Learn about the history of the libraries at the University of Windsor across the years.
- A Brief history of early libraries at Assumption College, written by Katharine Ball
- Planning, Essex College, and building the 1957 library, collocated by Jennifer Soutter
- The University of Windsor era, collocated by Jennifer Soutter
- Archives and Special Collections at Leddy Library: A History, written by Sarah Glassford
A Brief History Of Early Libraries At Assumption College
By Katharine Ball
When the east-west wing of Assumption College was completed in 1875/1876, a great deal of space was freed up in the old Assumption College building (built 1856). A library, probably the first, was established on its ground floor. However, because the College was so poor, the library contained no books and the space was described as bleak and empty. “The only reading possible was that of the weekly papers the boys received from home. True, there were two long tables with benches on each side of them for the convenience of readers or such as wished to play a game of checkers, dominoes or chess.” (Echoes, v.7, p. 56) The Library was also used by College groups. For example, the Glee Club, under Father Cote, was practicing in the Library in Autumn 1889.
In 1890, a new Library was set up in a large room off the “main corridor”, likely off the north-south oriented wing of Assumption College (completed 1884). “The College authorities thought that something should be done towards affording the student body with some opportunity for extraneous reading of a Catholic kind, together with some of the classical English authors. Several of the priests, who had libraries of their own, contributed. A hundred volumes or a little more were presented and the library of Assumption was inaugurated with great gusto.” (Echoes, v. 7, p. 56-57). Over the next 25 years, it seems that the Library moved 2 more times within the same wing, mainly to accommodate the growing number of students. The last room was “fitted up with reading tables, chairs, settees, and there were curtains on the windows. Weekly periodicals as well as the daily papers were added”. (Echoes, v. 7, p. 58). In 1903, the Alumni Association was founded at an informal meeting in the “old students’ library” (Golden Jubilee, p. 113)
In 1915, St. Michael’s Hall was completed and the student library was re-located to its first floor. It was apparently very comfortable, and well furnished, with a good selection of fiction. There were even fines for overdue materials. It seems that this library only opened sporadically. It was also the meeting place for College organizations such as the Foreign Missions Society and St. Paul’s Dramatic Society. As well, it was the location of student debates. (Weekly Assumption Collegian 1921-1922: numerous references).
In 1927, the Dillon Hall building was completed. It was originally called the Classroom Building or the Arts Building. It was not until 1957 that it was renamed in honour of the Basilian priest, Daniel Dillon, president of Assumption College from 1922-1928 and 1931-1932. It contained classrooms and labs as well as a brand new library. This library was intended for College level students only. It was located on the 2nd floor, at the northwest end of the building. Along with an eventual overflow room in the basement, it served as the Assumption College/Assumption University Library until 1958. In Autumn 1929, the high school level library was moved back to a room off the main corridor of Assumption College (which wing is unclear).
- Dionysian: Year Book of Assumption College. Assumption College, 1915. Online at http://scholar.uwindsor.ca/swodawindsorpub/4
- Echoes of Assumption College by Father Charles Collins; In: Notes on the History of the Congregation of Priests of Saint Basil collected by Robert Joseph Scholard: volume 7, pages 16-86. Online at https://archive.org/details/historicalnotesc07scoluoft
- Golden Jubilee, Assumption College, 1970-1920. Assumption College, 1920. Online at http://scholar.uwindsor.ca/swodawindsorpub/3
- Weekly Assumption Collegian 1921-1922. Assumption College, 1921-1922. Online at: http://scholar.uwindsor.ca/assumption-collegian/
Planning, Essex College, and building the 1958 library
By Jennifer Soutter
In 1952, “…Father Francis Ruth…turned his talents to the planning for a new Library [and] the renovations of Dillon Hall (McMahon, 1997: 32).” The next year, in early 1953 or 1954 it was announced “that the University of Windsor should be prepared by 1960 to look after some 3,000 students. It was on the basis of this prediction that the University Centre and...the Library [now the West Building], were planned (McMahon, 1997: 41).”
“In 1956, a building fund campaign was initiated by Father LeBel and Father Mulvihill to help Assumption University finance a heating plant, a library and a student centre (DeMarco, 2015: 26).” “While fundraising for Assumption University was very impressive, not enough was raised to finance the full building program (DeMarco, 2015: 26).” “It accomplished only about half of this objective (McMahon, 1997: 40).”
