Monday, June 25, 2018

The Library as a Hub of Learning (Part One)

Since the school’s founding in 1892, the library has played a central role in supporting faculty research and student learning.  From its humble beginnings in a single classroom to its current massive holdings of physical collections and online journals and databases, the library has sought to keep pace with emerging scholarly trends, changing researcher needs, evolving applications of technology, as well as a growing student population. Starting in 1892 and ending in 1945, this post will examine the profound changes in the library’s collections, services, and space during that time.

When the school opened its doors to students in the fall of 1892, its library consisted of a small collection of donated books.  Indeed, President McIver donated a number of reference titles from his private library to help build the school’s collection.  Incoming students were encouraged to bring “any books in their possession relating to Science, Literature, History, etc. to be used as reference books.”  The State Normal and Industrial School (now UNC Greensboro) had a very small budget for book purchases.  The first purchases of books took place at the end of 1892, the school bought standard reference titles and established American and British authors.  There were no purchases of more “current” fiction.

Main Building (Foust)

Within a short period of time, the library had to be moved to a larger classroom in the Main Building (Foust) to accommodate the growing number of books and periodicals.  The new space also had a reception area for visitors.  This space was managed by a faculty member and some student workers.  In 1895, with the increased use of its library, the school hired its first full time librarian, Annie F. Petty.  Ms. Petty was able to introduce a more formal method of cataloging works and meeting user requests.  She also oversaw the move of the library’s collections to larger space in the Main Building.  She was able to repurpose a former gymnasium to address a number of immediate space issues.  By 1900, the library had 3,000 titles.  President McIver concluded that this new space was not a permanent solution. 

Recognizing that the state legislature would not be making funds available soon for a new library, President McIver decided to write to the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for help.  Mr. Carnegie had established a program to fund the construction of public libraries around the country.  McIver’s appeal to support the public education of women seemed to resonate with Carnegie.  The State Normal and Industrial School was awarded $15,000 for a new building and nearly $4000 for furniture and shelving.  The new library building (Forney) was built on College Ave.  It was considered a “modern” building and was equipped with steam heat and electrical lights.  Annie Petty described the building as being of “red brick and granite trimmings, and contains seven rooms on the first floor and two on the second.  It is furnished in light oak and furnished throughout with Library Bureau furniture, which is artistic, durable, and convenient in every respect.”  The Carnegie structure also contained a fire-proof stack-room which had the capacity of 30,000 volumes and also a fireproof vault.  Ms. Petty opened the doors of the new library to students in October 1905.

Carnegie Library Building, 1905

With the ending of World War One and rationing, the state’s legislature turned its attention to reconstruction and a growing postwar economy.  The school (now called the North Carolina College for Women) experienced a postwar growth in student enrollment.  To meet the needs of this larger student population, the state allocated funds ($75,000) to expand the footprint of the original building.  Starting in 1921, a year-long construction project took place.  The newly expanded structure was nearly three times as large as the original building.  The expanded building would include new public seating to increase the total public seating to 373.  The expansion of stack space now allowed for 95,000 volumes.  With Ms. Petty’s retirement in 1920, the new space was supervised by Charles B. Shaw.  Shaw was a trained librarian.  He also was a strong and vocal advocate for libraries.  Through his tireless promotion of the library, he would obtain funds to dramatically build the book collection as well as nearly double the size of the library’s staff.  The 1920s represented a decade of growth in the library.

On September 15, 1932, the library suffered a significant set-back.  A fire broke out in the middle of the night.  Thankfully no staff or patrons were injured since the building was closed.  Yet, the damage to the building was significant.  The greatest damage centered on the reading room and the library science room.  The estimates are that 12,000 to 15,000 titles were damaged by smoke and water.  But, the majority of the library’s holdings survived in the fire-proof structure in the building.  The damage was estimated to be $98,000.  The library’s staff and surviving collections were temporarily moved to the Students’ Building.

