Before Seymour

A post-Civil War yearbook, the 1869/70 Pantheon, describes the campus library situation this way: "Both [literary society libraries] have been gathered with the greatest care, and are composed of standard and popular works such as are always in demand. They are open to all departments of the Institution under proper regulations. These libraries are more extensively patronized than any others in the City, and the Societies are at great expense to keep the latest standard publications upon their shelves, and to repair the injuries resulting from the constant use of their books." The Adelphi Library is reported to have 1500 volumes, Gnothautii 1200.

Knox’s 1870/71 yearbook included a glowing account of "The College Reading Room" and its dozens of current newspaper and periodical subscriptions. The room appears to have been independent of the library itself. But Knox grad Thomas Frost caustically wrote of it in Tales from the Siwash Campus, his 1938 memoir of life at Knox in the early 1880s, "location unknown then and never discovered afterwards."

The three libraries which students were able to find soon had company: a student Society for Religious Inquiry formed a Library Committee shortly after the Civil War. A broadside circulated by the committee in April of 1868 reported that it had collected 150 volumes--all of a "distinctly missionary" nature--and arranged them "in a little room well situated for the purpose of circulating these, and leading missionary periodicals." The broadside, issued with the written endorsement of the faculty of the College, appealed for public support of the library, in order to "give to some of us who have the missionary work in view, the means for a more thorough preparation." At least one response to this appeal came from very close to home: Knox professor of moral philosophy Willis Beecher gave 301 books to the Society. A religious library of some sort survived on campus well into the 20th century.

A Page from Finley's 1887 Catalog of Books Meanwhile, across the street at the Female Seminary in Whiting Hall, the women of Knox took advantage of several libraries available to them. Though there are records of loans to women in the circulation ledgers of the Adelphi and Gnothautii libraries, Knox women may well have been uncomfortable using the libraries of those all-male societies during the period of stricter gender segregation before the Civil War. A substantial list of books has been handed down to us which identifies on a single page "Books sent to Whiting Hall from Dr. Standish’s House." Whiting Hall served as the female equivalent of the male domain represented by the College itself in Old Main. As such it almost certainly had its own library for so long as women students were confined to Whiting Hall in the later evening hours by restrictive curfews. When the first permanent home for the Galesburg Public Library was built on a lot adjoining Whiting Hall at the turn of the century, it became the library of choice for many Knox women.

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