The Early Years (1967-1979)

The Heart of the Campus: A History of the Harper College Library

The Early YearsInformation AgeKnown and UsedAcademic SupportNotable Librarians

Elk Grove High School
A view of the interior of Elk Grove High School in 1967. Notice how the library was only given two rooms (areas in the red circle).
When the library first opened its doors, it was given 2,600 square feet of space, consisting of one room at the Elk Grove High School campus (which held fifty students), and an additional room in a barn located on the Harper property. Meanwhile, many of the library's collections (reference materials, magazines, and books) were held at Forest View High School and had to be sent to the Harper campus for cataloging before arriving at Elk Grove High School.1

In the architectural plans, The library was placed in the center of the campus, a symbolic gesture which was intended to make the library "the focal point and the educational media distribution center for the entire campus.”2
As the library's collections grew larger, the limited space available at Elk Grove and Forest View High Schools became inadequate. Once plans got underway to build a permanent campus for the college, the librarians believed it was important for them to participate in the planning of the new library facility. What came out of these meetings was a brand new building, with a total of 102,000 square feet of space, of which 68,000 was available to the library.

Construction photos of F Building from 1967-1969

The original three Harper librarians: (Left to right) Marshall Fisher, head librarian Ambrose Easterling, and Robert Theida. This picture was taken either in 1968 or 1969.
Starting out with a collection of approximately 7,000 books and 150 periodicals, the library began to expand its holdings over the following decade. Area residents donated books and other bound materials, while faculty members contributed their ideas about what materials should be in the collection, while the librarians were guided by "Opening Day Collection", a publication put out by the American Association of Junior Colleges.3

While being interviewed for the college's 25th anniversary, Ambrose Easterling recalled a conversation he had with one of the faculty about acquisitions:

"George Makas, who was one of the original ... faculty, came in to look over the library books bought using the Opening Day list. His comment: 'This is a fine collection of music books, but not the ones I would use to teach my music classes.' Our response: 'George, you tell us what books you need ... and those are the books we will buy.' That was the library's active and continuing acquisition philosophy ..."4.

If materials couldn’t be purchased by the library, an experimental consortium called Infopass (developed in 1973) ensured that Harper students would be able to borrow resources from members of the Illinois Regional Library Council.
By the end of the 1971-1972 academic year, the library’s collections grew to over 74,000 items.5 To promote their resources, librarians made presentations during faculty orientations, held workshops to familiarize faculty with the library's collections, and worked closely with teachers to ensure library research was a requirement for students to complete their academic assignments. In fact, the library's outreach efforts were so effective that a survey conducted in 1972 showed that over 40 faculty members believed they couldn't teach properly without the assistance of the library.6

Students working and studying in the library on various dates
December 19, 1968December 5, 1969March 3, 1970March 16, 1971
August 25, 1970
February 22, 1971

Although the library was beginning to grow in its new home, there were still areas that needed improvement. The biggest need was making the library an inviting and accessible place for students. A questionnaire developed by the library in 1972, showed that while student were generally happy with the library’s services, 68% saw its primary purpose as a place for them to study.7 A follow up questionnaire in 1977 reinforced these findings, recommending that the library acquire 10,000 additional square feet of space for this purpose. Specifically, room should be made for disabled students, including the installation of a Kurzweil (brail) reader, which could scan books and read the text to students. Additionally, the library needed more natural lighting, space for individual students or groups to study or work on assignments, and lounge chairs for leisurely reading.

As the library entered the new decade, its staff members were proud of the advances they’d made towards building the library’s collections and establishing a positive reputation across the campus. But they also knew they could do better, and make the library an anchor, not just for Harper College, but for the northwest suburbs as well.