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Library records

Identifier: UR-05-002

Scope and Contents note

This collection contains documentation of the Drexel University Library from its creation in 1891 to 2003. The collection is arranged into ten series as follows: "Dean/Director administrative records," "Departmental records," "Annual reports," "Meeting Minutes," "Early library records," "Self-study records," "Library Building records," "Personnel records," "Library publications and press," "Multimedia collection," "Events," and "Exhibits."

The collection's primary strength is found in the "Library Building records," which detail the planning of the 1959 library, which is now the Korman Center, and the W.W. Hagerty Library in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Please review series descriptions and folder lists for more information.


  • 1891-2013


Conditions Governing Access

Because the collection may contain confidential information, portions are currently restricted pending review by the archivist. See the university archives' policy on access to records for further information.

Box 11 reviewed 4/11/2018, folders 36 and 43 closed to researchers for 80 years from last date.

Usage restrictions

Consult archivist regarding copyright restrictions.

Administrative History

"A library is the intellectual hub of a great university, enhancing the climate of learning, stimulating the education and research of student and teacher alike" (W.W. Hagerty Library, Dedication book).

Drexel University's first library was housed in one room inside of the Main Building, which housed all the functions of the institution, serving as a learning environment for students of the Department of the Library and Reading Room. Within its first year, it built a collection of nearly eight thousand volumes, chiefly through gifts and donations from Drexel's founder, Anthony J. Drexel and his business partner, George W. Childs. The collection included books and periodicals as well as manuscripts, photographs, and slides.

The first directors of the Drexel Institute Library were prominent women librarians, each prolific writers and active in the American Library Association. These directors and their successors led both the library and Drexel’s library school (the third such school to open in the United States) until 1962, when the directorship was divided into two positions.

The first director of the Drexel library, and founder of the library school, was Alice B. Kroeger (1864-1909), a former student of Melvil Dewey. Kroeger served as director of the library and library school until her sudden death in 1909. Another prominent librarian and former student of Dewey, who also served as his Vice-Director of the Library School in Albany, New York, Mary Salome Cutler Fairchild (1855–1921), acted as director for four months until a new permanent director could be appointed. From 1910 to 1912, June Richardson Donnelly served as director. Corinne Bacon succeeded Donnelly in August 1912 and held the position until 1914, when the library school was suspended for what President Hollis Godfrey said was low enrollment. During the temporary suspension of the library school there were two directors who served the library alone, Elizabeth V. Clark, from 1914 to 1917 and J. Peterson Ryder, from 1917 to 1922.

When the library school reopened in 1922, a new director was hired to revitalize the program, Anne Wallace Howland. Howland is famous for creating the first library program in the South, at the Atlanta Public Library, now Emory University. At Drexel, she reestablished the library school and significantly increased the library's collections.

Marie Hamilton Law began working for Drexel as an instructor in 1922, became Vice-director and Associate Professor in 1925, and succeeded Howland as Dean in 1936. During her tenure as dean, Law brought attention to what she felt was the library’s primary issue--a lack a space. In the 1946/1947 Annual Report, she wrote, "A review of the year's work makes evident the fact that the limitation of physical space in the Library is the chief handicap in serving faculty and students." The issue of space was not a new one and was apparent as early as 1927 when Howland corresponded with librarians at other institutions to learn about their facilities. Law, however, through her annual reports and other means gave the matter more public attention, setting the stage for major growth in the decade that followed. Harriet D. MacPherson succeeded Law upon her retirement as the Director in 1949.

During the 1940s and 1950s the number of volumes in the library rapidly increased. This growth as well as increased demand for materials and reference services necessitated a new library building. Under MacPherson's direction, Drexel opened a Business Library on November 1, 1949, installed the periodical section and started construction on the new library. In her 1956/1957 Annual Report, she wrote of the building effort, giving credit to Harry Dewey, Librarian of the Institute, for devoting his time to planning the new building that was scheduled to house both the library and library school. MacPherson, however, retired in 1958, just prior to the completion of the new building.

The groundbreaking for the new library took place in 1958, and it was opened to the public a year later in 1959. It was a unique hexagonal shape, bordered on one side by Woodland Avenue, which ran through campus, and on its other sides by underground utility and trolley lines. The shape of the structure was notable, and was frequently referenced in Philadelphia guidebooks for tourists. In 1977, the library was renamed the Korman Center.

The library’s new Audio-Visual Center centralized audio-visual material, such as film and filmstrips, which were previously scattered throughout campus. It also served as a means for instruction, eventually including recording devices and producing slides. The internal organization of the library was restructured for the new space, and included existing departments: Reference, Circulation, Serials, Drexel (Special) Collection, and Technical Services; and some new ones, the Audio-Visual Center and Administrative Services.

The new library, unfortunately, was outgrown almost as soon as it was inhabited. MacPherson's successor, John F. Harvey wrote in 1960 that "the Library Building is already full. . . " (1959-1960 Annual Report). This was partially due to the continued cohabitation of the library and the library school; many spaces originally designated for shelving were converted to offices as the faculty of the library school grew. Additionally, space needed for collection storage was underestimated during the original planning process.

