A Rough and Ready History of the Early Library, c1950s

I was only in the Woodson for a little while today but it was long enough to run across this, which I found in the circa early ’50s Freshman Guide that I picked off the shelf at random. I thought this small document was well written as these things go, both informative and amusing:

Library from early 1950s Student Handbook

What I’m interested in here (besides the gambling on the first floor of Lovett Hall, which is a bit shocking–I think they gamble up on 2 these days) is the crazy quilt of library space that developed in the days before Fondren was built. Whatever that building’s demerits it surely answered a real need.

As far as I know I’ve only ever seen two images of library space not in either Fondren or the Administration Building, both somewhere in the Chemistry Building. This one was taken in 1947 in the Architecture Library somewhere on the second floor and the people in it are wearing the glazed looked of seminar participants. That’s William Ward Watkin at right, Art professor James Chillman in the middle and (I believe) Rice architecture alumnus Burke McGinty on the left:

Architecture library 2nd floor Chem Burke McGinty c1947

This next one is from substantially earlier. I found it with a stack of pictures taken when the building opened in 1926 and I’m almost positive the books we see here were the bulk of the library’s chemistry holdings:


What’s really eye catching is the window at the back left: you can see out of it. And what you see when you blow it up are the dorms. In theory I should be able to figure out where this room was. If I have a minute tomorrow I’ll go look.

Bonus: Lovett Hall with dog, 2015.


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9 Responses to A Rough and Ready History of the Early Library, c1950s

  1. Richard Schafer (Lovett '73) says:

    Wait, gambling was going on? I’m shocked, shocked. Maybe we’re just being cynical and they were performing academic experiments in the “applied economics laboratory.” Just what would an “applied economics laboratory” be, anyway?

  2. almadenmike says:

    An article in the Sept. 27, 1929 issue of the Thresher describes the dispersal of many library books from Lovett Hall”

    “… During the summer the library staff, under the capable direction of Mrs. Dean, head librarian, was busily engaged in many changes and revisions of the library system. Besides the cataloguing
    of over 5,000 new books that have been added since the beginning of the year, important changes have been made in the grouping of the books.

    “All books relating to Physics, Mathematics, Biology, General Science and Astronomy have been moved from the main library to the new Physics Library, room 109, Physics building. This change was made primarily for the purpose of giving added study room In the main library. The new
    library also offers an ideal place for study. It will accommodate thirty students, and Miss Lane promises that it will be quiet.”

    Later, the article gives “a list of the book distribution”:

    (Second Floor Administration BuildIng)
    Miss Jackson, Librarian.
    Reference books

    First Floor Library
    Miss Lane, Librarian.
    Political Science.
    Law. ,
    Reserve books.

    Periodical Room
    Miss Rhodes, Librarian
    Physics Library (Room 109)
    General Science.

    Chemistry Library
    (Third floor Chemistry Building)
    Mrs. Hardy, Librarian.
    Architecture Library
    Files General Periodicals

    (Source: pp. 1 & 6: https://scholarship.rice.edu/bitstream/handle/1911/65260/thr19290927.pdf?sequence=1)

    Also, a front-page article in the Feb. 27, 1947, Thresher on health services gives the location of the Chemistry Library as Room 302. (First aid equipment was located there.)

    • Melissa Kean says:

      Oh, that’s good. That will help–I’ll start on the third floor (although the room numbers have changed multiple times, I’m pretty confident the third floor is still the third floor). Thanks, Mike!

  3. effegee says:

    Around 1972, 301 was a tiered lecture room at the west end of the building in which I took “Real Analysis”. That was before all of the major renovations to the building in later years. So 302 would have been next to it and obviously on the Main Street side with the view of today’s Baker Commons and kitchen tower.

    During the Keck Hall conversion, I believe the room in question was being used as a lab with some office space partitioned off at the windows end. There some cable length issues in that area because of the partitions that ended up requiring creating a secondary distribution room to serve the west end.

  4. Pingback: Chemistry Library, 1926 and 2015 | Rice History Corner

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