Earl Gregg Swem Library is located on Landrum Drive (formerly Old Campus Drive), across new campus from Andrews Hall at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The library is named for Earl Gregg Swem (1870-1965), College Librarian (1920-1944) and Librarian Emeritus (1945-1965) (see the minutes of the Board of Visitors, May 11, 1963, p. 162-164).
- 1 Abbreviated History of Swem Library
- 2 Construction
- 3 Fire
- 4 Additions and Renovations
- 5 Botetourt Gallery
- 6 Media Center
- 7 Special Collections Research Center
- 8 Collection Statistics
- 9 The Logo
- 10 External Links
- 11 Material in the Special Collections Research Center
- 12 References
- 13 In the News
- 14 Need help?
Abbreviated History of Swem Library
By Frederick P. Gibbs, August 2007
When the Wren Building opened for business in 1697, somewhere on the second floor a nascent-library was evolving. The initial books were donations, at least several of them from the personal library of Francis Nicholson. This generous patronage from Virginia’s governor inspired the donations from other prominent citizens and allowed the school to build its library without spending its capital. At first the library was “theological,” as would befit an institution devoted to the training of clergy. In time would come books on history, travel, biography and commerce. By the end of the century a college official was overseeing this expanding collection of treasured volumes, all placed on shelves, all arranged according to size…….
……. and all incinerated in a fire that ravaged the Wren in the fall of 1705. With funds from Queen Anne a new building was completed by 1716, and to encourage local citizens to help replenish the rebuilt library. With donations of their own, the library went public by extending its services to the neighboring residents.
With the death of founding president James Blair in 1743 the dominant “theological” tone of the library yielded to an escalation of classics as Blair’s successor, William Dawson, began staffing the faculty with former colleagues of Queen’s College, Oxford. This change in the library’s composition was soon followed by the range of scientific curiosity shortly before the earliest rumblings of revolution were heard. “Electricity” was all the rage then, as were the physics lectures of William Small and the recent publications by the men of science. As the library added the category of natural sciences, the college in 1761 appointed its first official librarian.
Surviving the Revolution and left remarkably unscathed, except for the theft of volumes by troops from both sides, by war’s end the nearly 3,000 books in the college library made it the second largest of its kind in North America, after Harvard. As William and Mary approached its centennial in 1793, donations from the country’s former ally France added another thousand volumes. Official regulations for us of the library were posted: students were to pay ten shillings a year for use of the facility; and after leaving a deposit equal to the book’s value, could borrow only one book at a time between 9 and 10 on Monday and Friday mornings, and would forfeit the deposit if the book was damaged, or replace it if lost.
From the earliest days of the college to the close of the 19th century when a collection of 6,000 books was available only two hours a day to faculty and a student body shy of 200, and when Blanche Moncure, tapped librarian in 1899, became the College’s first female administrative officer, the library remained in the Wren which fires victimized in 1859 and 1862. In the dawn of the next century, during the lengthy presidency of Lyon Gardiner Tyler, a 30’ by 80’ brick edifice (where Tucker Hall now stands) was built to accommodate a burgeoning library. By 1919 the one-story structure contained a collection of 18,000 volumes. That year welcomed the presidency of Julian A.C. Chandler and an era of campus construction – Blow Gymnasium, Phi Beta Kappa Hall, Rogers and Washington, dormitories for men and coeds, and an expansion of the library from one story to three.
Enter Earl Gregg Swem
As President Chandler observed the upward and outward enlargement of Tucker Hall to provide adequate space for the steady influx of new books, he realized the necessity of hiring a professional to manage and develop a library that in a few decades would rank commendably among Southern colleges.
Born in Iowa in 1870 and the recipient of both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Lafayette University, Swem had been associated with the Library of Congress and the Virginia State Library and was a recognized bibliographer of manuscripts and historical records before he arrived on campus in 1920. During his 25 year tenure as college librarian, Swem saw the quantity of books increase from 25,000 to more than 240,000, established the Archives and Manuscript Department, opened the stacks to both students and public, taught classes in library science and edited the William and Mary Quarterly. He retired on July 1, 1944 and died in 1965 at the age of 94.
By the early 1950s concern mounted about the threatening inadequacies of the library. A 1959 plan to replace tucker hall with a larger facility at the western end of the Sunken Garden was abandoned. With the new administration of Davis Paschall in 1961 came the development of a new campus west of the existing one. During Homecoming Weekend 1963 a groundbreaking ceremony prepared the way for the new 136,000 sq. ft. library which the Board of Visitors chose to name for Dr. Swem. The doors officially opened January 4, 1966.
By 1996 the need for additional shelving plus the challenges of the modern information revolution demanded further renovation and expansion. Two 3-story pavilions were added to the east wall, the larger featuring a spacious reading room on the first floor and compact shelving throughout, the smaller housing special collections, rare books, the college archives, and the papers and memorabilia of Chief Justice Warren E. Burger. As it presently stands, the Early Gregg Swem Library was rededicated on Charter Day, 2005.
- “The Library of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, 1693-1793,” by John M. Jennings
- “Swem Library History,” an oral presentation by Susan Riggs
Detailed discussions of plans for the library were held in 1963 (Minutes of the Board of Visitors, January 5, 1963, p. 84-92; March 23, 1963, p. 135-138) and the groundbreaking ceremonies were held later that year on October 11, 1963, at Phi Beta Kappa Hall. The actual groundbreaking occurred a few weeks after the ceremonies. (The Flat Hat, 11 January 1963, 1) The cornerstone of the library was laid on October 22, 1964, and the building was scheduled for completion around December 1965. (The Flat Hat, 17 September 1965, 4) The building officially opened on January 4, 1966, although it was not fully complete. (The Flat Hat, 14 January 1966, 1) The official dedication ceremony for the library was held on Charter Day, February 12, 1966. The Tucker-Coleman Room of the library was dedicated on November 11, 1966. (Minutes of the Board of Visitors, January 14, 1967, 320; The Flat Hat, 11 November 1966, 1)
At the time of its completion, the ground floor of Swem Library contained the Botetourt Gallery, an auditorium, the Institute of Early American History and Culture offices, a rare book room, an honors room, a museum, an audio/visual department, a film preview room, and a faculty lounge. The first floor contained a reserve room, an after-hours reading room, a reference department, and typing and meeting rooms. The second floor contained administration rooms, conference rooms, and stacks.
A fire in the Botetourt Theater in 1972 destroyed a projection booth. (The Flat Hat, 12 May 1972, 1.)
Additions and Renovations
A Micro Computer Lab opened in the library on February 13, 1984. (William and Mary News, 24 January 1984, 5)
Construction officially began on an addition to the front of the library on March 3, 1986, to provide extra stack space, reading areas, administrative offices, and a 24-hour study room and snack area. O.K. James Construction Co. led construction. The addition was dedicated on February 5, 1988.
A seven-year renovation was officially completed in 2005 with rededication ceremonies officially marking the completion on February 5, 2005, during the College's Charter Day weekend. See also the Swem Library Building Project online exhibit.
- October 16, 1992: Inauguration of Timothy J. Sullivan: "find th emeans...to create a library worthy of a great university in the technological age."
- March 17, 1998: State allocates $25 million for Swem Library project
- April 24, 1998: Official groundbreaking
- February/March 1999: Construction begins
- January 2001: Move of Special Collections staff and collections to temporary space in Toano
- January 2001: Structural floor cracks discovered; request to state for $4.6 million for remediation
- April 2001: Approval of additional funding from state
- July 2001: $4.6 million in additional funds received
- October 2001: 98,000 square ft. addition opens, ground and first floors open
- November 2001: Second and third floors open
- January 26, 2004: Renovated third floor opens
- February 2004: Renovated second floor opens
- March 23, 2004: First floor Information Commons opens
- November 2004: Return of Special Collections staff and collections to Swem Library
- December 20, 2004: Completion of Warren E. Burger Office exhibit
- February 1, 2005: Completion of Warren E. Burger Special Collections Wing
- February 4, 2005: Completion of building project
- February 5, 2005: Rededication of Swem Library
Summary of the project from Facilities Planning and Construction:
- Cost: $ 36.3-million
- Fund Source - General Fund, GOB/BCBA and Private Funds
- Renovation GSF: 168,105
- Expansion GSF: 100,009
- Start Date:
- Finish Date: December 2004
- Progress: The Media Center and ground floor are complete. All public portions of the building are now occupied. The Special Collections area is complete. The Building Committee has been dissolved.
The campus heating and cooling project provided for construction of a centralized cooling and heating plant for New Campus, housed in the new Swem Library Pavilion B. Phase 1 installed distribution piping through the new campus. Phase 2 included the installation of chillers and supporting equipment in the basement of Swem. Phases 3 and 4 provide distribution and hook-up to the New Campus facilities from Swem.
- Cost: $ 4.8-million
- Fund Source - General Fund and GOB/VCBA
- GSF: Not applicable
- Start Date: May 2003
- Finish Date: August 2004
- Design Team: RMF Engineering
- Contractor: Phase II only –Hampton Roads Mechanical
- Progress: Completed.
In 2009, the Writing Center and the Center for Geospatial Analysis are moving to Swem Library.
The Botetourt Gallery in the Swem Library Virtual Tour.
As of 2008, the following portraits were displayed in the Botetourt Gallery:
- John Lesslie Hall (1856-1928). Professor of English (1888-1928), Dean of the Faculty (1905-1928). Portrait, oil painting on canvas. Artist, Adele Williams. Signed "Adele Williams" in top left corner.
- J. Wilfred Lambert (1906-1986), Dean of Students 1945-1969. Portrait, oil painting on canvas. Artist, David Silvette. Painted in 1981. Signed by artist.
- W. Melville Jones (1901-1992), Professor of English at William and Mary (1928-1971), Dean of the Faculty (1958-1964), Dean of the College (1964-1968), College’s first vice president in 1968, Chancellor Professor of English, Emeritus (1971). Portrait, oil painting on canvas. Artist, Thomas E. Thorne. Painted in 1965. Signed by artist.
- Kremer Jacob Hoke (1878-1944), Professor of Education (1920-1944), Dean of the College (1922-1938), Dean of the School of Education (1934-1938). Portrait, oil painting on canvas. Artist, Ellis M. Silvette.
- James Hardy Dillard (1856-1940), Member, Board of Visitors (1918-1940), Rector (1919-1940). Portrait, oil painting on canvas. Artist Bethuel Moore. Painted in 1936. Property sticker #253714 Commonwealth of Virginia.
- Kate Waller Barrett (1858-1925) Member, Board of Visitors (1921-1925). Portrait, oil painting on canvas. Artist Eugenie Deland Sangstad. Signed by the artist, "Eugenie Deland Sangstad 1928".
- James Branch Cabell (1879-1958) Class of 1898; author and critic. Portrait, oil painting on canvas. Artist, Jean Field.
- Westmoreland Davis (1859-1942), Governor of Virginia 1918-1922, known for increasing funding to Virginia's colleges and universities. Portrait, oil on canvas. Artist, Leopold Seyffert.
- Mrs. Westmoreland Davis (1867-1963). Portrait, oil on canvas. Artist, Irving Ramsay Wiles, signed and dated, "Irving R. Wiles / 1931". Plaque reads "Mrs. Westmoreland Davis/In Recognition of her World War work, and of the love and courage with which Mrs. Davis ministered unto our suffering people of Virginia In the Epidemic of Influenza, 1918, this Portrait is presented by Friends to the College of William & Mary.”
- Molly Elliot Seawell, Virginia author and essayist (1860-1916), grandniece of President John Tyler. Portrait, oil painting on canvas. Artist J.W.L. Forster, inscribed JWL Forster. Inscribed on a sticker on verso of painting "Muscarelle Museum of Art College of William & Mary Williamsburg" and inscribed on frame "1860-1916".
The Media Center's website.
The Media Center in the Swem Library Virtual Tour.
Special Collections Research Center
The Special Collections Research Center's website.
Taken from About the Library (on 22 August 2009):
- Books 1,276,876
- Government Documents 594,082
- Serials 5,404
- Microforms 1,463,470
- Archives* 7,705
- Cartographic Materials 23,143
- Sound Recordings 21,320
- Film and Video 7,568
- Computer Files 1,189
Swem Library's logo, a stylized depiction of one of the great circular windows in William and Mary's Wren Building, symbolically links the past and the future. As a prominent feature of the the oldest academic building in continuous use in America and the building which once housed the College's library, the window logo symbolizes the library's long and rich history. It also symbolizes the library's dynamic past and promising future. As the intellectual center of the campus, Swem Library takes in new knowledge and makes it available to students and faculty who themselves add to the world's knowledge. Thus the spokes and rings of the window symbolize this never ending process of knowledge coming in, enriching the College community, and radiating out to enrich the rest of the world. Furthermore, like every library, Swem Library is a window to the world of knowledge.
- Earl Gregg Swem Library
- Introduction to Swem Library, 1969, Part 1
- Introduction to Swem Library, 1969, Part 2
- For serious and fun videos from and about Swem Library, try searching Swem Library at YouTube.
- Virtual Tour of Swem Library, accessed 22 August 2009.
- Swem Library Renovation/Expansion, accessed 27 August 2007.
- Heating and Cooling Improvements, accessed 27 August 2007.
- Swem Library Building Project online exhibit, accessed 22 August 2009.
Material in the Special Collections Research Center
- The Swem Library Pool on Flickr.
- The Special Collections Research Center's Flickr Account.
- University Archives Photograph Collection
- Colonial Echo, 1965 p. 135; 1969 p. 9; 1977 p. 30.
- University Archives Buildings File (2007), Swem Library, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, The College of William and Mary.
- "Building and Grounds--Swem Library," University Archives Subject File Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, The College of William and Mary.
- The Flat Hat
In the News
- Roy R. Charles Center and Writing Resources Center move, William and Mary News, 15 September 2009.
- Swem Library surpasses $5 million in private support, William and Mary News, 2 June 2009.
- William and Mary's Swem Library ranked among the best in the country, William and Mary News, 29 July 2008.
|A note about the information in this wiki|
|Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fire, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the SCRC's collections and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the SCRC's access tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.|
- The Flat Hat, 14 March 1986, 3.