Carrier Library’s 75th Anniversary: 1939 – 2014

by Julia Merkel, Preservation Officer                                                                JMU Libraries & Educational Technologies is pleased to present an exhibit in celebration of Carrier Library’s 75th Anniversary: Dressing for Education: Carrier Library’s Diamond Jubilee 1939-2014. The exhibit runs now through Spring 2015 and is open during public hours in the original west wing of the building. Artifacts, images and ephemera from Special Collections are paired with items from the School of Theatre & Dance’s Historic Clothing Collection. Visitors can peruse campus fashion, technology, and architecture circa 1939.
Front steps of Madison Memorial Library, School Ma’am 1940 page 2

Students may be surprised to learn both how little and how much the library has changed in 75 years.
A spacious Harrison Hall basement library circa 1915, Special Collections #Blib001

Just as Carrier Library is bursting at the seams today, so too was its previous Harrison Hall location with only 165 seats and 20,000+ volumes. An October 15, 1937 Breeze article criticized the cramped quarters, calling for an entirely new building with better lighting and more space for students. In 1938, President Samuel Duke obtained funds from the Public Works Administration (PWA), architect John Binford Walford drew up plans, and construction began.

The Periodical Room circa 1940. Light-filled spaces have since been re-purposed, but many of the original furnishings are still in use today.
Special Collections #Bmml18

Madison Memorial Library opened to acclaim on September 22, 1939. As reported in The Breeze, Governor James H. Price later pronounced it “a magnificent library–one of the finest I’ve ever seen.” The edifice was classically proportioned and beautifully appointed. Hundreds of guests to the dedication were greeted by a larger than life size statue of Henri Chapu’s Joan of Arc in the grand black and white tile foyer flanked by a double ironwork staircase leading up to a spacious mezzanine where the circulation desk was stationed.

Circulation Desk circa 1945, with Librarian Ferne Hoover (standing) assisting students
Special Collections #Bmml09

The new library was built to hold 80,000 volumes and seat 350—but increased enrollment prompted additions in 1971, 1982, and 1994 when a third floor was added to the east wing of the building.
1st networked computer terminal 1977. Alda Trenary at the controls with Chris Bolgiano, George Wolfe, Dr. Carrier, and Dr. Stanton.
Special Collections #LI93-0406

Collections have grown to 961,098 items with gate counts over a million per year! Plans are currently underway to further expand the library, and can be found on the JMU Master Plan. Happy 75th Anniversary Carrier Library! What will the next decades bring?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.