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Louisiana State University

LSU Libraries to celebrate Middleton Library’s 50th anniversary

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The year 1958 was significant for LSU. Not only did the Tiger football team capture its first national championship, but the university also opened a new, $3.5 million library.

LSU Libraries will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of the Troy H. Middleton Memorial Library on Friday, Oct. 23, at 2 p.m. at the library. The event is free and open to the public.

During the celebration, a reception will be held in the library’s lobby. Also, several units in the building and next door at Hill Memorial Library will have special exhibits demonstrating the changes in library services over the last 50 years. These include the library’s construction; changes in library technology; best books lists; government publications; books from the late 1950s; controversial books; and information on former LSU President Troy H. Middleton, a three-star general and veteran of World Wars I and II whose efforts helped make the new library a reality. The library was named in honor of Middleton after his death in 1979.

After opening on Sept. 11, 1958, the library quickly became one of the most popular places on campus. After 10 days, nearly 5,000 students a day were visiting and one in every 10 was checking out some of the 600,000 available books. The formal dedication of the new library took place Oct. 23, 1959 as the first event of LSU’s Centennial year.

When the present campus opened in 1926, the main library was Hill Memorial Library, which is now the home of LSU Libraries’ Special Collections. The library had seats for only 375 students, while the projected student population was 3,000. However, LSU’s enrollment grew quickly, especially after World War II. By 1947, enrollment was at 10,000 students. Hill Memorial Library had over-reached capacity for students and materials; 200,000 volumes made up the collections but Hill could hold only 65,000.

At the time it was built, Middleton Library had seats for 5,000 students, and more than 22 miles of shelving for one million volumes. It had air conditioning, excellent lighting, large windows, and a modern modular system allowing wall partitions and stacks to be constructed and moved as needed. This feature has made it possible to meet the changing needs within the library over time.

On the first floor of Middleton Library, where long wooden study tables and thousands of books once held prominence, there are now more than 120 computers for student use. More computer labs with another 150 computers occupy the second floor. Also on the first floor are computers with special accommodations for disabled students, a visualization learning center, a faculty technology support center and a coffee shop. Computers access the modern electronic journal databases and students can check out laptops as well as books at the library’s circulation desk.

The combined resources in Hill Memorial and Middleton libraries offer researchers strong support for instruction and research through collections containing almost 3 million volumes and a manuscript collection of more than 12 million items.

LSU Libraries' U.S. Regional Depository Library collection, the United Nations documents collection and the U.S. Patent Depository Library collection are housed in the Library. LSU has been a depository for publications of the federal government since 1907 and has a substantial portion of the nation’s documents issued before and after that time. In 1964, LSU Libraries became a Regional Depository Library.

In 1981, the library was designated an official depository for U.S. Patents. The patent collection includes all patents issued from 1871 to the present. That department of the library also has an extensive collection of scientific and technical reports from the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Technical Information Service.

The Rare Book Collection is wide ranging and eclectic in nature, with concentrations in 18th century English literature and history; book arts and the history of the book; New World exploration and travel; economic history and science fiction and fantasy.

The E.A. McIlhenny Natural History Collection was donated to the LSU Libraries in 1971, in memory of Edward Avery McIlhenny of Tabasco fame, whose private library forms the core of the collection. Rich in ornithological and botanical art, it is an exceptional resource for researchers in the history of those fields. High points in this collection include the James Audubon's double-elephant folio Birds of America, and the “Native Flora of Louisiana” collection of original watercolor drawings by internationally renowned botanical artist Margaret Stones.

For those who cannot attend the reception or view the numerous exhibits, a Web site has been created that features fun activities related to the celebration. These include a crossword puzzle, a virtual scavenger hunt and a list of best books since 1959. The site can be accessed at

For more information on the event, contact Assistant Dean of Libraries Nancy Colyar at 225-578-3215 or

For more information on LSU Libraries, visit

Aaron Looney | Editor | Office of Communications & University Relations
October 2009