The MSU Library is somewhere just about every MSU student finds themselves at one time or another. Whether it be from the one GenEd class that requires a trip to the library, or just cutting through the building to get to another class, there are even some students who go there to study. This number seems to spike every semester during midterms and finals week.
The Library hasn’t always been housed south of Beaumont Tower. In the very early campus years it was a single reading room on the third floor of College Hall, which was the first academic building on campus. It was only open a few hours in the evening. In 1872, as the library began to be used more, it was moved to a larger area on the first floor of College Hall. In 1881 it moved to Linton Hall. By 1916, the volumes were double-stacked on the shelves and it was apparent that a new building would be needed soon.
A new building was ready in 1925, and it would be the Library’s home until 1955. The building still stands, and it is right across the street from the present building: it’s the MSU Museum. After World War II, MSU expanded its programs and with that it expanded its library collection. The first building that was built specifically for the library was outgrown after only 25 years.
The next building was completed in 1955, and volumes were slowly transferred over; moving a library is no easy task. Luckily, in February 1956 roughly 150 fraternity pledges offered their help to move the books from the old library to the new library. With only thanks, music, and hot coffee, the men moved about 20,000 books; roughly the length of a football field. This was in addition to the 350,000 books that had already been moved over winter break and the new building went into full use in April 1956.
The building was then about half the size of the current Library, as the east wing was added later. The first outside book drop was installed in December 1960, and was much closer to the library than the current one by the stadium. The library continued to grow and in 1963, 108 years after the MSU library was established, the one millionth volume was added. Then in June 1966 the library switched over to punch cards to check out their books. There is still evidence of these punch cards in many of the less used materials. Even though these machines were noisy, they made checking out much quicker.
The east wing was added in 1967, effectively tripling the shelving space. This was at a time when it was still legal to smoke in the library. The State News made a point of running an article in May 1968 about the new smoking areas that would be going into effect in the east wing. These smoking rooms would eventually become the graduate study rooms. In October 1968 the first set of sensitizers were installed, and called “electronic snoopers”. Before that, when people were leaving the building, they were subject to bag checks to make sure they had indeed checked out all their materials. The next milestone came in 1989, when the entire card catalog was put online. Searches that could have taken hours with the card catalog could now be done in minutes.
In 1999 there was a protest at the library. On February 18 about 4,500 books were checked out and “held hostage” by two student groups. The students were taking the books so others could see what it was like to be denied information. They claimed that they had not been given the proper resources to learn and would keep the books until their demands were met. These demands included a Chicano Latino studies program, more Chicano faculty, more Culturas de las Razas Unidas rooms in residence halls, and new furnishings in the existing rooms. The protesters only cleared out what was the browsing collection and most of the new acquisitions.
In recent years the library has only continued to grow. As the collections continue to increase, moveable shelving has been installed. There is still evidence of the systems used to transport books from the floors in the way of dumbwaiters and tubes if you know where to look. Branch libraries have been opened and closed. The smoking section has been gotten rid of altogether. There have been libraries within the Library created, like the Fine Arts Library and the Turfgrass Library. Special Collections has developed the largest comic book collection in the world. The library will just continue to grow, just as it has done since its days as a single room that was only open in the evenings on the third floor of College Hall.
-Leigh Ann Hamel