Life of the Library

When the University first opened, Old Main housed the entire University for eight years. This included living quarters for President Sewall and his family, the janitor, the library and all the classrooms. However, the library did not have any books. Started by the Lyceum, a literary society, the Teller Library was named after Senator Teller who donated some government publications.

To fill the library, Charles Buckingham of Boulder made a donation of  $2,000 for the purchase of books. Various benefits were held by the faculty and students to raise funds to furnish and improve the library, a room “18 or 20 feet square” located up the first flight of stairs of Old Main.  At a concert on Dec. 7, 1877, President Sewall announced Buckingham’s gift and changed the name to the Buckingham Library. By 1878, the collection included 1,500 volumes.

While students were the initial librarians, an official librarian was appointed in 1883, with an annual salary of $175.

The library at CU has continued to grow. In 1894, it outgrew its first space in Old Main and moved to the  third floor. In July 1899 it moved to the basement until the Buckingham Library Building opened to students on January 4, 1904.

As the collections grew, a new building, Norlin Library, was completed in 1940. The previous Buckingham Library became the Little Theater. Norlin Library has also undergone many renovations; the most recent has just been completed: a 24-hour study area for students which includes a coffee shop.

In addition to the Norlin Library, the system includes four branch libraries:
William M. White Business Library
Jerry Crail Johnson Earth Sciences and Map Library
Gemmill Library of Engineering, Mathematics and Physics
Howard B. Waltz Music Library
The Law Library is located in and administered by the Law School.

The University Libraries system on the Boulder campus is the largest library collection in the Rocky Mountain region and contains more than 12 million books, periodicals, government publications, audio-visual materials, microforms, maps, manuscripts, papers and computer-based sources.

If you would like to learn more, please read Glory Colorado!, by William E. Davis, which was the main source of the information on this page.

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