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