Rensselaer Libraries

Library History Timeline

Posted: Nov 19, 2009

Date Historical Note
1824 The Rensselaer School occupies the Old Bank Place in Troy; the "library" is either single room or part of a room.
1834 The Rensselaer School is renamed Rensselaer lnstitute and moves to Van der Heyden Mansion; the contents of the Old Bank Place, including the library, become the personal property of Amos Eaton.
1841 Rensselaer lnstitute returns to the Old Bank Place.
1842 Amos Eaton dies and his estate is sold. Eaton's library is inventoried and sold for $200. The new owner leaves the collection with Rensselaer's new Director and Eaton’s successor, George H. Cook.
1844 Rensselaer moves to the former Infant School in downtown Troy. Library materials lost in the sale of Eaton's estate are repurchased for the Institute.
1846 A manuscript inventory of the Institute's library collection is completed on January 8 and shows the collection being 396 volumes.
1862 A catastrophic fire destroys much of Troy and nearly all of Rensselaer's property although it is reported that the building housing the library is not completely destroyed. The lnstitute begins rebuilding at a new location on 8th street.
1864 After occupying temporary quarters in Vail House and Troy University, the school moves into its new Main Building on 8th Street. This building houses the library for nearly 30 years.
1880 "Catalogue of the Library of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, N.Y." is published. The 80 page volume lists over 1000 titles in general and applied sciences, mathematics, language, literature, ethics, and other topics, along with hundreds of journals and reports.
1893 The library moves to the new Alumni House on 2nd Street. The downtown location proves to be inconvenient and the collection eventually returns to the RPI campus.
1912 Upon completion of the new Pittsburgh Building, the library is moved into several rooms dedicated to book stacks. A designated reading room was probably more of a faculty lounge.
1928 Collections continue to increase, and library materials are once again moved further up the hill into Amos Eaton Hall, a new building designed with both an auditorium seating for 1400 and library space for 160,000 volumes and 240 readers.
1931 The Greene Building is completed to house the School of Architecture offices, classrooms, and studios. Library architecture materials are also relocated from Amos Eaton to the 3rd Floor of Greene where they continue to reside.
1953 As Amos Eaton Hall nears its library stack capacity, a campus study group proposes that a dedicated library facility be constructed between student housing and the academic campus. The plan is not implemented, and the recommended location ultimately is used for Rensselaer Union.
1956 The Batcheller Library is established to house the Historical Library and Museum of Science and Technology in a building in Menands, NY. The books and manuscripts are later incorporated into the Special Collections Department of the main library.
1960 After purchasing St. Joseph's Seminary (formerly Troy University) and Chapel in 1958, the Chapel is renovated to house the main library and to provide a space for an “experimental classroom facility” - concepts later incorporated into the Darrin Communication Center.
1967 The “Green Report,” authored by a faculty group, recommends construction of a separate library building. Its specifications served as the model for the Folsom Library nine years later.
1968 The Library joins the Ohio-based OCLC consortium to share cataloging data. This association continues today with its most notable resource, World Cat, a database containing more than100 million records from 60,000 libraries world-wide. Locally, the library uses IBM punch cards to create title, call number and subject printouts of journal holdings. The “printouts” are distributed to academic many departments.
1970 Under the auspices of the “Committee for a Fine New Library,” 1200 students and faculty forcefully advocate for a new library and expanded collections. They demonstrate in front of the Pittsburgh Building as well as march through the Library Chapel. After much debate, President Folsom agrees to construct a new building on the site of the former seminary located next to the chapel. Prof. Stephen E. Wiberley, Vice Provost, is appointed as “Acting Librarian.”
1971 The libraries’ first book order tracking and accounting system implemented using PL/1 language. A computer generated listing of new books augments card catalog.
1972 Ground is broken for the Folsom Library
1976 Construction of the new building is completed, and the Richard Gilman Folsom Library is dedicated on May 15.
1978 The Folsom Library becomes an Auxiliary Storage Facility for the Troy Public Library, ta designated Depository Library for U.S. government documents in Rensselaer County. The agreement expands the availability of technical publications at RPI and in the region.
1980 The large tapestry, “Landforms West” by Lisa Cook, is dedicated. The Library establishes a “Quick Copy Center” for the campus. The center closes in 1998 after the advent of high speed network printing. First Issue of Friends of Library newsletter published; and
1982 The Libraries’ first online catalog, called Infotrac, released to campus. Developed by a library automation group, the system is accessible over the campus’ mainframe network.
1985 The Libraries’ add their first class reserve system, Homework, to Infotrac. The system lists course materials submitted by faculty enabling students to find out exactly when class notes and homework answers are available for use at the Library.
1987 First campus public computing lab with IBM XT PCs set in up in library although the equipment is not network capable.
1988 An automated circulation system integrated with the online catalog provides users with real time status of the availability of books. All library notices to borrowers sent by email -- this feature annoys some users who claim to prefer paper notifications.
1989 Online request services initiated enabling researchers to order photocopies, renew book loans and submit interlibrary loan requests.
1990 Current Contents, the library’s first research database, provides campus researchers with access to journal citations and abstracts from their offices. Library computer lab added to campus network.
1993 Folsom claims to be first library in North America to deploy a web-based application to display scanned faculty lecture notes for Class Reserves. The library also starts using ARIEL, a software application integrating scanning and transmitting copies of documents between libraries for interlibrary loan service.
1997 Library makes the strategic decision to favor electronic journals over print versions. Faculty and graduate students provided with personal spending accounts with a document supplier to augment interlibrary loan service.
1999 RensSearch, the libraries’ main webpage, includes a web-based catalog developed by Innovative Technologies as the campus retires its mainframe systems.
2000 A web-based interlibrary request system, ILLiad, installed enabling researchers both to request materials and to receive electronic copies of journal articles.
2002 ConnectNY, a group of private New York college and university libraries, create a common catalog and enable students and faculty to request books directly from each other ’s collection and delivered via a rapid courier service.
2005 Second floor of Folsom fully renovated and an enlarged Library Café opens.
2006 Electronic submission of doctoral dissertations inaugurated in collaboration with Office of Graduate Education.
2007 Center for Communication Practices, formerly The Writing Center, relocated to Folsom.
2008 Rensselaer Digital Collections, the public component of a digital content management system, released to campus.
2009 The Libraries' join the RapidILL Consortium to provide document delivery within 24 hours for most journal article requests.

Created by Irving Stephens

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