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Florida State Heritage & University Archives

Find resources to learn about the history of Florida State University and its predecessor institutions.

History of the Main Library at FSU

Students Reading in the Library, circa 1950s, Florida State University Historic Photograph Collection

The history of the University Libraries at Florida State University traces back over 100 years to our beginnings as the West Florida Seminary. In the 1880s, students had access to both a reference library, housed in College Hall, and a more expansive “university library,” which was located off-campus. The first librarian for the university, J.A. Arbuckle, was appointed in 1897.

By 1903, University administration wanted the library to be “the center of college life.” New librarian Mary A. Apthorpe was appointed, and critical changes began transforming the library under her lead. The library offerings were expanded and items began being catalogued according to the Dewey Decimal System.

In 1911 the new Main Building, which is now Westcott, was completed and the library was moved. The library saw extensive growth and four different librarians during its time in the Main Building between 1911 and 1924. According to the 1914-15 course catalog, the library held over 8,500 volumes and was circulating over 600 books a month. By 1923, the library held over 16,000 volumes.

As library holdings and services continued to grow, the university recognized the need for a dedicated library building. Work began on the new space, that is now the FSU Heritage Museum in Dodd Hall, in 1923. This building served as the library for Florida State College for Women and then for Florida State University until Strozier Library was built in 1956.

The new library opened to students towards the end of 1924, and Louise Richardson was hired as the university librarian, a role she would hold until 1953. Along with being the librarian, Richardson also created curriculum for and taught the first library science courses offered by Florida State College for Women. In 1926 “Library Science” became its own instruction area, composed of two classes: Library Methods and Advanced Library Methods. In 1929, Etta Lane Matthews was hired as the first professor of Library Science.

The new library building on the north edge of Landis Green opened in 1956. Between 1956 and 1958, major reorganization and expansion took place within the library. The Department of Special Collections was created during these years with the goal to “preserve and make available to scholars rare books and historical documents of Florida”. The library was dedicated as the Robert Manning Strozier Library in 1961.

According to the 1956-1958 President's Report, the new library included student carrells, faculty and graduate study spaces, air conditioning, and good elevator service. The report also makes clear that from the opening of the new library, university officials recognized a need for even more space. This expansion became a reality in 1967, when the library was expanded to include a 5-story annex.

Today, the Florida State University Libraries include seven libraries on campus: Robert Manning Strozier Library, Paul A. M. Dirac Science Library, Mildred and Claude Pepper Library, Warren Allen Music Library, College of Law Legal Research Center, College of Medicine Medical Library, and the College of Engineering Library. Library materials and services are also available at the FSU Panama City Campus and the Ringling campus in Sarasota, as well as International Programs study centers in London, Florence, Valencia, and Panama.

Florida State College Catalogue, 1903-1904, p. 11
Florida State College for Women Catalogue, 1914-1915, p. 17
Florida State College for Women Catalogue, 1923-1924, p. 19
President’s Report, 1956-1958, p. 31

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