University Library


The Evolution of a Library: 1938-2000

evolution: a process of development, formation, or growth.

From one room with a few hundred books and one librarian, to six stories with 2.4 million resource materials and a staff of 75, the University Library at Cal Poly Pomona has reason to celebrate as it begins its second half-century. The Library's commitment to excellence is an integral factor in the successful reputation enjoyed by California State Polytechnic University as a premier institute of higher education.


Cal Poly opened its doors to 80 students on September 15, 1938, on the former site of the Voorhis School for Boys in San Dimas This rural setting provided one room (measuring 33 feet by 45 feet) to be designated as the Library, with seating for 48 students. It came complete with study tables, a fireplace, and a few hundred books remaining from the Voorhis School. This collection was quickly supplemented with materials necessary to support the agricultural orientation of the college.

Lavina Penley was the first librarian to serve Cal Poly, followed by Ruth Hoff, and then by Harold F. Wells in 1954. The number of volumes in the Library increased from 3,700 in 1948 to over 6,500 in 1954.


The Library collection continued to multiply as did the University's enrollment. By 1956 the facilities in San Dimas were outgrown and Cal Poly moved to its current site in Pomona, formerly the W.K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Ranch.

The new Library was housed in three rooms of the Administration building (now the Science building) and had seating for 80 students. Mr. Wells directed the move of over 8,000 volumes from San Dimas to Pomona in the summer of 1956. That same year, to support an increasing student population and its expanded academic curriculum, the book call numbers were changed from the Dewey Decimal system, commonly used by smaller libraries, to the Library of Congress classification, used by larger libraries.


It was soon evident that the Library needed its own facility and in 1959 the first Cal Poly Library building was completed. Mr. Wells again directed the transfer of the collection, then numbering 16,584 volumes. Within five years the volume count reached 63,138 and three years later, once again outgrowing the existing facility the Library completed plans for a new building.


By the winter of 1968, the new $4.2 million Cal Poly Library building was ready for occupancy. A four-story structure (with floors numbered Ground through 3rd) was designed to allow for the later addition of two stories to accommodate future growth. More than 1,000 students, faculty, and Library staff combined efforts to move over 150,000 books, furnishings, and equipment.

Harold F. Wells served 29 years as Library Director. Upon Mr. Wells' retirement, Harold B. Schleifer was appointed Acting Director in 1983, Director in 1985, and continues to serve in this role today.


January 1988 marked the start of construction of the new 4th and 5th floors of the University Library addition at a cost of $7.4 million. Featuring advanced computer technology and serving a Cal Poly campus community of nearly 20,000, the Library building now has 139,772 assignable square feet and seating for approximately 2,600 students.

The Library's collection currently boasts over 1,000,000 microforms, 500,000 books; 58,000 technical reports; 10,000 maps; and 3,500 software packages. As part of "Partners In Progress," Cal Poly's 50th anniversary capital campaign, an endowment fund has been established for the continued growth of the University Library collection.

Celebrating a half century of growth with the University, the six story Library was dedicated on September 18, 1989 During the ceremony the 500,000th volume, Ansel Adams: Letters and Images, was officially added to the Library's collection.


An architectural site study was completed in April 2000.  The resulting Library Master Plan will form the basis for a major capital outlay request to renovate and expand the Library building to address future needs for capacity and services to support a campus enrollment of 20,000 students.

Committed to excellence, the Cal Poly Pomona University Library looks forward to the next 50 years of serving the academic needs of the community.

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