History of the Auburn Libraries

[From Ralph Brown Draughon Library Addition Dedication Program: Building on Excellence, Nov.8, 1991]

Nowhere has "Building on Excellence" been more significant than in the continued development of Auburn University's library resources. The first library of East Alabama Male College opened in 1859 and was housed in a room of the original college building, Old Main. The book collection was begun by the Wirt and Webster literary societies.

By 1876, the college was receiving some government documents and several newspapers, and a year later the school catalog reported that the library was supported by moneys from "the recent appropriation made by the state legislature and a small annual fee by each student."

But it was not until the late 1880s and its establishment in Samford Hall, built after a fire destroyed Old Main in 1887, that the library began significant growth.

The library occupied, by the late 1890s, three rooms on the second floor of Samford, contained 8,000 volumes and was open eight hours a day. It subscribed to 92 periodicals.

Electric lights were placed in the library rooms in 1904 for night use. By the end of that year, the number of volumes had increased to 20,926.

By 1906, the library was rapidly filling the space allotted to it in Samford.

Classification of all holdings with the Dewey Decimal System began the next year, and two years later the library moved into its first building, now known as Mary Martin Hall.

Then called the Carnegie Library, it was built with a grant from Andrew Carnegie and opened Jan. 11, 1909, at a cost of $30,000 with a capacity for 60,000 volumes.

It was during the years of the Carnegie Library that a branch library system developed on campus, with libraries scattered from Comer Hall on Ag Hill to Veterinary Medicine.

By 1940, the Carnegie building had been enlarged to double the capacity for the book collection and to provide two additional reading rooms. The Library of Congress classification system was adopted in 1957.

In the early 1960s, the university undertook the construction of a major new library building.

Begun in 1962 and dedicated on November 5, 1963, the 172,000-square-foot building made it possible to bring all campus library resources together under one roof. It had a capacity for one million volumes and furnished seating for 1,200. The library provided 98 carrels for faculty and graduate students, special reading rooms, a 108-seat auditorium and special music rooms.

In 1965, the library was named for Ralph Brown Draughon, AU's 10th president.

In 1979, the President and Mrs. Harry M. Philpott presented the library with its one millionth volume, The Great Bible, printed in 1566. This bible is the first complete translation of the Old and New Testaments.

In 1988, under the leadership of President James E. Martin and the Board of Trustees, the university began a major construction project to double the floor space to 380,000 square feet, increase the capacity to 2.5 million volumes and to renovate the original building.

The addition increased seating in the library to 2,000. The project also included a 345-car parking deck to improve access to the library.

The $20.5 million expansion and renovation is the largest single construction project ever undertaken on campus. It was made possible through a variety of sources: $7.4 million from a state bond issue; $5.4 million from a university bond issue; $2.7 million from other university funds; and $5 million from private contributions.

[Some six months after the RBD addition dedication ceremony, the Association of Research Libraries, at their 1992 spring meeting, "invited" Auburn University Libraries to become their 120th member.]

Last Updated: Jul 28, 2011