Under the supervision of the college librarian Charles H. Stone, the rebuilding of the library began almost immediately.  The year-long project involved both the repair of fire damaged areas as well as the expansion of the building.  The expansion project would involve the addition of two wings to the building and a new stack space.  Additionally, the expansion project allowed for a new space for students to enjoy current and “popular” works for recreational reading.  Beyond the construction project, the library undertook a collections development project.  New titles had to be purchased and other damaged titles replaced.  The library would also struggle to “rebuild” its card catalog system since it was almost completely destroyed in the fire.  Finally, the library sought to develop new services to support student research.  The library instituted the position of a “readers’ advisor” to assist individuals in selecting what “they need or want to read.”

On the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the school, there was a flurry of news accounts about the library and the college.  A number of newspaper articles written in April 1941 noted that the library was recognized as the largest woman’s college library in the South.  The school was now called the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina.  The library served nearly 2,300 students and 300 faculty members with approximately 100,000 titles.  The library now employed eleven professional staff to meet the needs of 1000 daily users. 

Only four years later in 1945, a number of newspaper articles were written discussing the space crunch that the college’s library was deemed to be facing.  One article noted that the present structure is “inadequate.”  Drawing on the library’s own statistics, these newspaper accounts stressed the steady growth in book purchases and circulation.  The authors concluded that these growth numbers were straining the library’s current spaces and services.  Additionally, they declared that the library’s seating capacity had not kept pace with the significant growth in the student population. 

Not surprisingly, the college submitted a request to the 1945 North Carolina General Assembly for monies to build a new library.  Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson, Dean of Administration, stated that $380,000 was requested for the building of the new library.  Of the $380,000 asked for the library, Jackson noted that $365,000 would be for construction and $15,000 for equipment.  The proposed new three-story library building would be built directly across College Ave. from the 1905 Carnegie library building.  The new space would relieve the “cramped” conditions and would include: four large reading rooms, an exhibit room, a rare books room, an audio-visual laboratory, music audition rooms, and a series of small seminar and study rooms.  Jackson also noted that the current Carnegie library could be quickly converted into an art center or classrooms.  The immediate challenge for the college was to convince the General Assembly of this pressing space need.   

Monday, June 18, 2018

Celebrating "Service" with Park Night

From 1920 through 1935, the Friday evening of commencement weekend at the North Carolina College for Women (later Woman’s College and now UNCG) featured a ceremony known as Park Night. This allegorical drama typically took place outdoors in an outdoor theater constructed in Peabody Park. The production featured a character named Service (meant to represent the ideals of the school) as well as her attendants Mind, Body, and Spirit.
A scene from the 1923 Park Night ceremony
In a July 25, 1927 letter, alumnae Julia Cherry Spruill discussed the origins of Park Night. Spruill had been appointed chairman of a committee to promote school spirit amongst students. She was asked to highlight particular features of the school that made her most proud. Spruill recalled deciding “our park was our peculiar possession of which we were particularly proud, and that we could have some symbolical exercises down there which would represent the highest ideals of our college.” She consulted with President Julius Foust, who agreed to sponsor the production and to clear some land in Peabody Park for a theater.

Selection of the student to portray Service was conducted by secret ballot. A 1929 Carolinian article noted, “this is the highest honor that a student can win at this college and goes each year to the girl in the senior class who in the opinion of her associates has rendered the most outstanding service during her college career.” For example, the role of Service in 1926 went to Georgia Kirkpatrick of Efland. Kirkpatrick was class president, a charter member and president of the Alethian Society, member of the Faculty-Student Council, cabinet member of the Athletic Association, member of the Playlikers, and a staff member of both the Carolinian newspaper and the Pine Needles yearbook.

Prologue dance from the 1923 Park Night ceremony
The script for Park Night was written by the students, with the intent of it becoming a yearly tradition. The production began with a prologue in the form of a dance. It was followed by a dramatic processional featured fifty students dressed in white robes, carrying lit torches, and singing the college song. Service and her attendants then entered, and each attendant presented Service with allegorical gifts, often through a solo dance as well as a lyrical Grecian-style poem.  After the individual presentations, Service spoke, accepting the gifts and giving a dramatic monologue. The production concluded with an epilogue featuring “a Dance to the Future.”

