A 1960s black and white photo of a library employee sitting at a microfilm reader

Happy 50th Birthday to the Current Cook Library

This year, Albert S. Cook Library will celebrate fifty years in its current building. To begin the celebration, Felicity Knox from Special Collections and University Archives wrote a blog post about the history of the Library and the following are excerpts from that blog post:

When Towson University’s predecessor, the Maryland State Normal School, opened its doors in 1866, little thought had gone into the creation of a library. And yet, a library was begun, even if it was housed in the Principal’s office and the only arrangement of books done was the creation of handwritten catalog cards.

By 1870, the school was using the Peabody Library, which was very close to the school’s Mount Vernon locations. However, when the school moved to the building at Carrollton and Lafayette Avenue in 1876, a space was set aside for a library, and funds were requested from the state to purchase books.

When the school moved in 1915 to the Towson location, a library was established on the first floor of the Administration Building, now known as Stephens Hall. It had enough space for the collection, areas for reading and studying, administrative offices, and a large fireplace before which children from the Model Elementary School on campus could sit and listen to stories read to them by the librarian.

Space, however, was now at a premium. By 1945, demand for a larger library in a separate building was growing.

The first Albert S. Cook Library was constructed in 1957. It could hold 100,000 volumes and seat 450 students. It had stacks, a reading room, a periodical room, a seminar room, a lecture room, a special collections room, and spaces for using such modern technologies as micro-film and micro-card readers, phonograph records, and typewriters.

When the school moved in 1915 to the Towson location, a library was established on the first floor of the Administration Building, now known as Stephens Hall. It had enough space for the collection, areas for reading and studying, administrative offices, and a large fireplace before which children from the Model Elementary School on campus could sit and listen to stories read to them by the librarian.

As technology advanced, the library’s role has changed. The demand for electronic resources and computers to access them means that the library has shifted its focus from being a repository for book collections to creating an environment for access and collaboration.

In 2006, substantial changes were made to the third floor—170 computer workstations were put into place, and nine group study areas were created. While the book collection has been maintained at 580,000 items, online access to a multitude of electronic databases and books has flourished. Part of this renovation included the addition of a Starbucks™ coffee shop at the main entrance.

Two major renovations occurred in 2009: the renovation of the Special Collections and University Archives space on the fifth floor and the addition of the Baltimore Hebrew Institute collection on the second floor. In 2016 a Graduate Reading Room was created on the second floor and is available for use only by graduate students of TU. A year later, another major renovation re-oriented the third floor to create a 24/7 study space.

When the school moved in 1915 to the Towson location, a library was established on the first floor of the Administration Building, now known as Stephens Hall. It had enough space for the collection, areas for reading and studying, administrative offices, and a large fireplace before which children from the Model Elementary School on campus could sit and listen to stories read to them by the librarian.

It’s all a very far cry from that first Maryland State Normal School 1866 catalog entry that reads: “A beginning of a library has been made, and additions are expected every year”

Written by Felicity Knox

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Happy 50th Birthday to the Current Cook Library