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Purdue University Libraries records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: UA 30

Scope and Contents

The Purdue University Libraries records document, the history, administration and activities of the Purdue University Libraries.  Types of materials include: annual reports, brochures, ephemera, minutes, miscellaneous materials, newsletters, pamphlets, photographs, publications, records, surveys, and training manuals.  The original order of the records was maintained in most cases.  Some boxes may include cross-departmental documents, and confidential items have been removed and housed in a separate, marked box.  Please note that parts of this collection have not been processed yet. The records are organized into 8 series.


  • circa 1800s - 2000s
  • Majority of material found within 1980 - 2004

Language of Materials

Collection materials are in English.

Access Information

Collection is open for research.  Student grades and documents marked confidential have been removed from their respective files and placed in a “restricted” box.

Copyright and Use Information

Some material in this collection are in the public domain, while other material copyrights are held by Purdue University. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Historical Information

An Outline of Purdue University Library History, by David M. Hovde

As with the Library of Congress; the core of the Purdue University Library began as a preexisting collection. As the Library of Congress benefitted from the intellectual curiosity of Thomas Jefferson; Purdue benefitted from Purdue’s first president, Richard Owen who sold his collection to Purdue for $180.00. (Minutes of the Board of Trustees June 3, 1874, page 152). Another major source of books at this time was Godlove C. Orth of Lafayette. (50th Annual Report, 1924:131). An additional sum of $887.83 was spent acquiring books during the 1874-1875 fiscal year (Second Annual Report of Purdue University for the Year Ending June 30, 1876, page 7)

Where these books were initially located is unclear. One source speculates they were housed in the “wooden building” housing the classrooms (The Purdue Exponent, January 12, 1904 (16) 14, p 1-2). However, other sources place the first library in Purdue Hall, the men’s dormitory, in a small room in the southwest corner of the first floor. (Annual Register of Purdue University 1876-77, 29 and 50th Annual Report, 1924:131)

Timeline of the Libraries early years:

1876 Library…numbered “several hundred carefully selected volumes, including many valuable books of reference.” (Hepburn and Sears, 1925: 64). The Second Annual Report of Purdue University reports the purchase of books, from Professor Richard Owen, for the library at the cost of $180.00, as well as, an additional $887.83. The Report states that, “A large building for the School of Natural History, the Library, the Societies, the Chapel, and other purposes will soon be erected.” (2nd Annual Report, 1876, pp 6-7, 24-25). The library may have been located in the men’s dormitory in a small room in the southwest corner of the first floor. Another major source of books at this time was Godlove C. Orth of Lafayette. (50th Annual Report, 1924:131).

1877 The first librarian is Jesse Harvey Blair, a senior student (50th Annual Report, 1924: 131)

1878 University Hall was completed in 1878 and the Library was moved into it soon after. Eulora J. Miller, Class of 1878 and Purdue’s first female graduate, become the second librarian as well as general assistant to the President (50th Annual Report, 1924: 131).

1879 The state legislature appropriates $1000.00 for books and periodicals for the Library. (Hepburn and Sears: 68)

1880 Moses Cobb Stevens, formerly of the Farmer’s Institute of Tippecanoe County, is appointed the first official librarian. He is also the registrar and later a professor of mathematics.

1882 2400 volumes, 500 government documents, and 500 bound volumes of periodicals. The Librarian M.C. Stevens reports that the Library, “is poorly supplied with books in all the departments.” (1882 Annual Report) The Professor of Chemistry, Robert B. Warder, calls for a separate “well selected chemical library among other things in his request for “more extended quarters.”(10thAnnual Report, 1884, p 63)

1886 The Library and Reading Room moves from the east room of University Hall (built in 1878) to the east and west center rooms. The west room, formerly a botanical laboratory, became a newspaper and periodical room and later used for book shelving (50th Annual Report, 1924: 131)

1891 A picture of the University Hall Library, before the remodeling, can be seen in the 1891 Debris in the Mechanical Engineering section of the volume. 1894 The Library expands into the second floor of University Hall in the area that had been occupied by the Preparatory Department. (50th Annual Report, 1924: 132)

1895 The center of the second floor is cut away, a broad stairway, alcoves and galleries are added. Later basement space is allocated to the Library for storage and work rooms.

