New Bedford Institute of Technology Library History, 1948-1964
The New Bedford predecessor school was slower to establish a true library. Like Bradford Durfee, there was always some kind of library at the school, as confirmed in the annual bulletins published for prospective students. A library was first mentioned in the 1909 bulletin with the following description: “The school maintains a library that contains all the best works on carding and spinning, weaving, designing, knitting, dyeing and mechanics; also a consulting encyclopedia and an international dictionary. Catalogues and pamphlets dealing with machinery or processes related to textile work are also on file, as are all the leading textile journals and trade papers. The students have access to the library during school hours.”
However, for almost 50 years the “library” was not staffed. Any necessary library administration or cataloguing was performed by science and technology instructors on a voluntary basis.
In 1948, on the occasion of the school’s 50th anniversary, a new technical library was named in honor of school founder and long time trustee, Samuel Ross.
The 1950 school newspaper, Tech Talk, notes that Chemistry Department Instructor Louis Fenaux was in the process of cataloguing books according to the Library of Congress System, and, unfortunately, the library was only open part-time to students. The library contained 4,000 volumes at the time and was housed in what was originally designed as the Trustees Room on the Purchase Street campus.
Big changes came beginning in 1958. The president appointed the first professional librarian, Claire Riley, in January of 1958. She immediately lobbied for library improvements, moving the library from the small Trustees Room to a space on the 3rd floor of the Chemistry and Engineering Building. The former student lounge was made into additional stack space, and 2 additional rooms, one a staff work space and the other a study room, were carved out of the old auditorium. New bookstacks and study furniture were added as well. Planned improvements were certainly also tied to the Institute’s application for accreditation by the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. In 1958 the library had 6,000 volumes.
The space was still not adequate for the needs of the student body, however. Miss Riley had only a small desk from which to work, and as the school newspaper points out, there was seating space for only 95 (student body at that time was about 550).
Institute President John E. Foster and Librarian Claire Riley planned for an expanded facility, to be located in the 3rd floor gymnasium. The plan involved a complete renovation of the gym, removing the elevated running track, and called for installation of new walnut paneling to cover the bricks; vinyl “carpeting,” new metal bookstacks to replace the wooden ones, study tables and furniture, a current journal display area, as well as an updated color scheme (turquoise, rust-orange and yellow). The new facility, while increasing study space, was to increase capacity to 35,000 books.
The original expansion plan approved by the trustees in 1959 was to build a research and graduate school, a student union building, a library, an arts and science building and an administration building. However this plan was never realized, overshadowed by the plan to combine with Bradford Durfee on a new campus in North Dartmouth. The last real expansion on the New Bedford campus was the construction of the Science and Engineering Building in 1956.
The Herman Bishans Audio Visual Room was dedicated in 1962, with equipment and materials purchased through the generosity of Mr. Bishans. This was the beginning of an audiovisual program for the institute.
Construction of a new library was completed in April of 1964, and a partial move was performed by students over Easter vacation. The bookstacks had not arrived in time, so at least 10,000 books were left stacked on the floors. The library contained 25,000 volumes at that time and received 300 periodicals. There was an interlibrary loan agreement established with the New Bedford Public Library. The library was open from 8:00 am to 9:30 pm most days.
“Dr. Foster’s plans for the conversion of the old gym into a decent library are finally being out into reality. On December sixth, the workmen from Sullivan and Foster Inc. showed up to start on the job that has taken about three years to arrange.”
Unfortunately, the long awaited library renovation was completed at about the same time the trustees voted to merge with Bradford Durfee College of Technology in Fall River. In 1966 the library was relegated to branch status, and in 1969 New Bedford campus library reference service was discontinued as service was moved to the main campus in North Dartmouth. Books continued to be stored at this location until the new SMTI Library Communications Center opened for business in 1972.