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San Diego State University Library (1898-) | Special Collections & University Archives

Name: San Diego State University Library (1898-)

Historical Note:

Founded March 13, 1897, San Diego State University began as the San Diego Normal School, a training facility for elementary school teachers.  A Board of Trustees appointed by the governor held its first meeting on June 3, 1897 to choose a location for the school.  A site on Park and El Cajon Boulevards was chosen by the Board which then turned its attention to the construction of the school and the selection of a president.  In September of 1898 the Board chose Samuel Black as the new president of the San Diego Normal School.

During his tenure, Black assembled a faculty with degrees from well known universities to teach a variety of courses including English, mathematics, drawing, history and geography, physiology, sociology, education, biological sciences, physical training, manual training, and household arts.  Student enrollment increased from 91 on opening day to nearly 400 the year Black retired.  Black served as president from 1898 to 1910.

Edward L. Hardy was appointed by the Board of Trustees to replace Black as school president in 1910.  From 1910 to 1935, President Hardy headed a vigorous administration that oversaw major changes to the fledgling institution.  He hired additional faculty during his first two years in office bringing the total number of faculty to 27 in 1912; many of the new faculty had prior experience working in either public schools or other normal schools across the country.  W. F. Bliss served as Vice President under President Hardy until 1921.  Student organizations which were established during the school's first year continued to thrive under Hardy's administration. Student groups held dances, picnics, plays, carnivals, and other activities.  An Associated Students organization was established in 1922 to help organize student groups and activities.  By the end of the 1920s, fraternities and sororities had been established as well as intercollegiate sports, thus creating a real sense of collegiate life.

In 1921, the Normal School became San Diego State Teachers College, a four-year public institution controlled by the State Board of Education.  In that same year, the two-year San Diego Junior College, forerunner of today’s local community colleges, became a branch of San Diego State, creating a union that lasted until 1947.

By the 1920s, San Diego State was already beginning to outgrow its Park Boulevard location. After years of debate, a site was chosen on Mission Palisades in Mission Valley.  A committee was established and architects were hired to design the new campus buildings.  Ground was broken on October 7, 1929 with major construction expected to be completed in about 250 days. The buildings were finished by September of 1930 and, despite the fact that there was no money left for landscaping, San Diego State moved onto its new campus.  Classes began in February of 1931 on the newly completed Montezuma Mesa.

The library was considered the heart of the new campus after the college's move to Montezuma Mesa. Librarian John Paul Stone was hired in 1930 to help improve the college library.  That same year the library acquired the published catalog of the Library of Congress, increased appropriations, improved services, and expanded its hours of operation.  In May of 1944, the library acquired its 100,000th book.  Library facilities included a main reading room, reference rooms, and a periodical, reserve, and elementary school reading rooms.  By the end of World War II, about 8,000 books a year were being added to the collection.  By 1946, San Diego State's library ranked in the top two percent of the members of the American Association of Teachers Colleges.

President Hardy retired in June of 1935.  In September of 1935, San Diego State Teachers College became San Diego State College.  In addition to the name change, the California legislature encouraged colleges to add liberal arts classes to their curricula.

After Hardy's retirement, Walter R. Hepner took the helm as president, beginning a 17-year tenure.  Under Hepner’s administration (1935-1952), San Diego State became a full-fledged academic institution.  Liberal arts programs were expanded and new courses added to the curriculum.  President Hepner encouraged the addition of scholarships and enhancement of academic standards for students as well as the growth of student groups and activities.  By the end of the 1940s, the faculty had grown to include 230 members.  Hepner expanded the pre-existing committee structure so that the faculty could be actively involved in all aspects of governing the college.  He also encouraged involvement from the community.

Sources: Starr, Raymond. San Diego State University: A History in Word and Image, San Diego State University Press, 1995.
Note Author: Jennifer Hollander (Volunteer)

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