1900 The collection is now 10,951 volumes.

1903 The new Agriculture Building contains a “library room.” (28th Annual Report, 1902, p 35)

1904 In the main library open shelving is introduced and a shift from faculty centered to student centered policies are introduced. (50th Annual Report, 1924: 132)

1906 Purdue asks state legislature for appropriations for new library (Topping, Century 1988: 159).

1909 Purdue University requests appropriations from the state legislature for a new library. (Hepburn and Sears: 106)

1911 Work begins on Library Building (Topping, Century 1988: 159)

1913 The Library is a unit in itself, and while small in comparison with some of the country’s greater palaces of books, the plans admit of a symmetrical arrangement. For present purposes it is adequate. In addition to its literary function, it has proved to be somewhat of a social center, … (Hepburn and Sears: 110)

For years there had been a need for a library building, and it was not met until 1913, when the first unit of the Library was completed… In the meantime, Professor Hepburn had somehow managed his books in the central section of the University Hall. Within three years, the circulation of books increased 90 per cent,…(Knoll, Story of Purdue Engineering, 1963: 49)

The new Library is dedicated on June 10th. The State Librarian Demarchus C. Brown delivers the principal address. In the audience no doubt were the four members of the library staff who are listed in the annual report as being members of the University’s Instructional Corps along with professors, Instructors, and assistants. (39th Annual Report 1913, p 5)

1914 In the Experimental Station building, the library room has been handsomely equipped with shelving and the valuable Station library arranged so as to be properly available for consultation.(40th Annual Report, 1914, p 41)

1916 Library departments are given separate budgets. (51st Annual Report 1925, p 118)

1922 65,000 volumes in the library & circulation 81,070 (Topping, Century 1988: 212)

1924 The departmental libraries listed in the 1924 annual report are Chemistry, Physics, Mathematics, and Pharmacy. A 1200 volume library of Herd Records is housed in the Agricultural Building. The Chemistry Library is stated to be the oldest and largest with approximately 2,000 volumes. These libraries are not staffed by library personnel. (50th Annual Report, 1924: 133)

1925 William M. Hepburn in the Fifty-First Annual Report of Purdue University cites the need for the expansion of the Library. He requests the building of east and west wings extending from the north wall as was intended from the original design. Hepburn hoped the west stack wing would be sixty to seventy-five feet in depth and five stack levels in height for collection expansion. The east wing, of the same depth, would house the Charles Major Collection and the “John Purdue” or “Purdue Archive.” (51st Annual Report 1925, p 119)

1928 Reserve Book Room opened on the first floor of the Library with approximately one thousand volumes. Library opened for the first time on Sunday. (Report of Librarian on the progress of the Library during the past decade 1921-22 and 1930-31)

1930 Tri-weekly messenger service made available to departments (Report of Librarian on the progress of the Library during the past decade 1921-22 and 1930-31) Concern for the preservation of the Purdue Exponent, Patent Office publications, the Major Collection, and the University Archives, and the expansion of library services is stressed by Hepburn in his 1928 biennium report. (Bulletin of the Purdue University, 1930, p 153)

The Physics Library moved to a “larger space” in the northeast corner room of the Physics Building and additional books and periodicals are transferred from the general Library. The Pharmacy Library moved into a “pleasant room” in the southwest corner of the first floor of the new Pharmacy Building. A number of books and periodicals are transferred from the general Library as well as those collected from laboratories and faculty offices. (Report of Librarian on the progress of the Library during the past decade 1921-22 and 1930-31 and Bulletin of the Purdue University 1931: 125-126)

1931 The departmental collections include: the Chemistry Library, Animal Husbandry (Herd Books), Mathematics Library, Physics Library, Pharmacy Library, Biology Library, Chemical Engineering Office Library, and Electrical Engineering Office Library. The special collections include the Charles Major Library, theses, Purdue Archives, Alexander Collection, Scheuch Collection of Books of the 17th Century, the D.L. Barnes Collection, the George J. Patitz Gift, the Niblack Library, and the Vertical File. (Bulletin of Purdue University, 1931, p 141)

