us, inevitably, to the Second Addition.

This addition was started in 1967 and completed in 1969. This expansion more than doubled the space for storing books and for users to work.*

In the 1969/70 school year, the library offered 7 courses. There were 4 undergraduate courses, each designed for students in different areas of study: home economics, sciences and humanities, engineering, and agriculture. Additionally, there were 3 courses, each aimed at different groups of graduate students.

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Library staff, 1960, University photos, box 2043

Be sure to follow the blog to see the library further expand and get a name!

*Post written with the help of “A Short History of the Iowa State University Library 1858-2007” by Kevin D. Hill.


Spotlight on the Presidents’ Papers – James H. Hilton Papers

James H. Hilton (University Photographs, box 59).

James Hilton was the president of Iowa State from 1953-1965. He is also the only ISU president who was also ISU alum. I have used his papers in several primary source instruction classes and workshops. During Hilton’s tenure as president, the university grew immensely. As a result, his papers contain interesting materials that I like to include in in my instruction sessions. His collection, spanning from 1938-1982, contains:

biographical information, addresses and speeches, Board of Regents’ materials, correspondence, minutes, and printed materials.  The records document the programmatic relationship of Iowa State with the other Regents’ Universities, student activities such as military participation, and agricultural research and other projects undertaken by the various Colleges within the University.  Also included is information regarding Iowa State’s participation in national academic organizations, such as the Association of Land-Grant Colleges (James H. Hilton Papers, RS 2/10).

Below is a postcard written to James Hilton after the students rioted after Homecoming in 1953.

The documents below are in a folder titled “Civil Defense” and include information on surviving a nuclear attack. There are other materials in the Hilton Papers that document how the Cold War affected Iowa State University.

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If you are interested in conducting research, drop by and see us. We’re in room 403 Parks and open Monday-Friday from 9-5.


History of the Library, Pt. 2

This is the second in a series of posts about the history of the library at Iowa State.

When we left off in 1914, the library was in Beardshear Hall, and the collection was bursting at the seams.  As early as 1911, money was allocated by the legislature to build a library building.  However, the process was slow-going, especially when it was discovered that in order to build a building of adequate size, much more funding would be needed.

Finally in 1923, construction on the new library building was started, and the first cornerstone was laid on October 11.  Construction was complete in 1925, though not all books were moved until early 1926.  One of the major benefits of the new library was that the materials were consolidated into one space instead of being spread out between Central (Beardshear), Agriculture Hall, Chemistry Building, Engineering Hall, and the Veterinary Building.

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Southeast view of the library, 1925, University Photograph box 313

The building had space to store 200,000 books.  At the time of opening, the library had “about 160,000 carefully selected volumes” (Catalogue, 1927-1928).

The library hours during regular sessions were:

Monday-Friday 7:50 am-6pm and 7-9:30pm
Saturday: 7:50am-2 and 1-6pm
Sunday: 2-5pm (no procrastinating until Sunday night!)

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South end of Periodical Room, 1927 University Photographs box 146

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Periodical Room (Main Reading Room), 1925, University Photographs box 170

In 1925/6, the library offered 4 courses; classes in library usage specifically for agriculture, home economics, and industrial science students, and a course in bibliographic research.    A 5th course in library methods had been added by the next year.  The dean of the library was Charles Harvey Brown. Brown served as dean of the library from 1922-1946.  In 1927, the library had 10 staff members and 12 assistants listed in the catalogue (compared to today’s 143 staff between librarians, support staff, and students).

The Alumnus had a rather interesting take on the new library building in their November 1924 issue:

“Officials say that the library will be ready for occupancy some time in January.  Some time early in the year, six libraries will be consolidated into one, and the amorous youth will no longer wend his away to Central, but to the new white structure beyond it, there to seek out his fair bibliophile and divert her affections to something more substantial than books.” (RS 4/8/4, box 12)

Sounds like the library staff had their hands full!

1925 Library Staff

Library Staff 1925, University Photographs box 2040

From 1925 to the present the library has been in the same location but has grown.  Join us for the next installments to see how the library has expanded in the last (nearly) century!


History of the Library

This is a first in a series of posts about the history of the library at Iowa State.


