Library Development at Western
By John Hallwas
No division of Western has had a more remarkable development than
University Libraries. Over the past century it has not just grown
dramatically; it has repeatedly transcended itself.
When Western opened in the fall of 1902, there was a small library
collection, located temporarily in a balcony at the south end of the
gymnasium, in space now occupied by the Registrar's Office in Sherman Hall.
By the end of that school year, the collection totaled 663 volumes.
In the fall of 1903 the collection was moved to a "permanent" location,
on the second floor of that massive building, where the president's
office is today. Five years after Western opened, the collection
reached 5,000 volumes.
In 1929 the library moved back to the old gymnasium, which was remodeled
into a three-leveled facility with a seating capacity of about 300.
That year the collection topped 35,000, including children's books and bound
periodicals. By the close of World War II the collection had grown to
some 50,000 books for the college community alone, plus 11,000 books for
children and 8,000 bound periodicals.
The next major development came in the summer of 1962, when the library
was moved out of Sherman Hall to its own building. The faculty and
students hand carried 110,000 books and 1,040 different periodicals to
the new structure, then called Memorial Library (now Memorial Hall).
Many changes occurred during the 1960's, including the switch in
classification systems from Dewey Decimal to Library of Congress and,
just as momentous, the opening of the library to regional residents.
The book collection grew furiously as the university rapidly expanded
in size during the 1960's and early 1970's - from 200,000 volumes in
1968 to 300,000 in 1970, 400,000 in 1974, and 500,000 in 1977.
By that time, only seven other non-doctoral colleges and universities
in the nation had half a million volumes. In that same year, online
bibliographic database searching also began at Western.
Three branch libraries were established in the later 1970's-the Map
Library in Tillman Hall, the Music Library in Browne Hall, and the
Physical Sciences Library in Currens Hall-but the biggest development
was the relocation of the main library to a new $12.5 million building
in 1978. The award-winning, pinwheel-shaped structure was re-named the
Malpass Library in 2001.
The chief agent of library transformation for the past quarter of a century
has been the computer. In 1980 Western joined a group of academic libraries
in a consortium now known as the Illinois Library Computer Systems
Organization (ILCSO). Students, faculty, and others at Western may
view the collections at member libraries, initiate circulation transactions,
and participate in other resource-sharing activities. In recent years,
those activities may be carried out not only in the library but also from
homes and offices, thus expanding the "walls" of the physical library building.
This year, the 100th anniversary of Western's opening coincides with the
acquisition of the one millionth library book-and that figure does not include
uncataloged government publications, periodicals, manuscripts, maps, photographs,
tapes, and other materials. Moreover, the library's database resources are extensive.
As the acquisition of a millionth book is being marked at Western, the
task of University Libraries is not just to continue its remarkable growth,
but to remain in the forefront of library computerization, and to maintain a
superb faculty and staff, dedicated to providing resources and services for
the academic community and the regional public. The library's remarkable
first century of development reveals its determination to meet those challenges.
THANK YOU!! The many monetary gifts and gifts-in-kind contributed to the
University Libraries by our generous donors have played an important part in
developing the Library's collections.
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