1932 101,500 volumes in the library & circulation 123,273 (Topping, Century 1988: 212) Departmental Libraries increase in importance over the past ten years. The Chemistry Library moved to a “room” in the new building. It is considered “inadequate.” The Mathematics Library moved from the third floor to the second floor of the Recitation Building, making it more accessible. By 1932, twelve percent of the library’s holding on campus were housed in the departmental libraries. This was an increase of four percent over ten years. (Report of Librarian on the progress of the Library during the past decade 1921-22 and 1930-31)

1934 Two wings were added to the Library that increased the floor space by fifty percent and doubled the book capacity. It also allowed for the rearrangement of various services. In particular a periodicals room was created as well as the enlargement of the W.F.M. Goss Library and the University Archives and Museum. The Library was also was assisted in the cleaning up after the construction and other work by members of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration and Civil Works Administration. (Bulletin of Purdue University 1934, p 114-115)

1935 The Elliot Library of Education is established for the Department of Education in the former Chemistry Building. It contains 1500 volumes. Hepburn directed a Weekly Book Review program over the 1934-35 school year. The reviews were by either the library staff or teaching faculty. (Bulletin of Purdue University, 1934-1935, 151)

1937 Book requests from the departments shift to materials for graduate and research work. Space issues are already being noticed. Preservation and space issues in the departmental libraries are noted by Hepburn, particularly in the Chemistry and Pharmacy Libraries. Concern is raised about the chemicals and inflammable materials present and the unsupervised nature of the libraries. The students have unfavorable attitude about the library fee. Hepburn suggests it be dropped and a system of library fines be instituted like, “Every other university library.” He also cites a staffing problem in that there is one library staff member for every 450 students. (Bulletin of Purdue University, 1936-1937, pp 162-164)

1938 Microfilm is becoming an issue particularly in the area of interlibrary loan. The first microfilming project in the Library is of a “rare and out-of-print pamphlet” from the W.F.M. Goss Library. The Library purchases the first two microfilm readers on campus. Up to this point the practice at Purdue had been to use “powerful reading glasses, binocular microscopes, and stereopticons.” The Library cooperates with the Division of Education and Psychology in conducting courses in library science for students desiring to qualify for the state certificate as teacher-librarians. The coordinators are Lulu Ruth Reed and, from the Library, Rachel K. Shenk. (Bulletin of Purdue University, 1937-1938, pp 168-170)

1941 Management of the Library Science courses continues under Hepburn. Six courses are offered and three of these are graduate courses. Hepburn reports increased pressure to expand departmental libraries and office and laboratory collections. He notes that the departmental libraries are not designed to meet the needs of undergraduates. He also is concerned about the duplication of materials limits the buying power of the Library. The Chemical Engineering Library is closed.

Hepburn uncharacteristically expounds at some length about the future of libraries in this report on new ways of using books in the educational process. He believes that large central libraries are inadequate and yet departmental libraries are designed for faculty and graduate students. He notes that when thousands of students have a common need or when small group intensive classes require a special collection specific to the assignment the library of the day can not meet the need. At the same time limited funds can not support duplication of materials. “If in the future,” Hepburn states,” they are to constitute the accepted methods of bringing students and books together, it will necessitate many changes in the design of library buildings as well as of classrooms and residence halls, much larger expenditures of books, and changes in library technique. Perhaps the university libraries of the future will not be magnificent edifices housing thousands of books, but consist rather of hundreds of self-contained, segregated collections, place in classrooms, laboratories, and residence halls,…” What he was envisioning is now reality with the PC and the internet. (Bulletin of the Purdue University 1939-1940, 225-231) 1948 The Annex is built on to the west side of the Library. This is to accommodate the increase in students during the post-war years.

