A Brief History of The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries

College Hall, the first home for USM's  
The campus library's first home was inside College Hall.

The first version of Cook Library, now known as  
 known as Kennard-Washington Hall
The first Library building; (1940's) is now known as Kennard-Washington Hall.

Circulation desk of Cook Library, 1947
Inside Cook Library, 1947.

Brand new location of Cook Library in 1960
A brand new Cook Library appeared in 1960. This view is from the south.

The dedication of the new Cook Library, 1960
Cook Library Dedication, 1960.

McCain Library and Archives being  
 constructed, 1975
McCain Library construction began in 1975.

Cook Library reference collection in the 
Inside Cook Library, 1980's.

Cook Library as it appeared before the 1990's  
Cook Library before the final addition. Bye-bye, parking lot.

View of Cook Library, 1968-1993
Cook Library, as it appeared from 1968-1993.

View of Cook Library, as it appears today.
Cook Library at the end of the 20th century

McCain Library and Archives, as it appears today
McCain Library and Archives.

Mississippi Normal College, presently The University of Southern Mississippi, was established in 1910. When the college opened its doors to the first students on September 18, 1912, the library was located on the second floor of College Hall with the first book yet to be purchased.

Ten years later the library was in need of more space. Starting with an original collection of one dictionary, the library's holdings had increased to 3,500 volumes, 75 magazines, five daily newspapers and several weeklies.

In 1922 the library was transferred from College Hall to the newest building on campus, Science Hall, later to be known as Southern Hall. For almost two decades the library was housed in the west half of the first floor.

Mrs. Pearl Travis served a 13-year tenure as the college's librarian, which ended with her death in 1926. That same year the library gained its first qualified librarian, Miss Anna M. Roberts, who also served as the school's first professor of Library Science.

In 1934 the east wall of the library in Southern Hall was removed, doubling the amount of available space. Library materials and rooms replaced classrooms that had been in the east portion of the first floor.

As happens with libraries, the collection continued to grow. A new structure was needed to house the library. In 1939 a two-story brick building was completed, now known as Kennard-Washington Hall (or the Student Services Building). During the Christmas holidays that year, Roberts and a band of students transferred, through sleet and snow, 22,250 volumes to the new building.

This new library was officially named Joseph Anderson Cook Memorial Library in 1940, in memory of the first president of Mississippi Normal College.

In the 1950's, not one but two independent surveys concluded that the library should not be expanded. Rather, a new library building would be needed. The current library had been constructed without the input of the librarian or the faculty, and future expansion was not a major consideration at the time.

In 1956 the library reached its proposed capacity as the 75,000th book was added. Dr. W. D. McCain, the newly chosen president of what was now known as Mississippi Southern College, asked the legislature for $1 million for a new library. The legislature awarded $700,000. Begun in 1959, the library was completed at a cost of $855,000, in time for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the college.

The structure was built to accommodate expansion. It was built to accommodate 200,000 volumes and could seat more than 700 students at a time. This structure is still a part of Cook Library, containing the Technical Services and Systems departments, the library lounge, the mailroom, a conference room, and portions of the reference and government documents collections.

Miss Roberts again supervised the transfer of over 100,000 books to the new library. It took place during the summer-fall break, and not a single day's library service was lost.

Miss Roberts retired in 1962 and was replaced by Dr. Warren F. Tracy, serving as librarian and chairman of the Department of Library Science. He was present when a new addition to the library was completed in 1968, making it the largest building on campus under one roof. The addition doubled the seating and shelving capacity of the library.

The 1968 addition now houses the microforms/periodicals materials and the Reading Room (renamed "2nd Floor South" Dec. 15, 2008), many group studies and study carrels, and the continuation of the reference and government documents collections.

In the mid 1990's a massive construction and renovation project took place at Cook Library. The present two-story library contained asbestos that had to be removed. On the north side of the two-story structure a $13 million, five-story addition to the library was built. The project was completed in 1996.

The William David McCain Library and Archives buiding was built just south of Cook Library in 1976. It houses the University's archives and special collections such as the Mississippiana Collection, the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection, and oral history transcripts, among many other items.

The Curriculum Materials Center was established in 1965 by the College of Education and Psychology. It was renamed the Gunn Educational Materials Center on April 23, 1988, in honor of Dr. Eric McCoy Gunn, former dean of Education and Psychology. The Gunn Materials Center is currently in the Cook main library, and has been returned to its original name.

Cox Library, Media Center and Curriculum Lab: The Gulf Coast Library was originally housed in the Cox Library building (at the Southern Miss Gulf Park campus). The Cox Library building was formerly an art studio, built in 1923. USM acquired the former two-year liberal arts Gulf Park College for Women in 1972. The Cox Library was dedicated in 1975, in honor of Dr. Richard Garfield Cox (1881-1967), founder and first president of Gulf Park College. The historic building retained its decorative brick fireplace and tall wood-framed windows, even through several renovations, one in 1983, and another in 1986. Over the years, the library staff and collections outgrew the original Cox Library building. By the time funding was found for a new building, library services were housed in three buildings on campus:  The Cox Library, the Media Center, and the Smith Studio (which contained the Curriculum Lab).

Gulf Coast Library:  In 2000, there was a groundbreaking ceremony for the new library. The style of the building was Mediterranean, designed to match the other buildings on campus. The building is beautiful, but also very functional and user-friendly.  The Gulf Coast Library opened for business in August 2002. The new three-story 54,000 square foot library contains a state-of-the-art Learning Commons, computers on every floor, study rooms, book and DVD collections, Curriculum Lab education materials collection—including an extensive children's literature collection, the Speaking/Writing Center, a foreign language lab, a coffee shop, and the Gulf Park College for Women Archives. After Hurricane Katrina, the Katrina Research Center was established and is housed on the third floor of the Library.

Hurricane Katrina: In 2005, the first floor of the Gulf Coast Library was heavily damaged by storm surge. The entire first floor was renovated. New computers and furniture were purchased, and the Learning Commons was designed. The Gulf Coast Library on the Gulf Park Campus re-opened to the public in 2007.

Gulf Coast Student Center Library:  While the Gulf Coast Library was closed after sustaining damage from Katrina, library services were moved to the Gulf Coast Student Service Center in Gulfport. Full library services are available, including circulation, course reserves, computers, reference assistance, and a book/DVD collection that complements the academic programs that are available at that site. The GCSSC Library closed in December 2012 when the Gulf Park Campus renovation were completed.

Gunter Library, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Ocean Springs: The scientific collection is comprehensive with materials reflecting the scope and depth of research and teaching done by the USM Dept. of Coastal Sciences and GCRL scientific staff. Gunter Library owns nearly 7,000 books. Two hundred fifty periodical titles are received annually by subscription, gift, and exchange. The collection also contains "Gunter Library Reprints" (27,000+ cataloged reprints, reports, and gray literature); expedition reports; dissertations and theses; government documents; environmental impact statements; fishery management plans; and newsletters, annual reports, and collected reprints from national and international marine research institutions. "Gunter Library Archives" consists of GCRL publications, GCRL dissertations and theses, and a collection of clippings, photographs, and other materials documenting the history of GCRL.