McKissick Memorial Library

McKinley today

The 1940s

The construction of USC's second library building, which was to become McKissick Memorial Library, began in 1937 and was completed in 1940 at a cost of $560,000 dollars. The design was based on the Davidson College Administration Building located in Davidson, NC. The moving of materials from what is now the Caroliniana to the new building took 18 days, and the new library's capacity was 180,000 books in the stack area, with another 40,000 in storage.  In 1945, McKissick's collection totaled 146,684 books.  The name of the University Library was changed in 1944 to the McKissick Memorial Library to honor President J. Rion McKissick who was instrumental in construction of the new Library. However, problems with the Library started to occur early on and would continue to plague it throughout its career. For instance, in the reference room book shelf space was lost when concealed radiators were placed under all the windows. The circulation desk was orginally on the second floor of the library, so the odd configuration led to confusion on the part of students. Eventually it was moved down to the first floor and up again at least twice.

The card catalog files. The defining document that influenced the library during this time was done in 1946 by Louis R. Wilson and Maurice F. Tauber, a survey of the University Libraries at South Carolina. The plan contained recommendations ranging from collection development to staff and building use. The document makes reference to the circulation desk and other major problems like small rooms, permanent partitions, and wastefulness in the layout of related functional units. The survey became the guiding document to what the University of South Carolina Libraries needed to do well into the 1950s.

University Librarian W. P. Kellam, in the 1947-1948 annual report, summed up the situation best when his report said, "Under the most favorable conditions, the provison of economical and efficient service in the present building will be almost impossible because of its poor arrangement."


The plan of the building.


The 1950s

The 1950s showed continuing and steady growth in the collection, but problems still persisted within the library. Major events during this time period included the completed conversion from Cutter classification to Dewey in the early 1950s, and the collection underwent the addition of Government Documents to the third floor area.


The 1960s

A period picture of McKissick's interior. The 1960s were met by further complaints by those within the library. Throughout the 1960s McKissick became overburdened and overcrowded with new materials. The opening of the Science Library in 1967 alleviated a little of this problem but the Library's collection still grew at a alarming rate. Thus, by 1968 plans were made for a new library to be erected behind but not joined to the McKissick. The new library was going to be the Humanities and Social Services Library, the Undergraduate Library was to be converted into a general Science Library, and McKissick was to be used for the new Library School, documents, and maps. The new library was to be completed in 1975.

The 1970s

The final years of the McKissick Memorial Library were those of an overflowing library struggling to meet the needs of the University. Some 662,693 volumes were at McKissick in 1971. On May 6, 1976, 35 staff members and 60 student assistants, along with two hay conveyors, 3,000 boxes, and three trucks began moving 1,057,448 books from McKissick Library to the new library building. The collection took 19 days to move. Since McKissick's original capicity was supposed to be 220,000, one wonders how the building survived. June 4, 1976 marked the opening of the new library, eventually named Thomas Cooper, and the torch was passed, thus ending McKissick's days as a library. Through all its problems McKissick Library served the students, faculty, and staff with distinction. The only library presently at McKissick is the McKissick Museum library.

Return to Index Page

Last updated October 12, 1999.
Some photos courtesy University of South Carolina Archives
This page created by Christian Pascasio