The Oberlin College Library
North Central Ohio Biographies





The Oberlin College Library contains over 323,000 bound volumes and more than 200,000 unbound volumes and pamphlets. Beginning very modestly with a few volumes gathered by the Reverend J. J. Shipherd at the time of the founding of the College, it has in less than a century grown to be one of the large educational collections of the country.

Until 1874 members of the faculty had charge of the library in addition to their regular teaching work, the first on record being Henry E. Whipple, principal of Preparatory Department, who was librarian from 1850 until 1853; and the second, Professor James Dascomb, who served from 1853 until 1874. In 1874 the Rev. Henry Matson was appointed with the librarianship as his sole duty. In 1887 when Prof. Azariah S. Root succeeded him, the great period of the library's growth began. Under Professor Root's wise administration, extending over 40 years, the library grew from 14,000 volumes to almost 300,000. He was a recognized authority on library matters, honored with many responsibilities in both state and national organizations, including the presidency of the American Library Association. He died in 1927. The present librarian is Julian S. Fowler, who was formerly librarian of the University of Cincinnati.

During the first 50 years of its existence the library was housed in various college buildings, such as the old chapel and Society Hall, both long since demolished. In 1885 funds were provided for the erection of the Spear Library, and the library for the first time had a building of its own, but this was outgrown in a comparatively short time. In 1908, the 75th anniversary of the founding of the College, was marked by the opening of the new Carnegie Library. In this same year an arrangement was made by which, in return for a very small tax levy, free library service is given to all residents of the village and union school district. Oberlin thus became the first combined college and free public library in the United States.

From:
History of North Central Ohio
Embracing Richland, Ashland, Wayne,
Medina, Lorin, Huron and Knox Counties
BY: William A. Duff
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis 1931


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