1950 The Physics Library doubles in size. One interesting feature of the 1950 Annual Report is a photograph showing an African-American librarian as she helps a student with a new piece of technology, a microcard reader. (Annual Report 1950, p 32)

1951 The Library reaches the 300,000 volume mark. John H. Moriarty pointedly notes that this number is, “generally considered the dividing line between a college and a university status library.” (Annual Report 1951, p 35)

1952 Agricultural Chemistry Library opens with a full-time attendant. The Mechanical Engineering Library also opens. (Annual Report 1952, p 37)

1953 The Goss Library of Engineering History moves to the Engineering Administration Building and planning is underway for four other departmental libraries and expansion of the General Library. It had been on the third floor of the General Library and considered inaccessible (Annual Report 1953, p 33 and Annual Report 1954,?)

1954 The new Chemistry Library opens. The Annex built in 1948 on the west side of the General Library is removed with a loss of 119 seats.

1955 The new Wiley Civil Engineering Library is mentioned. The Mathematics Library is being enlarged. Plans for the remodeling of east wing of the general library and the new library in the Purdue Memorial Union-Hall of Music is eagerly anticipated. Mrs. Evelyn McCutcheon donates 750 cartoons of John McCutcheon to the Library. (Annual Report 1955, p 28)

1956 The Electrical Engineering and Mathematics Libraries are remodeled. Plans to upgrade other departmental libraries are in the works.

1957 What may be a step in consolidating libraries after years of expanding departmental libraries, five of the engineering libraries were placed under one supervisor. (Annual Report of the President 1957, 31)

1958 The new library opens in the spring in what was called the Purdue Memorial Union-Hall of Music Annex. Later the building would be known as the Stewart Center. This occurred between Easter and the beginning of the summer session. Some 200,000 volumes were moved from the old library stacks into the reading rooms of the new facility. The card catalog is divided into author and title/subject catalogs. One million cards are reproduced for the establishment of separate floor catalogs. One technological feature noted in the Annual Report are phone jacks for headsets imbedded in the card catalog. This allowed reference librarians to communicate with patrons over the phone while searching the catalog. The Home Economics Library moved to a new location and modernized.

1959 The new Library creates a 44 percent increase in patron visits and a 30 percent increase in reference questions. The Life Science Library and the Industrial Management Library opened, and the library on the Fort Wayne campus moved to larger quarters. (Annual Report 1959, 20)

1960 Use of the Library and the reference services continue to increase. Some 85,583 questions were handled; a 16,040 increase over the previous year. The new Veterinary Science and Medicine Library opens. (Annual Report 1960, p 20)

1961 Remodeling of the “old library” provides adequate space for book processing, the Bookstall and Study Room, maps, the university archives, and administrative offices. The Aeronautical and Engineering Sciences libraries are consolidated in enlarged quarters. A checkout system using “addressograph” student passports is instituted and some libraries extend their hours to 99 per week. The Bookstall is the site for “Coffee concerts” sponsored by the Library. The performers are “staff members or their wives.” (Annual Report 1961, 20)

Source: History of Purdue University Libraries, by David M. Hovde


83.70 Cubic Feet

68 Cubic Feet

30 mss._boxes

2 small flat_box

2 OS folders

Arrangement Note

Series 1. Administration of Libraries, 1800s-2010 (21.62 cubic feet). This series contains annual reports, strategic plans, Dean Council minutes, Libraries Management Team documents, director addresses, gift collection files, faculty meeting minutes and other miscellaneous administrative materials. Some of the unique items include a brief Libraries’ history dating back to 1874-1971, Exponent citations/abstracts on index cards from the 1800s and 1900s relating to the Libraries, a cash book for the years 1904-1910, holiday cards sent by the administrative offices, centennial library advisory planning committee documents and centennial (land-grant) committee documents, and two major reports; Downs Library Survey and Library Management Review Analysis Program. The annual reports are arranged chronologically, whereas most of the other items were left in the original order.

Series 2. Emily Mobley Records, 1960s-2000s (4 cubic feet). Emily Mobley, Dean of the Libraries from 1989-2004, provided oversight in moving the system towards the electronic era and pushed for growth of library collections to 2.3 million volumes. In 1997, she was awarded the Esther Ellis Norton Distinguished Professorship in Library Science. Among her accomplishments, Mobley played a crucial role in the acquisition of the addition to the Amelia Earhart Collection to Purdue's Archives and Special Collections unit, led a two year renovation of the Humanities, Social Science & Education Library, and helped the English department bring a literary leader to campus each semester. Documents relating to her accomplishments are included among the records, along with Libraries documents prior to her tenure, administrative memoranda revisions, original Libraries procedures memoranda, and departmental libraries documents from her tenure.

