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July 14, 2016

Kelvin Smith Library - Origins, Innovations, and a Few Numbers

The history of libraries at Case Western Reserve University has been a lengthy process of consolidation. In 1929 Western Reserve University had thirteen school and sixteen department libraries. In his 1928/29 annual report President Vinson wrote, “There is a large and increasing number of libraries in and around the University the coordination of which would, it is thought, work to the great advantage of all.” In December 1929, that coordination began with the appointment of Herbert Hirshberg as Director of University Libraries. It might be said that Kelvin Smith Library’s organizational geneaology begins with the establishment of University Libraries under Hirshberg. In the almost 90 years since, libraries have experienced an intriguing mix of continuity and change. Below are a few examples:

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Library card catalog (left); Freiberger Library computer laboratory, 1991 (right)

1930: Western Reserve University’s libraries held a total of 360,000 volumes and spent $58,513.59 on books.

1936: The Cleveland Regional Union Catalog brought together, in a single card catalog, the holdings of over 40 libraries in the Cleveland area, including both WRU and Case libraries. The catalog was housed at WRU.

1945: WRU’s University Library’s total budget was $66,678.60.

1949: WRU’s University Library established an Audio-Visual Aids service to identify, order, and show films. In the first year over 7,300 students viewed 300 films.

1950: WRU’s University Library held 421,712 volumes, managed by a staff of thirty-two. Its total budget was $150,614. Nine other libraries existed for Flora Stone Mather College, Cleveland College, Law, Medicine, Nursing, Applied Social Sciences, Dentistry, Library Science, and Architecture.

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Freiberger Library staff, 1959

1960: The total budget of WRU’s University Library was $295,060.

1965: Besides the University Library, WRU had separate libraries for the schools of Law, Medicine, Nursing, Applied Social Sciences, Dentistry, and Library Science. University Library’s budget was $468,620.

1968: James V. Jones was hired as Case Western Reserve University's Director of University Libraries. Although they would remain physically distinct for nearly 30 more years, Western Reserve University's Freiberger Library and Case Institute of Technology's Sears Library administratively became a single unit.

1971: University Library held 840,000 volumes and had a total budget of $1,544,191.

1975: Sears Library was one of several campus buildings flooded by severe thunderstorms. Over 50,000 volumes were damaged. While most of the volumes were restored, 10,000 were lost. Collection losses totalled $800,000.

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Sears Library flood, 1975 (left); Instruction in using dedicated database terminal, 1978 (right)

1979: Access to over 200 Lockheed Information Systems, SDC, and BRS indexing and abstracting databases was available through dedicated terminals in Freiberger and Sears libraries.

1986: A new microcomputer laboratory, featuring Apple computers, opened in Freiberger Library. Almost 2,400 people used the lab during its first 20 weeks.

1987: EUCLID, the combined catalog for all campus libraries, went on-line. Terminals were available in all the libraries and it was hoped that dial-in access would be available soon.

1989: A new computer lab opened in Sears Library. It featured Macintosh SEs and ImageWriter LQs. Software such as PageMaker 3.02, Hypercard, and Microsoft Word 4.0 was available. Laser printing was 25 cents per page.

1990: Databases on CD-ROM allowed library users to conduct their own database searches on specially equipped workstations in Freiberger and Sears libraries. The Mailroom team defeated the Library team, 44-24, for the championship of the staff basketball league. (Libraries do not run on technology alone.)

1996: Kelvin Smith Library (KSL) opened, combining the collections and services of Freiberger and Sears libraries.

2001: KSL launched a Digital Chat Reference service to alow users outside the library to easily connect to reference librarians.

2004: The Center for Statistical and Geospatial Data opened in KSL to assist users to combine data from multiple sources and plot the results on a variety of maps.

2005: The Samuel B. and Marian K. Freedman Digital Library, Language Learning, and Multimedia Services opened to offer state-of-the-art multimedia tools to the campus community. KSL’s collection held 1,938,766 print volumes. The total budget was $8,400,979.

2006: Digital Case was launched as CWRU’s “digital library, institutional repository and digital archive.”

More recent initiatives at KSL can be seen in the library’s strategic plans and reports and KSL News

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