Memories of Coates Hall

May 11, 2023

BATON ROUGE - This year, the School of Information Studies (SIS) is celebrating two important milestones. The 2022-2023 academic year marks the 90th anniversary of the School’s ALA accreditation and the 40th anniversary of the School’s move to Charles E. Coates Hall on LSU’s campus. While SIS prepares to move to George Peabody Hall in 2023, it looks back at its long history at Louisiana State University. In May 2022, the School hosted a virtual gathering of past Deans and Directors to reminisce about their time in Coates Hall. The video provides some highlights from this conversation.

While the School was originally located in what is now the Hill Memorial Library, it moved to the newly constructed LSU Library in September 1958. SIS moved to the second floor of Charles E. Coates Hall in 1983. There were administrative and faculty offices; computer, cataloging, and reference labs; a student lounge; and a library of approximately 30,000 volumes comprising a professional collection in the fields of library science, information science, bibliography, and related subjects. At that time, it was still common for schools of library science to have their own libraries.

The cataloging lab included multiple print copies of the Library of Congress and Sears subject headings. The computer lab included both MACs and PCs, which used floppy disks. A staff member worked within the computer lab to answer student questions and resolve IT issues. Over the next decade, faculty and staff in the School were provided with personal computers. The School shared the second floor of Coates Hall with the Computer Science department, which led to a close collaboration between the departments. The Council of Library Resources provided funding for a joint degree program between SIS and Computer Science in which students earned both degrees. 

In the 1990s, SIS had the opportunity to work with the LSU Law Enforcement Online (LEO) project and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to create an electronic database that would provide information to law enforcement officers. As part of this project, Beth Paskoff, PhD and Carol Barry, PhD were able to spend an educational and exciting weekend at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. 

From 1994 through 1999, SIS received funding from the USIA Edmond S. Muskie & Freedom Support Act Graduate Fellowship Program. The funding provided support for students from the former Soviet Union to come to Baton Rouge and complete their master’s degree in Library & Information Science. 

In the 1980s and 1990s, faculty, staff, and students participated in various social activities. SIS had a Mardi Gras krewe and participated in the Spanish Town Parade in the 1980s. Students dressed as their favorite book characters and worked with faculty and staff to create a float. They made their own doubloons and used second-hand beads. One year the SIS Krewe won the “worst flunked” award. The Krewe dressed up as Barbara Bush, the first lady known for her literacy program, for one Spanish Town parade. 

Former faculty and staff also remember the annual banquet fondly. This SIS event brought alumni, donors, and current students together. During the incoming students, scholarship recipients, and new graduates would be honored. Dr. Paskoff recalls that she especially enjoyed another event - orientation. She stated, “I loved meeting the students we had only heard about on paper; I loved hearing them talk about their dreams and aspirations, and their fears and challenges.” Faculty would relate their experiences to their students' experiences, making them feel more comfortable as they joined the program.

Another memorable event was the end of semester “Faculty versus Students” Trivial Pursuit Challenge. As Dr. Barry recalls, “I’m not sure the faculty ever won the challenge, but it was a wonderful afternoon of laughter and fun with our students. And that was what counted.” 

The School of Information Studies would like to hear from you! If you have a memory from Coates Hall, either a story or photographs, please share them with us by email. We will highlight stories from Coates Hall in our next issue of Memex.

About SIS

The LSU School Information Studies (SIS) provides a 100% online prestigious education in library & information science. It is the home of the Master of Library & Information Science, which is the only program accredited by the American Library Association in the state of Louisiana. SIS also offers a dual degree with the Department of History, an undergraduate minor, and three graduate certificate options. SIS is a member of the iSchools, a group of Information Schools dedicated to advancing the information field. SIS is part of the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education.

Visit the School of Information Studies website.

About CHSE

The College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) is a nationally accredited division of Louisiana State University. The college is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Information Studies, the School of Kinesiology the School of Leadership & Human Resource Development, the School of Social Work, and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer 8 undergraduate degree programs, 18 graduate programs, and 7 online graduate degree and/or certificate programs, enrolling more than 1,900 undergraduate and 1,120 graduate students. The College is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research, and service and is committed to improving quality of life across the lifespan.

Visit the College of Human Sciences & Education website.