The True University
A History of the Western Washington University Library1899-1998
By Marian Alexander
On February 5, 1999, the Board of Trustees and the University’s leadership officially welcomed the University community and citizens of the region into the bright, open, modernized spaces of the Haggard Hall Wing. The institution’s continuing effort to position the library to both effectively maintain existing resources and provide tomorrow’s information technologies will continue with the planned renovation of Wilson Library, currently scheduled for 2003/05.
From its humble beginnings in one small room, the library has evolved over time into a rich, multi-facted resource serving the diverse needs of scholarship and learning at Western. Over 150,000 square feet of space containing miles of materials and banks of computer workstations await today’s library user. The promise of 1899 has been fulfilled in ways unimaginable to the founders, yet the spirit of their commitment persists. "All organization in a library," Mabel Zoe Wilson wrote in 1948, "the minutiae of all records, etc., are the means to an end. Not the end." In celebrating its past and looking confidently to its future, the library affirms this principle and honors the vision of all those who share and make manifest Thomas Carlyle’s belief that "the true university is a collection of books."
In memory of Miss Mabel Zoe Wilson, Miss Mildred E. Herrick, Dr. Howard McGaw, Dr. W. Robert Lawyer, and all those now gone who devoted their professional lives and work to the library
Principal sources: Institutional documents including letters, memoranda, reports, minutes, personal reminiscences and memoirs, and similar resources housed in the University Archives and Records Center and in the Wilson Library campus history collection; catalogs, bulletins, and announcements of Western Washington University and its predecessors; the University student newspaper in all its versions from 1899 to date; The Bellingham Herald.
Additional sources: Carl F. Gould: a Life in Architecture and the Arts, by T. W. Booth & W. H. Wilson (Seattle, 1995); The Carnegie Corporation and the Development of American College Libraries, 1928-1941, by N. A. Radford (Chicago, 1984); The First Fifty Years, [by A. C. Hicks, et al.] (Bellingham, 1949); A Guide to Architecture in Washington State: an Environmental Perspective, by S. B. Woodbridge & R. Montgomery (Seattle, 1980); Imprint: Newsletter of the Western Libraries (Bellingham, 1988-1996); LIP Chat: Library Integration Project Newsletter (Bellingham, 1995-96); LIS:IN-Library Information System Implementation News (Bellingham, 1995); Mabel Zoe Wilson Library: Its Founder & Namesake, by T. Antush (unpublished, 1987); Normal College Knowledge, by C. J. Flora (Everson, Wash., 1991); Report of a Survey of the Western Washington State College Library, May 21-25, 1962, by E. W. Erickson & L. W. Anderson (Chicago, 1962); Twenty-five Years of the Washington Library Association, by H. Johns (Palo Alto, Calif., 1956); Western at 75, by A. C. Hicks (Bellingham, 1974).
The author wishes to thank Gail Kleer, University records manager, and Virginia Beck, library special collections manager, for their expert assistance and many helpful suggestions; former Provost Roland L. DeLorme for his confidence and encouragement; Donna Packer and Diane Parker; and, especially, Tamara Belts, without whose tireless research and boundless enthusiasm this work would not have been possible.