History of Albert S. Cook Library

Maryland State Normal School

In 1866, when Towson University first opened its doors in downtown Baltimore as the Maryland State Normal School some thought had gone into the creation of a library. The administration started a small library collection to support the curriculum of the new teacher education program and created an inventory of the collection using handwritten catalog cards.

Partnership with the Peabody Library

By 1870, the school supplemented its modest library collection by means of a partnership with the Peabody Library. The Peabody was very close to the school’s Mount Vernon locations and the librarians there accommodated the needs of the students by providing library instruction and access to books. It was not until the school moved to the building at Carrollton and Lafayette Avenue in 1876 that dedicated space was set aside for a library, and funds were requested from the state to purchase books. By 1906, the collection had grown to over 4,000 volumes, and in 1909, the school’s secretary, Mollie Walton Tarr, was also appointed the first school librarian. Tarr served in this role until 1916, and under her the library expanded its efforts to catalog the collection.

Stephens Hall Library

When the school moved in 1915 to the Towson location, the library was relocated to the first floor of the Administration Building, now known as Stephens Hall. The new library facilities provided space for the collection, areas for reading and studying, administrative offices, and a large fireplace before which children from the Model Elementary School on campus could sit and listen to stories read to them by the librarian.

Librarian Mary L. Osborn (1921-1933)

From 1918 until 1920, various librarians came and went, but in 1921, Mary L. Osborn was appointed and remained in the position until 1933. Under her leadership, the library collection grew from about 7,000 volumes to 35,000, and the staff grew as well. Before, the librarian was assisted by student helpers, but Osborne hired four staff members to serve as assistants.

Librarian Gertrude Holt (1936-1946)

In 1923, Osborne hired Gertrude Holt who would become the librarian in 1936. Under Holt, the staff began to specialize in different areas like Circulation, Reference, and Cataloging. In 1926, Osborne hired Merle Yoder, a 1924 graduate of the school who would remain in the library, ultimately as the head of Circulation, until 1969.

Space, however, was now at a premium. A new Campus Model Elementary school was built in 1933 in what is now known as Van Bokkelen Hall, which allowed for some expansion of the library facilities. In 1938, a periodicals room was created on the second floor of the Administration Building and this allowed the book collection to grow to 45,000 volumes. But even this was not enough space. By 1945, demand for a larger library in a separate building was growing.

Librarian Dorothy Reeder and the Original Albert S. Cook Library (1957)

In 1947, Dorothy Reeder was hired as the librarian at what was now known as the State Teachers College at Towson. She would oversee the library move not once, but twice, first in 1957 into the building now known as the Media Center, and again in 1969 into what is the present library. Each was named the Albert S. Cook Library.

Albert S. Cook was a well-known educator in the state of Maryland. As the School Examiner for Baltimore County, Dr. Cook developed the 653-page Baltimore County Course of Study, which became a national model for curriculum guides. In 1900 Dr. Albert S. Cook became the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools. He retained this position until his retirement in 1942. He died March 11, 1952 at the age of 79.

Among the notable achievements of his tenure were the following:
  1. Requirement that every county employ professionally trained supervisors of elementary schools to bring about improvement in instruction.
  2. Creation of a financially sound teachers retirement system based on contributions by the State and the teachers.
  3. Incremental salary schedule based on teacher preparation and experience.
  4. State aid for vocational rehabilitation and for physically and mentally handicapped children.
  5. Equalization salaries for African American teachers.

His administration's greatest attainment was the development and enactment of the Equalization Law of 1922 providing equal educational opportunity and funding for all children in the state of Maryland. The Equalization Fund guaranteed every child in Maryland a minimum standard of education regardless of where he lived or where the money was concentrated. In addition, he was the guiding force in transforming the normal schools into 4-year degree granting colleges.

The first Albert S. Cook Library could hold 100,000 volumes and seat 450. It had stacks, a reading room, a periodical room, a seminar room, a lecture room, a special collections room, and spaces for using such modern technologies as micro-film and micro-card readers, phonograph records, and typewriters. The staff also grew to one librarian and six assistant librarians, the first staffing change in thirty years.

The Current Albert S. Cook Library (1969)

When the library moved in 1969, it was designed to hold 600,000 volumes and seat 600 students. Now the staff was composed of seventeen librarians and a number of other staff members, with Reeder holding the title of Director.

Library Director Thomas Strader (1970-1990)

Reeder stepped down from the Director position in 1970 to become the head of the College Archives, and was replaced by Thomas Strader. His tenure was one of extreme growth, both in the collection and in the services the library offered. By 1983, the collection boasted 850,000 items and seating for 1,500. The Media Resources department offered audio-visual equipment delivery and repair. The library also served as a depository for United States and Maryland Government Documents. And the basement was converted from storage and processing areas into the Academic Computing Service area.

Strader left in 1990, and Eleanore O. Hofstetter, a librarian at Towson since 1966, was appointed Acting Director. A year later, the library catalog was made accessible online, offering not only Towson’s holdings, but also resources available in the entire University of Maryland system. Deborah Leather was appointed Director in 1992, and would hold the office for ten years. Leather was succeeded by Hofstetter as Director in 2002, and the position was reclassified as "University Librarian" in 2004. Hofstetter retired in 2006, after 40 years of service to Towson.

In 2006, substantial changes were made to the third floor. 170 computer workstations were put into place, and nine group study areas were created. While the book collection has been maintained at 580,000 items, online access to a multitude of electronic databases and books has flourished. Part of this renovation included the addition of a Starbucks™ coffee shop at the main entrance. Deborah Nolan, current University Librarian, oversaw two other major renovations in 2009 with the renovation of the Archives and Special Collections space on the fifth floor, and the addition of the Baltimore Hebrew Institute collection on the second floor.

As technology has advanced, the library’s role has changed. The demand for electronic resources and computers to access them means that the library has shifted its focus from being a repository for book collections to creating an environment for access and collaboration. It’s all a very far cry from that first Maryland State Normal School 1866 catalog entry that reads, "A beginning of a library has been made, and additions are expected every year."

History of Albert S. Cook Library / Albert S. Cook Library
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Last revised: July 31, 2012

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