The NCSU Libraries.
Credit: Special Collections Research Center,?NCSU Libraries.
Harlan C. Brown, NC State's college librarian from 1939-1971
The NCSU Libraries, like the university, has changed considerably since the early GI Bill beneficiaries returned from the war and became students.
A 1939 "state-of-the-library" report prepared by librarian W. P. Kellam describes a staff of seven struggling to provide basic services and collections with a budget ravaged by the Great Depression. Estimating the collection size at around 52,000 volumes with 700 journal subscriptions, Kellam laments that within three or four years "the need for additional seating space and book stacks will have become urgent." The 1945 American Library Directory (N.Y.: R. R. Bowker) notes that the collection had grown to 71,021 volumes, and that librarian Harlan Brown was on leave for military service. Brown undoubtedly had to grapple constantly with the space and resources problems when he returned to NC State. The opening of D. H. Hill Library in 1953 finally improved the situation by providing ample space for students, a staff of twenty-seven, and a collection of 158,000 books and 1,800 journal subscriptions.
Over the past sixty years, the Libraries has been transformed to a level of excellence that would have been hard to imagine in the 1940s. The Libraries is now an active participant in the teaching, learning, research, and service missions of the university. With a staff of approximately 300, the Libraries has nearly 3.4 million volumes and subscribes to more than 54,000 print and electronic journals. D. H. Hill Library is open twenty-four hours a day during the fall and spring semesters, welcoming more than 1.2 million visitors per year.
Unfortunately, today's students are all too familiar with the situation described by Kellam back in 1939 with regard to shortages of study seating and shelf space in the library. The growth of the student body and collections, the infrastructure demands imposed by technology, and development of Centennial Campus have all converged to create an urgent need for a renovated D. H. Hill Library and a new library building on Centennial Campus. Support from both donors and voters will be critical in raising the funds necessary to make a library facility on Centennial Campus a reality so that library excellence–an essential component in achieving academic success–can be sustained for future generations of NC State students.
America's debt to its veterans and to its men and women now in military service is incalculable. Against that perspective, the GI Bill is a modest gesture. Yet, this enlightened legislation continues to illustrate that access to quality education can transform the lives of individuals, universities, and society at large.
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