Libraries at Converse
1905 – 1951
In the earliest years, the college library was housed first in the Annex and then the west wing of Wilson Hall. In 1904, President Pell secured a gift of $10,000 from Andrew Carnegie for the construction of a separate building to house the library. This grant is said to have been among Mr. Carnegie’s earliest gifts to an institution of higher learning. With stacks to hold 25,000 volumes, four study rooms, a general reading room, a seminar room, and offices, “Carnegie,” as this building of graceful neoclassic design was named at its dedication in 1905, was a long step from the one or two rooms first called the library. From 1914 to 1948, Dr. Weldon Myers, professor of English and chairman of the Library Committee, was primarily responsible for the strengthening of the library’s collections.
1951 – 1980
By the early 1940s, the need for a new library had become obvious. In 1944, H. Arthur Ligon was made chairman of a committee to raise funds for this purpose. Completed in 1951 at a cost of $200,000, “dedicated to students, past, present, and future,” and named for President Gwathmey upon his retirement in 1955, Gwathmey Library was designed by J. Russell Bailey, a specialist in library architecture. The 20,000 square-foot facility stood three stories high with a capacity for 100,000 volumes, and was among the first libraries built at a women’s college in the Southeast in the years following World War II. Many alumnae remember the day of the book brigade* organized by college librarian Louise Carlisle and Physical Education Instructor Henrietta Browning in February, 1951, when students and faculty formed a line and transferred the college’s collection of books from the old library to the new.
*Pictured at Top: The Converse book brigade of 1951
1980 – Present
In 1980, a library addition of 20,000 square feet was built at the head of an academic quadrangle. The new wing, designed by Walker O. Cain of Cain, Farrell & Bell of New York and costing $2,000,000, virtually doubled the size and shelving capacity of the building. It also included a larger circulation desk, numerous study carrels, music listening rooms, an Alumnae room, and a student lounge. The library was renamed for Buck and Minor Mickel, who were major donors to the project.
In the mid-1990s, a grant from the Mickel family also helped to establish the Converse Archives and Special Collections. This facility was constructed on the third floor of the Mickel Library during the winter of 1995-96, and was dedicated the following fall. Dr. Jim Harrison, former library director, became the college’s first archivist.
The Mickel Library began to change technologically in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 1997, preparations were made for the installation of an INNOPAC library automation system from Innovative Interfaces. By the fall of 1998, this system, which included an online catalog and circulation functions, was fully operational.
From 1998 to the present, the resources and services offered by the library on the Converse website have grown substantially. Online resources include numerous periodical and reference databases, which provide students, faculty, and other users with access to the full text of academic journals, newspapers, and magazines, as well as to literary criticism, short biographies, art images, music, and other information. Services such as interlibrary loan and “Ask a Librarian” are also available on the website.
During the same timeframe, significant improvements have been made within the library building itself. Examples include new lighting, carpeting, computer workstations, and the installation of a Wi-Fi system. Most recently, an area near the circulation desk and staff offices was restructured as a collaborative learning facility with varied seating, group project rooms, and computer workstations.
In 2007, Converse purchased a Millennium system from Innovative Interfaces to replace INNOPAC. This system includes software for circulation, a WebPAC (i.e., web-based public access catalog), acquisitions, cataloging / database management, serials control, a proxy server, and interlibrary loan.