Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Brief History of the CofC Libraries

The Towell Library, as seen in modern day

A library is one of the most essential institutions to a university. It is the storehouse of knowledge, where scholars go to seek out information for their studies. Without a library, there would simply be no college. The College of Charleston is rich in history, and therefore, so are its libraries.

There are three buildings that have served as libraries for CofC, all of which can be found still standing on campus today. The first of which is the Towell (pronounced “toll”) Library, the construction of which was completed in 1856. Located adjacent to Randolph Hall and next to the Cistern, this original library housed the college’s first print collection, which consisted of approximately 25,000 volumes.

The interior of Towell Library, circa 1927
An interesting myth is associated with the Towell library. As you will notice if you ever visit, the front doors to the library are surprisingly narrow. Supposedly, the doors were made that way to keep women out of the building back when it was an all-male college. The women would have had a
difficult time walking through the doors in the big hoop skirts of the period. There is no confirmation of this theory however.

The Towell Library served as the college’s library for over a century. In 1970 College of Charleston became a State institution, qualifying it for a legislative appropriation for a new library. This library was constructed on the Cougar Mall in 1972, and was named the Robert Scott Small Library. Around the same time, the school’s student body drastically increased. To meet the demands of the influx of scholars, Robert Scott Small’s collection grew to around 450,000 books.

Construction of Robert Scott Small Library in 1971

A little over three decades later, the Nathan and Marlene Addlestone Library was founded, its doors opening to students for the Spring semester of 2005. This institution filled the ever growing needs of the college, allowing the housing of one million printed volumes with the aid of its new mobile shelving. Addlestone also moved the college into the 21st century, providing students with lab computers, printers, and a wireless network. One of the most revolutionary advances this modern library provides is its access to countless online databases, extending CofC’s knowledgebase far beyond the walls of the school.

The Nathan and Marlene Addlestone library, built in 2005

As the transition to electronic material continues to put all the information we could ever want in the palm of our hand, the question remains as to what the future of libraries will hold. Little by little we lose the need for large collections of physical books. What will the function of the CofC library become if we will no longer actually need to go to it? Regardless of how libraries may evolve, there will always be appreciation for the foundations of the past and the need for a place where scholars can continue their quests for knowledge.

CofC Library History Page

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