Exhibit traces history, progress of Pattee Library and Paterno Library

October 03, 2017

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A new exhibit, “The History of Pattee Library and Paterno Library,” chronicles Penn State University Libraries’ 162-year lifespan at the heart of the University Park campus, beginning with the original collection housed in the school’s first building through the library’s current Association of Research Libraries Investment Index ranking as second among U.S. public university libraries.  

The exhibit is on display through Jan. 15, 2018, in Pattee Library’s central entrance exhibit cases and adjacent Sidewater Commons, first floor Pattee Library, on the University Park campus, open during Pattee Library’s regular fall semester operating hours. The exhibit’s goals are to raise awareness of the Libraries’ ongoing improvement to provide the most effective spaces and resources to meet the needs of today’s students and researchers, and to encourage visitors to use the Libraries’ tangible and digital collections for scholarly pursuits and general interests.

“Like the University Libraries as a whole, Pattee Library and Paterno Library continue to grow and improve to offer more services, information, technology and resources to help people to learn, dream and discover,” Paul Karwacki, the exhibit’s curator and University Libraries collection management specialist, said. “This exhibit aims to illustrate how our largest library location has grown and changed both its physical spaces and operations, often responding to the impacts of technology and time, to provide the best academic resources and services as effectively as possible.”

As the exhibit demonstrates, the University Libraries has had a long and interesting history. In the mid-1800s, the first “library and reading room” occupied a 24-foot by 46-foot room on the first floor of Main Building, precursor to the current Old Main. In 1904, steel magnate and school trustee Andrew Carnegie donated money for a new library building, so the collection was moved to the present-day Carnegie Building. The library’s growth quickly exceeded the building’s capacity, and in 1940, the library moved to the newly built Pattee Library. The ever-increasing need for space, however, necessitated the addition of the Stack Building in 1953, West Pattee in 1966, and the East Pattee Research Library in 1972. The library underwent further renovations that saw completion in September 2000, when a restored Pattee Library and an expanded East Pattee, renamed Paterno Library, were rededicated.      

Karwacki selected for display iconic books, magazines, artifacts and photographs from the Penn State University Archives, a collecting unit within the Eberly Family Special Collections Library. One of the many exhibit photographs displayed in the Sidewater Commons area of the exhibit includes a black and white winter scene of the “new” Pattee Library shortly after construction was completed in 1940. Titled “Pattee Library from the Mall,” the photograph was taken outside the library’s portico when the mall area was open to cars and its majestic elm trees were still abundant and only in their fourth decade. “Card Catalog,” another photograph displayed, captures one of the library’s once-ubiquitous card catalogs. These large oaken shelves, likely unfamiliar to most of today’s digital-native college students, included drawers of alphabetized, individual card records of all library material and were a pre-digital necessity for locating books in the Libraries’ collection. 

The portion of the exhibit displayed in the Pattee Library central entrance cases includes Special Collections’ historical books and artifacts, and a large timeline of library events. Visitors can use the timeline to note significant occurrences that have shaped the Libraries’ growth and development, such as the appointment of the first full-time librarian in 1896, the library’s 1912 designation as a depository library of government documents, and the 1993 date Pattee Library’s water main erupted, flooding the library’s stacks and first floor. The timeline also offers visitors a glimpse at some recent library developments, including this year’s debut of the Penn State Human Library, which featured human books with personal stories.

“Although this exhibit’s photographs, books and artifacts were culled from the Special Collections Library, there is so much more for anyone to discover in the library spaces within Pattee Library and Paterno Library,” Karwacki said. “Many of those spaces are made possible by donor support, from the George and Sherry Middlemas Arts and Humanities Library and its Walter and Doris Goldstein Music and Media Center, to the Marion MacKinnon Adaptive Technology and Services Department, which features resources and services for people with disabilities, such as its Jaws software program for assisting the visually impaired. There is a vast array of resources and spaces that house them.”

For more information about the exhibit or inquiries about special accommodations, contact Paul Karwacki at ppk107@psu.edu or 814-863-9870.

Last Updated November 13, 2017