In 1962, the library and library school were separated. Assistant Director, Robert Johnson, became head of the library while Harvey remained the Director of the School of Library Science within the College of Information Technology. The Rush Building was purchased in 1961 and renovated to house the College of Information Science and Technology. Although the Rush Building was available for use in 1962, the library school did not move until September of 1965. At that point, the school’s departure from the library building freed up much needed storage space, postponing a need for yet another new library building.

While the library had several library directors come and go, one, Frances Wright (1901-1979), remained on staff for 37 years. Beginning in 1928, she joined the staff as a reference assistant and subsequently held several positions, including Head of Reference and Assistant Director. Wright retired in August of 1965 however, was retained on staff part-time as a special collections librarian. When Johnson resigned in 1964, Wright acted as director until Richard L. Snyder's appointment later that year.

During Snyder’s tenure, in 1964, Drexel became a United States Government Documents Depository and in 1971 was designated a depository for Pennsylvania State Documents. The Government Documents remained a division of the Reference Department until it was dissolved during the 1992/1993 academic year. In 1965, Snyder reorganized the internal structure of the library into eight departments: Drexel (Special) Collection, Reference, Science Technology, Circulation, Acquisitions, Cataloging, Non-print and Administrative Services. He also increased library security and added the position of a book-checker to prevent theft.

Beginning in the 1960s, the Drexel Collection included institutional archival material and, in 1970, the Archives were officially established. Snyder was the first to suggest hiring an Archivist, however, the request was not approved until 1979 and even then only on a part-time basis. Often the term "Drexel Collection" is applied to the Archives and Special Collections, which is independent from the museum, the Drexel Collection.

Planning for another new library building officially began in 1970 with the reformation of the Library Building Program Committee. The committee was charged with developing and submitting plans to architects for design proposals. The purpose of which, according to Snyder, was ". . . to identify the major physical and other needs of the Library for the next twenty years, and to describe them sufficiently well to obtain formal approval from the University community for action on these needs. The document will outline the goals, functions, organizations, proximities and related quantitative requirements. . ." (1970-1971 Annual Report). Jack Slater, who became assistant director after Wright's retirement, officially authored the Library Building Program. Construction didn’t begin until September 1979, after the demolition of the SEPTA Building that formerly occupied the site. The W. W. Hagerty Library was dedicated October 13, 1983.

Snyder retired in 1989 after twenty-five years of service as Director of Drexel Library. William L. Page and Lucille Jones, were acting co-directors from 1989 to 1990, when Eileen Hitchingham became the new Dean. During Hitchingham’s tenure, the online library system was launched and the library collections were barcoded. In 1995, Hitchingham resigned and William Page once again stepped in as Interim Dean.

In 1998, Carol Hansen Montgomery began her tenure as Dean of Libraries and began an electronic library initiative, which included establishing an electronic journal collection, an idea considered radical at the time (Montgomery 2005). In 2002, Medical College of Pennsylvania (MCP) Hahnemann University was acquired by Drexel. The merger resulted in the addition of the Drexel University College of Medicine Archives and Special Collections as well as the Queen Lane and Hahnemann Libraries.

Montgomery retired in 2005. Jane Bryan was Director of Libraries from 2005 until her death in 2008. Dorothy Schwartz, Head of Administrative Services, served as Interim Director until January 2010, when Danuta Nitecki began her tenure as Dean of Libraries.

Works Cited:

Montgomery, C.H. "Pioneering an Electronic Journal Collection at Drexel." Emerging Trends in Academe, June 2005.

Unpublished, Annual Report to the President from the Librarian, 1946-1947.

Unpublished, Annual Report to the President from the Librarian, 1956-1957

Unpublished, Annual Report to the President from the Librarian, 1959-1960

Unpublished, Annual Report to the President from the Director of Libraries, 1970-1971

Unpublished, W.W. Hagerty Library Dedication book, 1983.


23.25 Cubic Feet (44 containers)

Language of Materials



The Library records contains documentation of the Drexel University Library from its creation in 1891 to 2003. Drexel University Library has been housed in three different buildings; the Main Building (1891-1958), the Korman Center (1959-1982) and W.W. Hagerty Library (1983-2010). The library was also responsible for running the library school until 1962, with the exception of the years 1914 to 1922 when the library school was suspended. The documents in this collection constitute a record of the activities of the directors, the internal library departments, and the intensive planning of the form and function of the two library buildings.

Custodial History

Transferred from library departments, probably in several accessions, dates unknown.

Related material

Drexel University Archives: Office of the President records, correspondence to the library.

Processing Information

The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.

Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.

Library records1929-2013
Laurie Rizzo and Eric Rosenzweig
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.

Repository Details

Part of the Drexel University Archives Repository

W. W. Hagerty Library
3300 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104 United States
215.895.2070 (Fax)