Alumni Outlook Magazine

Looking Back



The library has served as campus social center, “dating bureau,” and now, high-tech hub. On April 16, the UW-Stout library kicked off its yearlong centennial celebration with the theme, “Celebrating the Past…
Embracing the Future.”

One of the first things Sen. James Huff Stout did following the creation of the Stout Institute in 1908—prior to this the institution had been part of the Menomonie School System—was to start a library. That same year, he hired Grace R. Darling, a recent graduate of the Wisconsin Library School in Madison, to catalog the books that had been floating around campus.

The 600-book library was housed in the Yellow Lodge, located at what had been the corner of Wilson Avenue and Second Street, which also housed the school’s administrative offices. In addition to cataloging books, Darling later reported that she had to search other offices to find enough furniture for students and staff to use while visiting the library. It was from these humble beginnings that the library was born.


Through the years, the library has been housed in many locations. In 1914 it was moved to the Gymnasium-Natatorium Building. Two years later, when the Home Economics Building (now Harvey Hall) was constructed, it moved into the building that would be its home for the longest period of time. In 1954, the first building designed to be only a library (now the Vocational Rehabilitation building) was dedicated. Many UW-Stout alumni remember this occasion because the school closed for a day (M-Day) so students could help move books from Harvey Hall to the new building. The library’s current home  was opened in 1982.

For many years the library was considered the “heart of the institution.” It was certainly the major source for information on campus, and it provided a quiet place to study. It was also where many hearts were won.  Much to the chagrin of quiet-advocating librarians, it was the main social and dating center for students. In fact, one of its nicknames was the “dating bureau.” Despite the creation of a student center on campus, the  conflict between having a quiet place to study and a place to meet others has yet to be completely resolved.

During its first century, the library has faced some challenges. Within a year after it was created, many of its books were no longer pertinent to the school when the programs they were intended for, such as kindergarten, were eliminated. Finding books for accreditation in UW-Stout’s specialized programs has often been a challenge in curriculum development, and a lack of money has limited the number of hours the building stays open. Librarians also have had to address censorship, whether it takes the form of McCarthyism or simply parents wanting staff to monitor the Web-viewing habits of their children.

Changes in technology have created opportunities at the library. In 1965, the library began offering photocopying services for students at a cost of 15 cents per page, which revolutionized how students could take notes. Less than nine years later, the library acquired its first computer and, before the passing of another decade, the library catalog had been digitized.

Many people had predicted that the advent of computers and the Internet would mean disaster for libraries, but this has not been true. The new technology has changed the traditional role of many librarians, but it has actually opened the door for new opportunities for library personnel to serve students and staff.

It used to be that a good book could be checked out up to 20 times a year but now, the electronic databases can see tens of thousands of searches each month. Technology also brings resources to the library that simply were not available to the UW-Stout community as

little as a decade ago. Librarians have become, in effect, information-access instructors who work to find ways to use these databases and the Internet. Cooperative efforts between the UW System and other libraries have multiplied the number of resources available to the UW-Stout community. In addition,  the library is creating its own Web databases, highlighting materials that are unique to this institution. These databases are being used daily  from people as far away as Japan, Australia and Scandinavia.

The role of the library and librarians in the coming century should be just as important and exciting as it has been in the past.

For more information, pictures and a video on the library’s centennial, please visit

TOP LEFT: In 1954, the students received a break from class to help move the books to the new library. MIDDEL LEFT: The checkout process has become more automated over the years. ABOVE RIGHT: The way students have studied in the library has changed with the advent of different technologies.