A Tradition of Innovation
Central Library ahead of trends when opened in 1941
When Vanderbilt’s Central Library opened in 1941, it was progressive in concept and design. The concept—bringing together the resources of Vanderbilt, George Peabody College for Teachers and Scarritt College to create a facility for all three institutions—created a library far better than each could do alone. The design was the model of modernity, with air conditioning, just-introduced fluorescent lighting and the latest in automation—vacuum tubes and a book conveyor system.
The student body was as proud of the new library as was the rest of the university community.
“The library was a very important part of my experience at Vanderbilt,” said Dr. Robert H. Moore, BA’47, MD’51. “I was a member of the Writers Group as an undergraduate and we met in the library. When I was in medical school, we didn’t have the Internet, of course, and we would go over to the library to look up items in the Index Medicus (a comprehensive index of medical scientific journal articles) and then we would look up the appropriate journal so we could read the article.”
Joe “Tiger Joe” Thompson, BA’41, ignored the hot July and August weather that year and volunteered with other classmates to tote books from the old library in Kirkland Hall to the new facility.
Frederick Kuhlman, Vanderbilt director of libraries for 24 years, was the facility’s primary designer. He visited more than 20 university libraries to gather ideas. The library building that Kuhlman envisioned has changed little since its opening nearly 70 years ago, while the information world has evolved beyond what he could then comprehend. The ongoing renovations will take the library into the next generation.