Series 3. Collections Management, 1915-2006 (11.35 cubic feet). These records contain Purdue Libraries book lists dating back to 1915, library materials budgets dating back to 1959, union lists of periodicals, division of educational reference reports, summary of current literature in higher education from the 1920s, Reader Services Division meeting minutes and reports and other miscellaneous documents related to collections management.

Series 4. Associate Dean for Digital Programs and Information Access, 1953-2010 (4.3 cubic feet). These records include 2 cubic feet of records from William L. Corya’s 42 year career with the Purdue Libraries. Corya began his professional career with the Libraries in 1970 as reference librarian in the Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Libraries. During his tenure he served as Head of Libraries’ Systems Unit and the Cataloging Unit, Assistant Director of Technical Services, Director of the Information Technology Department with Access Services duties added later. During his last years of employment, he was electronic resources licensing librarian with responsibilities for vendor licensing and contracts. Numerous documents relating to these various duties are included among these records. Also included are Technical Information Service records; the Technical Information Service was in operation from 1987-2000. There is also a box of papers from Joseph C. Borden, Head of Serials, circa 1960s-1970s.

Series 5. Research Unit, 1885-2005 (5.2 cubic feet). This series contains Purdue Libraries publications, Purdue/Education related publications, Libraries faculty publications, Purdue University conference attendance documents and brochures. The documents remain as received, and there is miscellaneous material from the Purdue Libraries early years (1895-1961) interspersed.

Series 6. Associate Dean for Planning and Administration, 1904-2011 (3.4 cubic feet). This series is comprised of material relating to departments under the direction of the Associate Dean for Planning and Administration, but there is also a mixture of cross-departmental material. Included are newsletters (Off the Shelf), committee/working condition reports, including Purdue University Libraries Staff Association – “PULSA,” staff -building and library organization reports, studies related to design and assurance, library design plans, library material from the early years, dating back to 1904. Also located in this series is information related to preparation of graduate theses (1982-1993) and material on the Distinguished Lecture Series, including copies of the lectures on DVDs (2005-2011). Series 7. Advancement, Departmental Libraries, and University Copyright Office, 1874-2010 (18.9 cubic feet). Included among this series are Advancement Office publications; Year End Review for Friends, Inside Scoop and Access, Knowledge, Success, along with publicity for the Purdue University Libraries, bookmarks, brochures, historical information, programs, and publications and Purdue University Development Office material. There are various materials from the departmental libraries, with an emphasis on the Humanities Social Sciences and Educations Library, especially during Mark Tucker’s and Laszlo Kovacs’ tenures. There is a wealth of information on the former Libraries Audio Visual Center; including various papers, memoranda, minutes, miscellaneous documents, newsletters and a scrapbook (1955-1985). Also among the records are a box of Purdue University Copyright Office documents and a box of newsletters from the former Center for Instructional Services (CIS).

Series 8. Miscellaneous and Mixed Materials, 1922-2004 (3.1 cubic feet). This series is a mixture of Purdue University Libraries and University-wide publications, reports, brochures, circulars and bulletins. There is a concentration of Libraries Centennial Colloquia information, Purdue University Libraries Day items, celebrating the 1,000,000 volume, Libraries staff development information, Purdue publications related to Winthrop Ellsworth Stone (1922-1932), circulars of general information (1922-1979), addresses and records from Purdue’s semi-centennial ceremonial (1924), and a document detailing the growth of Purdue University during the decennial period (1922-1932). Also included are general University bulletins (1950-1998).

Acquisition Information

Received from numerous Purdue University Libraries sources at various times.

Accruals and Additions

20130524.4, 20130513, 20130315

Processing Information

Level three processing was done on the collection. Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained. Some material has been housed in acid free folders, and other items remain as received. All material is housed in acid-free boxes.
Purdue University Libraries records
In Progress
Mary A. Sego
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Second edition

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States