September 17, 1999

Watson Library at 75

Exhibits, events mark building's diamond jubilee

By Bunny Smith

From its perch atop Mount Oread, KU's Watson Library has beckoned students, faculty and staff since 1924. On Oct. 2, the library's doors will open wide for a public celebration to remember the past and glimpse the future.

The open house, which will begin at 10 a.m. and continue until kickoff of the KU-SMU football homecoming game, has been planned to gather both current and former library employees. All activities are open to the public.

The library's main entrance steps will be the setting for a 10:30 a.m. program featuring remarks by Chancellor Robert Hemenway and Keith Russell, KU's new dean of libraries.

Victor Contoski, professor of English, will read his poem, "The Old Book." Specially printed copies of Contoski's poem will be distributed.

KU Friends of the Library will have a membership sign-up table, and library staff members will be on hand to answer questions about the building and to demonstrate the library's new online search technology.

The celebration mirrors an open house held on another Homecoming Day, Oct. 24, 1924, just weeks after the building was completed. Carrie Watson - KU's first professional librarian, after whom the building was named - was honored by Coach Phog Allen at halftime. On Oct. 2, a pregame ceremony will mark the library's diamond jubilee.

A Kansas Collection exhibit titled "Carrie Watson: KU Library Pioneer" and a University Archives exhibit titled "Watson Library: A History of the Building" are on view at Spencer Research Library. A third exhibit, "Watson Library at 75: Remembering the Past/Glimpsing the Future," is at Watson Library.

Throughout its 75 years, Watson Library has undergone a number of physical changes to the original English Collegiate Gothic structure, including major additions to the west in 1941, to the southeast in 1950 and to the east in 1962. In 1981-82, the interior was totally renovated, and the main entranceway and ramp were redeveloped.

Additional information about the open house and about KU libraries may be found at

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