Would James T. Ward look in wonderment at what his library has become? Arriving in Westminster in the spring 1866, he fully intended to catalog the over 2000 volumes in his library to lend out, for a fee, to the townspeople of Westminster as there was no library in the town. That was until he became involved with what he called the “College Enterprise.”
McDaniel College began in September of 1866, the dream of Fayette Buell wanting to extend the education of his Westminster Academy students and attract more students. He enlisted the aid of James T. Ward, a known and respected Methodist Protestant minister to aid him in his endeavors. Reluctant at first because he suspected Buell did not grasp the work and expense such a project entailed, Ward, however, became a champion of the nascent College when Buell decided to fold it back into his academy. In 1868 Western Maryland College was incorporated, James T. Ward was elected by the Board of Trustees as the first president, and Buell was bought out. Ward no longer thought of circulating his library among the townspeople of Westminster, his books were lent out to students of the College for free.
The College advertised this in the first catalogs – “students will have access to libraries comprising 2,500 volumes.” Ward’s library accounted for more than two thirds of the volumes. On campus was a small reading room containing newspapers, periodicals, magazines, and current literature with “free access to students under regulation of the (Literary) Society.” The Faculty, including Ward, knew more was needed and in 1872 authorized a Reading Room Committee to form an association charged with seeking donations for the College reading room. In March of 1874 the faculty again took up the cause of a college library when it resolved “A well-selected and arranged library is indispensable to a literary institution. . .” and appointed a Library Committee to secure such a collection. The head of the committee was to be the Librarian and was to report to the faculty the progress of the Library. The first annual report of the Librarian was recorded June 15, 1874.
By 1879 over 4000 volumes were available to the college’s students from the libraries of Ward and other professors– but the College’s Library languished until 1886 when through the influence of Maryland Congressman Shaw the College was made the general repository of government documents. The October 1887 Western Maryland College Monthly extolled “The Western half of the second story of the main building has served many purposes . . . It is now a library and museum. The last change is the best of all and has the prospect of permanence.” With the addition of Herring Hall in 1890 to the main building, a room of over 2600 sq. ft. on the second floor with stacks against the wall and a reading area was provided for the Library.
The Library did not grow in space it grew in volumes. When Ward died in 1897 he willed over half his library to the College which added over 3000 volumes. With the growth of Library holdings and student’s need for extended hours, the College could no longer rely on a rotation of professors to act as librarians. In 1898 the first professional librarian, Lillian Hopkins, was hired. By 1906 College President Thomas H. Lewis was before the Board of Trustees presenting an argument for a new Library. In the twenty years of his tenure the College increased from eight to fourteen acres, four halls were added to the main building, and five new buildings were erected — a new library too was necessary for the expanding College.
The Library and Administration Building, designed by Baltimore Architect Jackson Gott and opened in 1909, served several purposes. On the main floor was an office for the College treasurer, a Boardroom, two offices for the President, and a museum. The basement had rooms for the four literary societies. The second floor contained the library with a large reading room adjoined by a stack room with a mezzanine for more stacks, space for over 25,000 volumes.
The Library continued to build collections and change. When the Building was completed in 1909 students no longer learned by recitation; reading, discussion, and discovery were part of new teaching methods, and more books on more subjects were needed to keep up with their classes. By student demand library books were circulated and evening hours were scheduled. Clara Lewis, librarian from 1910-1919, sorted and cataloged the Library collection according to the Dewey Decimal system. Assistants aided the Librarian in 1920 and by 1935 there were two Librarians with assistants. In 1927 the Library began statistical reports to the American Library Association, annual reports to the College President by 1936, and in 1937 The Library Committee became a standing committee of the Faculty. The president’s offices, the boardroom, and the treasurer’s office were reassigned to other buildings, literary societies now defunct no longer used the basement, the building was refitted in 1939 to be The Library — by 1950 it was again bursting at its seams. That year College Trustee Walter H. Davis bequeathed $257,000 toward a new College library.
It took a decade but ground was broken next to Baker Memorial Chapel for the new Library in April of 1961. The building was dedicated December, 1962. L. Quincy Mumford, Librarian of Congress, spoke. It was in 1975 that the College Library was first named, dedicated to Dr. Samuel, Board of Trustee Member, and Elsie Hoover.
The new president, Dr. Chambers, stood before the Board at its annual meeting in April 1985 and requested a larger Library. The Board acceded and on October 13, 1991 the dedication of the new Hoover Library was celebrated. This library, a renovation and addition of Hoover Library, was double the capacity holding over 300,000 volumes. It was designed by the Hillier Group, built by Henry Lewis Company and on the front cover of the Library Journal December 1992 architectural issue. It had comfortable study rooms, lounge chairs, and study carrels throughout the five floors of the building. Card catalogs had been replaced by computers and there were computer stations for students to work from. The staff of the library included five librarians, including the Library Director, eight staff, and many student workers.
Today the physical building has not changed much since its dedication in 1991, but the Library has. Wi-Fi has been added so students can use their lap tops anywhere in Hoover Library. Two study rooms have computers with large flat screens so students can work as groups on a project. The area that once held indices, now available as data bases, was refitted as an Information Commons with new computer equipment and modern components so students can set up their own work stations. Students can access the catalog and many periodicals and databases from their lap tops where ever they are. Would Ward be astounded by the changes? – yes and he can also sit and reflect as he opens a book from his own library.
Hoff, Alethea, A History of the Library of Western Maryland College: A Study Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of Requirements for the Degree of Master of Science In Library Science, The Drexel Institute of Technology, School of Library Science, Philadelphia, June 12, 1954, copy in McDaniel College Archives
Lease, Nannie, Papers, McDaniel College Archives
Ward, James T. Diaries, 1866-1895, McDaniel College Archives
Western Maryland College annual catalogs, 1868-2002, McDaniel College Archives
Western Maryland College Board of Trustees meeting minutes, 1868-2002, McDaniel College Archives
Western Maryland College faculty meeting minutes, 1867-2002, McDaniel College Archives
Western Maryland College Hoover Library Records, 1927-2002, McDaniel College Archives
Western Maryland College Monthly, 1887-1926. McDaniel College Archives