“Essex College was established in July 1954…(p. 9)” “as an independent college…to provide access to provincial grants (McMahon, 2013: 9),” as the College was non-denominational and thus eligible (McMahon, 2013a: 149-190). Thus the College "was able, through its provincial funding, to construct the University library (DeMarco, 2015: 26).” According to DeMarco, the “library is as essential to Essex College as it is to the rest of the University…” (McMahon, 2013a: 356).
“On March 4, 1957, the Board was informed the government had made a capital grant of $1,000,000” (or $1,050,000 according to McMahon, 2013a: 352) for the construction of the Library (ibid: 358).” “The province provided funding only for the library (McMahon, 2013: 11)” but did contribute “the whole cost of the library …” (McMahon, 2013a: 357). Essex College would receive the grant along with “$150,000 for operating costs (McMahon, 2013: 11).”
“Essex would obtain title to the building; the administration of the building would be controlled by a university library board; the university would equip the building and provide all university books except those for the sciences, nursing, business and engineering which would be the responsibility of Essex; the property on which the library would be built would be leased to Essex College by the Basilian Fathers of Sandwich for 99 years at a nominal yearly rental (McMahon, 2013a: 357).”
“Woodall Construction was granted the contract (McMahon, 2013: 11)” and under the direction of the Building Committee the library (postcard, illustration, ) “…came in at $135,000 under budget and on time” (McMahon, 2013a: 358).” “It was one of Windsor’s finest modern buildings, designed by Windsor architects, Pennington & Carter (DeMarco, 2015: 26).” Assumption University of Windsor's 1958 floor plan and Pennington & Carter's 1957 architectural drawings for the library are available for viewing through the Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive.
And so “after three years of planning and a year of construction… (The Purple, 1958: 1)” the “library opened on Sept 11, 1958 as part of the Fall Convocation ceremonies.” (McMahon, 2013a: 358; McMahon, 2013: 11).” “Sir Philip Robert Morris, C.B.E., M.A., L.L.D., vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol, England,” after receiving his honorary Doctor of Laws and addressed Convocation, “officially opened the Library and later planted a white pine sapling… (The Purple, 1958: 1).” A message from Father Le Bel dated September 11, 1958 on the opening of the Library indicates “we have but $60,000 volumes…[and] room for a selective collection of 350,000 volumes (McMahon, 2013a: 221).” An 11-page pamphlet on the new library is available through SWODA.
The University of Windsor era
By Jennifer Soutter
“When the University of Windsor began operations on July 1, 1963” …” Essex College ceased to exist as a corporate entity and its assets were taken over by the University of Windsor (McMahon, 1997: 60).” This included the 1957 library building and its contents.
A decision was made at some point to add an extension to the library. It may have driven by the fact that the predicted enrollment for Assumption in 1970 was 5,500 students as opposed to 1,425 students in 1962. The building was designed by the firm Bland, Lemoyne, Shine, Lacroix Architects and built through 1970-71 (Photo1, Photo2). In 1972 the building won the Design Canada Award of Excellence for the Library Extension's use of masonry. This extension is now called the Main Building of the Library, and the 1957 original library, is called the West Building. These are connected by a two-story walkway.
The two building complex "would not be named the Leddy Library, in honour of Dr. J.F. Leddy, the University President, until 1977. (Wolfe, 2013: 113).” McMahon (2013: 11) corroborates this information.
- DeMarco, Christina. Frank DeMarco and the founding of the University of Windsor. Blurb.com. 2015.
- McMahon, George A., Sr. (ed). From Assumption College to the University of Windsor: The Dean’s story Reverend Norbert J. Ruth, C.S.B. 1952-1971. Windsor, ON: Assumption University. 1997.
- McMahon, George A., Sr. “Dr. F.A. DeMarco and Essex College.” In Back in the Day – 1963-2013: The University of Windsor as we knew it. Windsor, ON: Black Moss Press. 2013, pp. 8-14.
- 2013a: McMahon, George A., Sr. Rev. E.C. LeBel C.S.B and the creation of the University of Windsor: 1946-64. Dallas, TX: J.M. LeBel Publishers, 2013.
- Photos. Southwestern Ontario Digital Archive (SWODA). Various dates.
- The Purple and the White, September 23, 1958, Vol. XXXI (1), p. 1.
- Wolfe, Martha K. “I remember the library” In Back in the Day – 1963-2013: The University of Windsor as we knew it. Windsor, ON: Black Moss Press. 2013, pp. 113-116.
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