Hartford Campus Library History
FROM A LIBRARY IN A STABLE
TO STABLE LIBRARY SERVICE:
The Harleigh B. Trecker Library traces its roots to 1939 with the establishment of the University of Connecticut’s extension offerings in downtown Hartford. 1939 is an important date in UConn’s history since it is also the year the Connecticut State College became the University by an act of the state legislature.
Upper floors of the “old” Hartford High School (left) were the first of several locations for the new program which from its inception had a library. In the early days, the librarian played a number of significant roles including, according to the late history professor Freeman Meyer, “supervisor, librarian, registrar, secretary, and bookseller.”
During the 1930’s and 1940’s, the program and its library moved to various schools as it continued to advance. World War II brought a huge growth spurt as UConn was called upon to train factory workers for the military effort. What was once a small extension effort blossomed into a full-blown branch campus in 1946 as war veterans returned and sought heavily subsidized college educations under a federal government program called the G. I. Bill. Through this period the library, started in the corner of a room, soon occupied one and then several rooms (right).
In the early 1950’s, the Hartford Branch moved to its first real campus at an Asylum Avenue site called the Goodwin Estate. The main classroom and administrative offices were located in the estate’s mansion while the library, some faculty offices and other operations took up space in the estate’s former horse stable (left). Students, faculty and librarians of the time noted that on rainy days the odor of hay permeated the place even though the horses were long gone.
In 1970, the Hartford Branch moved from Hartford to West Hartford and the library relocated from its stable to the upper floor of a new building which, while reportedly lacking in Goodwin’s charm, at least brought library services into the 20th Century. The former library space is now the campus’ Gampel Student Center. The Undergraduate Building is shown at right with long time campus director Wilber Griswold.
The Hartford Branch library served mostly undergraduate students but three other graduate-level libraries also figure into the history of the Trecker Library. In the early 1960’s, the University’s Law School moved from a west-end Hartford mansion to a newly built campus on Asylum Avenue in West Hartford. This splendid edifice contained a state-of-the art (for its time) library space which would eventually become the home of the current Trecker Library.
Another Hartford area graduate program, the School of Social Work, relocated to the same site as the Law School in the late 1960’s. Social Work, which dated from the 1940’s, had its own well stocked library (left) which opened in the basement of the new Social Work building. It too would later be blended into the present library operation. This space is presently home to the Zachs Community Room.
And finally, the Hartford-area Masters of Business Administration operation, which until 1985 occupied its own Hartford mansion, also operated a library later merged with the others to make up today’s Trecker Library.
The 1985 date just mentioned is a pivotal one since that is the year the Law School moved back to Hartford to occupy the campus of the Hartford Seminary which had undergone a significant downsizing. After lengthy debate, it was determined that the old Law School building (shown at the header and which still has that name on its cornice) would remain the property of UConn and that several new services would reside there, including a library bringing together the separate units from the undergraduate, Social Work and MBA programs.
The name “Harleigh B. Trecker Library”, celebrating a long-time dean (right), was already in use for the Social Work Library and so it was carried over to the new operation a few months after the combined library was put into service.
The Harleigh B. Trecker Library of today has changed in many directions since its opening almost 25 years ago. Photos of the Law School Library just before it became Trecker (left) show very typical library operations of the time with books and journals packed into thousands of feet of shelf space, huge tables for consulting massive reference tomes, extensive card catalogs, and staff members demanding quiet.
Users visiting the library now find digital collections steadily supplanting paper resources, an online catalog which has replaced hundreds of drawers in the old card catalogs, internet terminals for connecting to the web, “soft seating”, and group study spaces for “quiet noise while in search of knowledge.”
Through the years, though, one thing has not changed: the desire of the library’s staff to work with the campus community to give the best service possible to meet a variety of important academic needs.
November 1, 2007