A Brief History of the Library

originally written by Marcia Lynn Cooke, revised by Hector J. Maymi-Sugranes (5/95), and Julie Soeldner (6/96)

Send corrections or additions to astrolib@madraf.astro.wisc.edu.

In 1881 the Astronomical Library was established in the office of the director of the newly constructed Washburn Observatory (see image 1 and image 2). Cyrus Woodman (see a drawing of Cyrus) became the library's benefactor in 1883, when he established a trust fund of which half its income would be used to purchase library materials while the other half reverted into principle. This trust allowed the library to exist for many years in anonymity on top of the hill.

The 1950s brought change to the small library. The small budget restricted both the acquisitions of the library and the hiring of professional staff. In 1959 the library moved, along with the astronomy department, to Sterling Hall, where it remains today. During the 1960s, changes continued, including talks of remodeling, and the hiring of a a professional to be in charge of the library.

The 1970s brought the turbulence of the Vietnam conflict to the library when on August 24, 1970, Sterling Hall was bombed. The library stood open to the outside elements for four days, while the FBI allowed no one to enter. After clearance, librarian Pat Molholt spent many hours wearing thick rubber gloves and a large protective apron, shaking glass out of the book collection. Part of the card catalog was never found. In the reconstruction, the library was enlarged to its present size.

Mary Jane Kayes took over for Pat in 1974, and in January 1980, Marcia Lynn Cooke assumed control. More recent librarians include Diane Poplawsky (1985-1988), Joy Scime (1988-1991), Pam O'Hara (1991-1993), David Wuolu (1993-1994), Hector J. Maymi-Sugranes (1994-1996), Julie Soeldner (1996 interim) and Nicholas Goetzfridt (1996-) During Wuolu's tenure, the library's "card catalog" was retired, serials check-in procedures were automated, the library's WWW site was established and electronic library terminals were made available for the public.

The Library holds a rather interesting position on campus since it is a "library of record" and a special campus library at the same time. Because it is a library of record, its books are catalogued along with those of the main library's branches, and the holdings are recorded on the campus Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) called MadCat. However, despite these similarities, funding and purchasing are different from the other branches, and more like the other special campus libraries.

While the majority of library users are connected with the astronomy department, the Astronomy library serves the astronomical resource needs of the campus at large. Additionally, being open to the public, the library is a resource for the entire state of Wisconsin.

In addition to a large collection of astronomy books and subscriptions to over forty journals, the library maintains a large collection of observatory publications and other non-commercial publications. Find out more about current information services.

revised by David Wuolu (4/94) and N. Goetzfridt (9/96).

Return to UW Astronomy Department Home Page

Return to Woodman Library Home Page