The Gilman Library turns 105!

The first library space in Carey Hall was dedicated February 24, 1911. Gilman Archivist Steve Ammidown tells us the story.

The building we now know as Carey Hall opened its doors to students in September of 1910, but it was still under construction. One space that was not available that first day was the library. It was the following February before the library was filled with books and ready for the boys.

Gilman Memorial Library, 1911

Gilman memorial Library as it appeared in 1911, shortly after opening.

On February 24, 1911, a small ceremony was held to dedicate the library in the name of Daniel Coit Gilman, after whom the school had been renamed just a few months prior. The funds and many of the books for the library were provided by Dr. Gilman’s daughter, Elisabeth.  The gift was especially appropriate given that one of Dr. Gilman’s first positions in academia was as librarian of Yale College. In his remarks at the opening, trustee Dr. William S. Thayer said:

“And now, boys, we enter into possession of this library which is a fitting memorial of him whose wisdom and foresight guided the founders of this school, whose kindly and generous counsel upheld the trustees and masters in its early days, whose noble life will ever be an inspiration to those who enter these halls.”

The library remained mostly unchanged for decades. Librarian was an additional role assigned to a member of the faculty, and the resources were accessible to the boys 24 hours, 7 days a week during the school year. It wasn’t until 1948 that a full-time librarian was hired by the school.

Gilman memorial Library Extension, 1965

An annex to the Gilman Memorial Library was built in 1965 to accommodate more volumes and study space.

In 1965, as the information needs of the student body began to change, so did the library. An annex was added to the Gilman Memorial Library in the unused space behind the fireplace, adding study space and room for more books and periodicals.  The annex held two levels of book stacks to make maximum use of space.

It was just seven years later that the next major change to the library would take place. An addition was built on the back of what was then the Fisher Memorial Dining Hall, creating space for a new dining hall, language labs, and a significantly larger Upper School library.

Fisher Room Library Undated 009

The library moved into the converted Fisher Memorial Dining Hall in 1972. Doors replaced windows at the rear of the hall to allow access to the new annex.

On February 21, 1972, students moved all of the books out of the Gilman Memorial Library and into the new space. The original library space was converted into a meeting room, and the original annex became a classroom.

In 2006, Carey Hall underwent a major renovation, which meant more changes for the library. The addition to the Fisher Room was removed and the stained glass windows were returned to their place at the rear of the hall. The hallway leading from the Common Room to the Fisher Room was converted into stacks and study rooms, and reference desk was moved to the opposite end of the space.

As the library has evolved, online access to databases and ebooks have become as important as print resources, and students can now access most library resources from anywhere. Despite this shift the study areas are as busy as ever proving that at Gilman, the library is still a source of inspiration even 105 years later.

Upper School Library today

The Upper School Library today. Fisher Memorial Reading Room is at the end of the hall.


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