Although the tradition of Park Night ended in 1935 when graduating seniors decided to forgo the production in favor of honoring a number of leading classmates in a formal ceremony, “Service” remains the motto of UNCG today. From the words of Service’s concluding monologue, “when full liberty, sweetness, and joy have driven out misery and night, we shall live in the light of the glorious day when Service has won all the earth.”

Monday, June 11, 2018

The History of the College Yearbook - Part III

A student dreams about graduation, Pine Needles 1960
As Woman’s College (now UNCG) moved into the 1960s, the school was on the precipice of enormous change. It was a time of political and social unrest in the country and in the community, but the campus yearbook, Pine Needles, did not always reflect this turmoil. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Pine Needles retained a more traditional format, including photographs of campus buildings, school organizations, sports, and individual student portraits. These yearbooks also tended to represent a more conventional view of women’s roles in society. Images of female students dreamily pondering graduation, shiny new cars, and engagement rings, occupied many of the pages. Local events, such as the Woolworth Sit-ins of February 1960 and the Tate Street protests, were noticeably missing from the publications. Yet, there was a sense that Woman’s College students were moving toward greater self-awareness. The make-up and mindset of the student body was evolving, and soon the yearbook would become more of a reflection of the times.

One of the most significant changes on campus during the 1960s was the admittance of male students. The school had been a women’s college since it opened in 1892, but in the fall of 1964 it opened its doors to men and officially became The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. During the first few years after this shift, there was very little evidence in the yearbooks that men had been integrated into campus life.  It took several years before male students were fully assimilated into the student body and were equally represented in the yearbook.

President Richard Nixon lampooned in the 1973 Pine Needles

The 1960s and 1970s ushered in a more political era on the UNCG campus, and this shift was reflected in the yearbooks. Political cartoons and realistic photographs peppered the Pine Needles of these decades. Presidential elections and campus protests were prominently featured. President Richard Nixon was a particular target of student artists on the Pine Needles staff and he was lampooned in several volumes. These highly charged drawings echoed the art of political cartoonists such as Paul Conrad, who was chronicling current issues such as Watergate, civil rights, and social injustice in national publications.  Pine Needles not only covered national events, but also those closer to campus, such as the Black Power Forum, which was included in the 1969 yearbook.  It also continued to include images of students, campus views, and school sports, as well as visiting bands and entertainers.

Black Power Forum, Pine Needles 1969

In the decades after the college became co-educational, it was still trying to come to terms with its new identity. UNCG had embraced the male students and campus expansion, but because of its lack of social opportunities and adequate dormitories, many considered the school to be a “suitcase college” or commuter school. The administration actively sought ways to bring the students back to campus. A survey of the student body reflected a strong interest in bringing national fraternities and sororities to the university. From the time that the school opened, these types of social organizations had not been welcomed by the administration. Charles Duncan McIver, the founder and first president of the college, had considered them elitist, and instead instigated literary societies. Fraternities and sororities were finally approved by the faculty and trustees, and the first membership rush took place in 1980; the same year that the school exceeded a 10,000 enrollment.

Pine Needles 1984
When the school celebrated its 100th birthday, the event was chronicled in the 1992 Pine Needles. But sadly, this centennial edition would be one of its last. Budgetary constraints and general student apathy heralded the demise of the yearbook, and the last volume of Pine Needles was published in 1993.

However, the yearbooks remain a popular and heavily researched part of the archival collection at UNCG. Each volume serves as a time capsule of fashion, school traditions, campus scenery, and student life. Most importantly, these yearbooks have recorded and commemorated the history of the school, from its beginnings as a woman’s teaching college to its current place as a vital public liberal arts and research university.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Walter Clinton Jackson and the Documenting of the Great War

This year marks the centenary of the United States’ involvement in World War One.  Over the course of twenty months (April 1917-November 2018), the nation mobilized its military, natural resources, industry, and citizens to fight an overseas war in Europe.  Realizing that maintaining public morale was critical to achieving victory, the federal government and the state of North Carolina promoted the concepts of patriotism, service, and sacrifice.  Here on campus, the students, faculty, and administrators of the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial College (now known as UNC Greensboro) rallied to the cause and enthusiastically supported the war effort.  Their activities included: buying Liberty Bonds, training stenographers, making bandages, conserving food, and serving as Red Cross volunteers. 

