The stunning twenty-four million dollar building currently housing the University Library is located on the banks of the scenic Bayou
DeSiard. The five-story facility, of approximately 140,000 square feet, seats 2,000 users at study carrels, tables, and in comfortable easy chairs placed throughout the building. When the Library opened on April 12, 1999, the beautiful furnishings included ample shelving to accommodate at least ten years growth.
The University of Louisiana at Monroe began as the Ouachita Parish Junior College. When the College opened in 1931, the Library was housed on the second floor of Brown Hall. Ms. Mary Elizabeth Eason served as the first librarian, managing the initial collection of five hundred books and fifteen periodical subscriptions.
The Library's second librarian, Ms. Mary Clay, arrived in the spring of 1933. In those days, the Library was open from 8:15 a.m. until 4:15 p.m., on ordinary days. If there was a general assembly for the entire student body, however, the library closed its doors. The Library did not remain open at night until 1942.
The college changed its moniker once more in 1934, becoming the Northeast Center of Louisiana State University. That year brought a new librarian, Ms. Sue Hefley. Ms. Hefley abolished the system of charging fines in 1938, stating that
The library believes that students should return books because it is the thing to do, not because they will have to pay a fine if the book is not returned. This is a new idea in library training. It is good training for life to do a thing because it should be done, not because one will be punished if it is not done. (Pow Wow, February 11, 1938)
Ultimately, the noble training experiment proved unsuccessful, or perhaps subsequent librarians lacked Ms. Hefley's commitment to the approach. Fines were reinstated in 1956, and raised to ten cents in the 1970s.
In 1939, the Library changed its location once more, moving into Bry Hall. The next year, Ms. Hefley resigned to become state supervisor of high school libraries, and Ms. Clay returned as librarian.
On December 11, 1948, the Library became a member of the newly formed Louisiana State Documents Depository Program. This program was only the second state documents depository program in the nation (California's was the first). By joining the Louisiana depository program, the Library agreed to accept and house official State of Louisiana publications and make them freely available to the general public, as well as to the University community.
In 1950 the Northeast Center of Louisiana State University became a four-year college and was renamed Northeast Louisiana State College. By that time, the Library collections had grown to approximately 12,000 volumes. A new librarian, Ms. Maud Bentrup, took charge in 1954.
In 1961, the College established a Graduate School and began to offer master's degrees. A higher level of academic programming required a bigger and better library, so that same year Ms. Bentrup launched plans for a new Library. The Library moved into a brand new building just two years later. Sandel Library was named for Mr. Percy Sandel, a former district attorney and judge who had been an active proponent for the establishment of Northeast.
Moving the Library's collections'now grown to 65,000 volumes'to the new location was a daunting task. Students and faculty members volunteered their services. ROTC students received merit points for helping. The rapid move was both exciting and problematic. A librarian reported that 'one of the faculty supervisors who was in a hurry to finish the move was putting books on the shelves in any order. It took us a couple of years to get everything back into proper order.'
The year 1963 also saw another significant milestone for the College. On February 5, the Library became a member of the Federal Depository Library Program. The Library's collections would now be augmented through the continuing addition of free publications from federal government agencies.
Northeast Louisiana State College continued to grow and change, granting its first doctoral degrees in 1970. That same year the College became Northeast Louisiana University. By this time, the Library's collections had grown to 185,000 volumes, rapidly outgrowing the new Sandel Library. To provide much needed additional space, in 1977 the Library added a third floor.
The Grand Opening Ceremonies for the current University Library were held on April 30th, 1999. Four months later, on August 27, 1999, the University became 'The University of Louisiana at Monroe.' That fall, enrollment stood at 9,864 graduate and undergraduate students, and the grand Library facility had capacity to provide simultaneous seating for more than twenty percent of that student body.
The Library occupied floors one through five in the new building, with the University administration located on the sixth floor, and a conference center on the floor seven. The new facility had a fully equipped computer lab, media presentation/studio room, a bibliographic instruction room, study/meeting rooms, and an expanded Special Collections area. The Library also established the ULM Library Historic Collection, consisting of the first several hundred books purchased by the Library, including the first purchase, the Cambridge History of American Literature, Vol. 1.
Mary Elizabeth Eason 1931-1933
Mary Clay 1933-1934
Sue Hefley 1934-1939
Mary Clay 1939-1954
Maud Bentrup 1954-1973
Cynthia Duncan 1973-1976
Larry Larson 1976-1988
Rebecca DiCarlo Interim Director, 1988-1993
Donald R. Smith 1993 to present