To kick off this series of posts about the history of the library at Iowa State, we’re going to take a look way back to nearly the founding of Iowa State University. Starting in 1868, the library was housed in Old Main. As Old Main held the entire college, it had a lot of functions including classrooms, museums, a chapel, dining halls, and housing for both faculty and students (to learn more about Old Main, visit our online exhibit). In 1880, the library had 6,000 volumes and was open from 2 pm to 9 pm. The library was run by students in the earliest days until 1876 when some professors were tasked with the double duty of scholarship and running the library. “From this time [1884] the position was added to that of women teachers in mathematics, modern language, or elocution” (pg 80, The History of Iowa State College by Earle Dudley Ross).

Old Main

Old Main, pictured 1888,  University Archives Photos

In 1891, the library was moved to Morrill Hall, which was designed to house the library and a museum.  It was in that same year that library instruction at ISU began.  Freshmen took a 1 credit course during the second term titled “Library Work.”  In 1893, the library had 10,200 volumes and was open from 8-9:30, closing over the noon and dinner hours.

Morrill Hall Library

Students studying in the library of Morrill Hall ca. 1910. University Archives Photos

Morrill Hall was the home of the library for just 23 years, and in 1914, the library was moved to Beardshear Hall, which was deemed to be more fireproof than Morrill. The library quickly outgrew all of the buildings it occupied, so plans were laid for the library to have a permanent home of its own that could hold all of the volumes in one place.

In the next post (coming in May), we’ll look at the beginning of the library in its current location (though much smaller than the library of today!)

There are many places in the archives to learn about the history of the library and other buildings on campus.  A good place to start is the online exhibit From Prairie Sod to Campus Cornerstones: Building Our Campus History or the reference books found in the reading room.  You can also check out some quick facts from the library’s website.  To dive a little deeper, look through our finding aids and records in RS 4/8/4.


The Archives — Satisfy your Curiosity

Today’s blog post was authored by Margaret Weber. Margaret is PhD candidate for the Department of History at Iowa State University.

Margaret Weber talking about her experiences in the archives with HIST 195 students in the Special Collections & University Archives classroom in 405 Parks during their class visit to the archives in Spring 2015

Margaret Weber talking about her experiences in the archives with HIST 195 students during their visit to SCUA in Spring 2016 (photograph by Rachel Seale)

Why go to the archives? This is a question that has been asked of me a lot, especially by my students. I have often witnessed many Iowa State students pass the Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA) on the fourth floor of the library.  A few brave souls venture in. Some spare a quick glance at the glass exhibit case and closed door. Most though pass by without another thought. What exactly is behind that closed door? And perhaps more importantly, what can the Iowa State archives offer to its students, faculty, staff, and the public at large? The answer…a place to satisfy your curiosity. For behind that closed door is a gateway to documents and artifacts that magnify our past and help us understand the present.

 

In a world of digitization and computer screens, what value is there in a stuffy place where old documents exist? Can’t the answer just be found online? Despite many advancements in digital collections in the past several years, those online documents pale in comparison to the type and variation offered at Special Collections across the country, including Iowa State’s. Lots of one of a kind videos, books, pictures, scrapbooks, artifacts, and other archival material can only be found here. There is something special about holding a document in your hands, seeing the text itself. It is a chance to truly get a feel for the quantities of our collective past. To use those documents to create a narrative of your own.

 

Nowhere else on campus offers such an in-depth look into the university’s history and life. Want to find out what university life was like in the roaring 1920s? Go to the archives to look at dance cards and homecoming pictures. Was there student unrest in the 1960s? Find the answer in the archives by reading through the Daily’s opinion section. Want to locate your grandfather’s or grandmother’s master thesis? It’s here in the archives, along with all of the other theses and dissertations. From the Manhattan Project to Morrill Act, there is lots explore on the fourth floor.

Woman conducting research in the Special Collections & University Archives reading room in the Parks Library.

Margaret Weber conducting research in the SCUA reading room this fall (photograph by Petrina Jackson)

But it is not just Iowa State history documented here. The library’s archives also hold vast collections on technological and scientific advancements, developments in agriculture, political history, and much more. In my own personal research on agriculture in the postwar period, the various non-ISU manuscript collections have proven to be invaluable. Very few other archives cover such a wide range of rural life and the development of America’s food system. All archives, including Iowa State’s, play an important role in preserving pieces of our history.

 

And finally, while the university is a place to ask questions, its archives represents an opportunity to formulate your own answers. One of the greatest things about academic life is the expansion of the mind, the ability to ask questions, and find possible solutions. Curiosity is the fuel on the fire of learning. And the archives, like its classrooms, computer labs, and scientific laboratories, are just another resource for students to use to satisfy that inquisitiveness.