"Libraries are not made; they grow".

- Augustine Birrell

Acadia Libraries Through the Years


History of the Vaughan

The Way We Were ...
Acadia's Library Through the Years

by Edith Haliburton
June 28, 1996

The development of Acadia's library through some 150 years has mirrored the development of the University itself and the changing ideas and ideals of education and teaching through those years.

Founded in 1838 as a college of Liberal Arts with a classical curriculum and additional courses on Rhetoric, Logic, Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, textbook learning was the main emphasis with the twenty-some students who attended the first classes. No mention is recorded of a library as such, but it is safe to assume that in these early years, the three instructors, as men of learning, had book collections of their own which they made available to their students. In later years some of these books were donated to the college library and may still be found in the present Rare Book Collection bearing the founders' names and inscribed as "donated to the Historical Collection at Acadia College."

By the time the first class graduated in 1843, active solicitation for books for a library was undertaken in the United States and Britain, as well as in the communities of Nova Scotia. The first College Hall, opened in 1844 and completed finally in 1854, included a room specially set aside for a library. Professor Isaac Chipman was instrumental in the founding of the library and actively campaigned for it until his untimely death in 1852. Little is known of the development of the library over the next twenty years and no apparent planning was in place, although the collection continued to grow through donations. In 1877 a disastrous fire destroyed the building, and the books that were salvaged were badly damaged. Rebuilt in 1879, the second College Hall included a spacious room for the library, with high ceilings and quiet study areas amidst the tall bookstacks.

After 1870 there was a growing demand for the curriculum to expand with the growth of scientific knowledge. Acadia responded with an expanding number of elective subjects added to the curriculum throughout the last two decades. Interest in the library increased, with the emphasis now placed on the "new teaching" with well trained teachers to interpret their subjects, rather than straight textbook learning, and extensive use of the library and supplementary reading for their students. The library collections continued to grow in this period and although access to them was limited to only 2 hours per week in the 1880s, student demands for extended hours were heard as the decade wore on, and it was also noted with some satisfaction in the student newspaper of 1884 that "The books have all been catalogued and the card system used in the principal libraries in the United States been introduced".

Responsibility for the library in this period was given to faculty members in addition to their full teaching loads. Professor A.E. Coldwell is listed as the first Librarian in the college calendar in 1885, through presumabley he served before that year. A number of other faculty members succeeded him. Hours of opening increased to a more acceptable level but by the turn of the century it was becoming increasingly difficult to handle the accessions to the library, including the donation of almost 2,000 volumes from the library of the late President, J.M. Cramp. It became more and more apparent that faculty members could not be expected to carry both teaching and library responsibilities adequately.

In 1910 George B. Cutten was appointed the seventh President of Acadia. He immediately saw the need to place the library on a sound footing using modern library methods. Jean Steadman Haley, a graduate of Acadia and Simmons College with a library degree was appointed the first full time University Librarian in 1910. In the four years she spent in the library before her marriage, she and her assistant, Mabel L. Wortman, reorganized and reclassifed the entire collection of some 15,000 volumes.

The first building solely devoted to the library was opened in the autumn of 1914. The Emmerson Memorial Library, a fine stone structure, was designed by the well-known Halifax architect Andrew R. Cobb to eventually accommodate 125,000 volumes in a virtually fireproof structure. It rapidly became a centre of both the intellectual and social life on campus, a position it held for the next 50 years, as well as housing the rapidly growing library collections until well past its capacity. Jean Haley was succeeded, briefly, by Amy F. Freeman and then Vesta M.Pick, and in 1917 by Mary Kinley Ingraham.

During her long tenure (1917-1944) Mary Ingraham left an indelible stamp on the development of the university library, the library profession in the Maritimes, and in the outlying communities which were served by Acadia University. In her early years substantial Special Collections (notably the Eric R. Dennis Collection of Canadiana, the John D. Logan Collection of Canadian Literature, and the William Inglis Morse Collection) were donated or purchased and subsequently catalogued and incorporated within the library system. The archives of the Baptist Historical Society of the Maritime Provinces, which are the foundation of the present Atlantic Baptist Historical Collection in the University Archives, were acquired in this period. Graduates and other benefactors of the university were generous in their donations to the growing collections. While small in numbers, the library staff (all Acadia graduates) were diligent in incorporating these donations as well as serving the needs of students and faculty.

In the Depression years, when funds were very limited, the Carnegie Corporation of New York assisted liberal arts colleges in Canada and Newfoundland with grants of money to purchase books and current periodicals for general undergraduate reading. Acadia's share was $15,000 payable in instalments of $5,000 over a three-year period. This donation revitalized the library at a critical stage and led to the undertaking, after 1932, of reclassifying the collections to the Library of Congress system, a process which took a number of years to reach substantial completion.

Morris Perry Boone, a New Brunswicker, succeeded Mary Ingraham for the period from 1944-50, a period of still limited resources and under the pressures of the postwar bulge of returning veterans to universities across the country. When he left to become Librarian at the Legislative Library of New Brunswick, he was very briefly succeeded by J.G. Mitchell, and then by Harry W. Ganong, another New Brunswicker, who had been on the staff as Cataloguer since 1946. During his long tenure from 1951-1976 the modern university library was implemented, particularly after 1965 when the long-desired new library building, the Vaughan Memorial Library, was opened. It incorporated the latest developments in functional library design and layout and was designed to accommodate 350,000 volumes and 900 readers when all five floors were furnished and equipped. The building also served as office accommodation for the Arts Faculty until 1978, when the adjacent Beveridge Arts Centre was opened. This move allowed the collections to expand to all floors of the building and an area, known as the Kirkconnell Room, was created to house Special Collections and Archives and in particular the library and papers of Dr. Watson Kirkconnell, ninth President of Acadia.

Isobel Horton, an Acadia graduate and longtime staff member in the Cataloguing Department, was appointed University Librarian from 1976-82. She was succeeded by Iain Bates (1982-92), Andre Guay (1993-95), Lorraine McQueen (1995-2001) and our present University Librarian Sara Lochhead.

During the decade of the 1980s automation of the library operations and services accelerated. Under Iain Bates' leadership, the Library and Computer Centre developed the first of two in-house systems, LIBSAC, followed in 1989 by a second system, the Acadia University Library System (a.u.l.s.). The library is now poised to move on to a commercial system provided by the Sirsi Corporation of Alabama in 1997.

Space in the Vaughan Library was again at a premium in this decade, particularly when it was decided in 1987 to integrate the holdings of the Huggins Science Library. Established in 1970 when the Huggins Science Building was opened, the Science Library had absorbed a number of branch libraries in various science departments into one whole. With the incentive of a grant from the Nova Scotia Government, the Vaughan Library was expanded on three levels to join up with the adjacent Beveridge Arts Centre in 1988. Archival collections were separated from the Special Collections area with this expansion and established in its own quarters as the Esther Clark Wright Archives. In 1993, following an extremely generous donation for library acquisitions and development, the new extension was named the Wu Wing in honour of the benefactor, Dr. Jieh-Yee Wu of Hong Kong, the father of three Acadia graduates.

Further changes to the "old" (1965) and "new" (1988) parts of the Vaughan Library are presently in progress as the University moves into the era of the electronic classroom known as The Acadia Advantage.