The school was also deeply involved in documenting the contributions of North Carolinians to the war.  President Foust sought to both promote and document the school as a leader in war work.  For example, President Foust had professional photographs taken of the school’s students canning food, maintaining the grounds on campus, and harvesting crops at its farm.  Copies of these photographs were sent to Raleigh as evidence of the institution’s wartime work.  Moreover, Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson, head of the State Normal’s Department of History, championed the collecting of information detailing women’s war work on and off campus. 

Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson

Responding to a July 1917 letter sent by the North Carolina Historical Committee to President Foust requesting that all “materials bearing on the war” be preserved, Dr. Jackson and the History Department took up the call to collect.  The History Department published a 1917 pamphlet that made the case for documenting women’s war work.  The pamphlet declared that “it is the purpose of the State Normal and Industrial College to make a systematic effort to collect for permanent preservation all the material related to the work of women in this great crisis, so that when the historian who tries to write of woman’s part in the life of former days, he will not lack for ample and correct records.”  The pamphlet asks the reader to direct any communication relative to this work directly to “W.C. Jackson, Greensboro, N.C.”

In 1918, Dr. Jackson and the History Department published three additional pamphlets on collecting war-related materials.  The first publication “Women and the War in North Carolina: Suggestions for the Collection of Historical Material” was widely circulated amongst students and alumnae.  The pamphlet addressed the types of materials found in each of the collecting areas.  These collecting areas included: newspaper clippings, official and semi-official documents, manuscript material, pictorial material, educational material, and propaganda.  Readers were asked to mail any war-related items to Professor Jackson so that “it may be properly filed and preserved at the State Normal and Industrial College.” 

Drawing on the materials received from throughout the state, the second publication, “The State Normal and Industrial College and the War,” detailed the college’s wartime activities that included its work with the Red Cross, the YWCA, food conservation, as well as war-related lectures presented on and off campus.  In a lengthy introduction to the pamphlet, President Foust noted that the responsibility of war work should be shouldered by students and faculty since they enjoyed the advantages of a college education.  The third publication, “Women and the War in North Carolina” was written by students Mabel Tate and Naomi Neal of the Class of 1918.  It reported on the work accomplished by the state’s women from April 1917 to April 1918.   Working with Dr. Jackson, the authors of the report summarized the types of women’s war work performed in the areas of fundraising, knitting and sewing, food production, and nursing activities.  The pamphlet also listed the types of materials being received at the State Normal.

On November 11, 1918, an Armistice was signed and the fighting on the Western Front ended.  When news of the peace reached campus, President Foust allowed students to stage a victory celebration as well as join the citizens of Greensboro for a parade downtown.  With the conclusion of the war and demobilization, many individuals and organizations began to look towards peace-time reconstruction.  The state of North Carolina recognized the need to formalize and centralize documentation efforts.  Legislators felt that these preserved records would serve to honor and commemorate the heroic efforts and sacrifices of its citizens.  In 1919, the state’s General Assembly authorized and funded the position of ‘Collector of War Records.”  The veteran and educator, Robert House was hired to serve as Collector.  To support his efforts, House decided to reactivate and broaden the wartime network of citizen historians.

Not surprisingly, Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson was recruited to help document the homefront mobilization in Guilford County.  A committee of “collectors” for Guilford County was formed in 1919.  Jackson was selected to serve as the committee’s Chairman.  Jackson and the committee developed an ambitious plan to gather documents from local government agencies, civic groups, social organizations, and soldiers.  In 1920, Robert House, the state’s “Collector of War Records,” recognized the successful work of Walter Clinton Jackson and his committee.  He urged other county collectors to embrace Jackson’s collecting model. 

Through the tireless efforts of Professor Walter Clinton Jackson, a substantial number of State Normal records that relate to World War One were preserved.  Jackson met and surpassed his charge to preserve materials relating to women’s war work for future historians.  Indeed, these records can be found both in the department of Special Collections and University Archives at UNC Greensboro as well as in the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh.