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Special Collections Graphic Image Flashback! Our Libraries: A Retrospective History

When Randolph-Macon College moved from Boydton to Ashland, the moving inventory listed several boxes of books. Unfortunately, no list of the actual book titles was preserved, although a number of the books in Special Collections in McGraw-Page Library are old enough to have come from Boydton. The Library is still a vital part of the R-MC education.  View a slideshow retrospective.

The Libraries at Boydton

Although the College had a library housed in the Main Building in Boydton, library use for students was heavily restricted. The Board of Trustees set the rule as "the Library shall be opened at such times as the Faculty may appoint, and shall be kept open for one hour." In contrast, the McGraw-Page Library is open over 100 hours each week during the school year!

Since the College made library use difficult for the students, the Washington Society and the Franklin Society (all of the students belonged to one of these two literary societies) purchased and maintained extensive book collections for their members.

R-MC at Boydton
The Main Building at Boydton

The College Library and the Society Libraries in Ashland

The College's library in Ashland followed the restrictive pattern of the Boydton days and the literary society libraries again served as the primary resource for the students.

The Washington Society and the Franklin Society each had an extensive library in Washington-Franklin Hall for the use of society members.  These libraries served as the primary student libraries until 1886, when these books were formally given to the College for its library. Originally, the library was opened only one day a week from 11 A.M. until 6:30 P.M. By 1908, the Randolph-Macon College View Book indicates that the library was open daily for student use. It wasn't until 1923 when the first Walter Hines Page Library, now Peele Hall, opened for use that students had access to a proper library.

Many of the oldest books in the current library collection still carry the original bookplates identifying them as belonging to the two society libraries:

Wash-Frank Hall 1906 Viewbook

Washington-Franklin Hall, ca. 1900

The library shelves in Wash-Frank Hall, ca. early 1900s.  Images are from the Randolph-Macon College View Book, 1908.

Walter Hines Page Library (built as the Carnegie Library)

Opened for use in 1923, this served as both the college and the Ashland community library until 1961. The first full-time professional librarian was hired to reorganize the collection of 12,000 books that were moved into this building, built to house 19,000 volumes.

The Carnegie Foundation, a philanthropic organization founded by Andrew Carnegie, funded public and college library buildings across America and Europe, including R-MCs first separate library building. The library was referred to as the "Carnegie Library" during its planning and building, but because of a dispute with the Carnegie Foundation, the name was changed to the Walter Hines Page Library, after a notable alumnus who was a journalist, editor, publisher, and diplomat.  He was the editor of The Atlantic Monthly, co-founded the publishing house, Doubleday, Page, and Co., and served as the United States ambassador to the United Kingdom during World War I.

For more on the Carnegie Libraries, see this article from Wikipedia.

The Walter Hines Page Library (the second building with that name)

Built in 1961, this building looks familiar. Still standing as the western portion of the current McGraw-Page Library (closest to the street), this building's entrance fronted onto Henry Street.

This new library had triple the space of the old library and could hold 90,000 books as well as having more space for students studying and for staff. Upon renovation in the 1980s, the entire building was gutted except for the staircase near the current copy rooms, which is original and once served as the main stair in the front of the building.

McGraw-Page Library

The Library quickly outgrew its new space, and a renovation and expansion was undertaken in 1987. While the building was under construction, the library staff worked from space in Copley, retrieving books from the construction site as needed. The Library was renamed the McGraw-Page Library in 1987, after June McGraw McBroom made a generous donation in honor of her father, publisher Donald Cushing McGraw, making the renovations and addition possible.

See the Library's web site for current information on collections and services, and if you don't know what we look like now, shame on you!

Sources: The Randolph-Macon College histories by James Scanlon and Richard Irby,Yellow Jacket Annual, Yellow Jacket Weekly, and photographs and other materials from the Randolph-Macon College Archives.

Project curated by Laurie Preston. Content and materials compiled by Ashley Hampton and Laurie Preston.

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