Clark Family Library
Research – not just doom scrolling through posts in a social feed to see what fits one’s biases – happens in a library.
At Washington & Jefferson College (W&J) in Washington, PA, the Clark Family Library has an open collection of more than 200,000 books, hundreds of magazines and periodicals, access to more than 15,000 electronic journals and special collections.
The library maintains rare books, manuscripts and primary documents from the 18th and 19th centuries. Students, faculty and other researchers can learn about the Whiskey Rebellion, the Underground Railroad and how the history of the Washington area relates to American history by studying source materials in the Learned T. Bulman ’48 Historic Archives and Museum.
The Patterson Collection holds around 500 old and rare books from the mid-1800s into the early 1900s.
The library also has audio, making vinyl records and CDs available.
The library’s digital archives include a multimedia collection about the history of W&J. The materials focus on log colleges, Washington College, Jefferson College and W&J.
Resources at the Clark Family Library are open to students, faculty and the general public who are conducting research.
The main floor of the library is an information commons. Space is available for people to research and study together. Study rooms for groups look like conference rooms with wall monitors that students connect their computers to so everyone can follow along. Gathering spaces allow people to read and socialize at the library. There’s also a digital classroom.
Study spaces are also available on the lower level.
The Walker Room is located on the lower level. The room recreates the personal library of John Walker, who was a boyhood friend of Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick, and grew up to be a Pittsburgh steel industrialist like them. His family donated his library to W&J after he died in the early 1930s. It was set up just like it was during his life – books, bookcases, pictures, furniture, chandeliers and stained-glass lamps. Lots of books.
The library posts actively to Facebook and Twitter.
The Clark Family Library at Washington And Jefferson College can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin, a political philosopher and politician who helped to found the U.S. After the Revolutionary War, he was President of Pennsylvania. Washington Academy, which became Washington College and then W&J, was chartered by the PA General Assembly. Franklin sent a personal gift of £50 for the purchase of books to start a library at the academy. Roughly adjusting for inflation and converting to U.S. currency, Franklin’s gift would be worth about $10,600 in today’s money. The library has identified five books in their collection from this original purchase.
By the mid 1850s, Washington College had around 300 books in its library. When Washington College and Jefferson College merged, the library was placed in Thompson Memorial Hall. It moved to its current location in the mid 1960s.
Results from student surveys during the 2010s were incorporated into exterior and interior renovations made to the library building. Following the renovations, the library was renamed the Clark Family Library after a graduate, Richard T. Clark, and his wife, who paid for the upgrades.
The library is accessible. Improvements to accessibility were made to the facility and technology was acquired when the library was renovated.
During the coronavirus pandemic of 2020/2021, physical access to the library building was curtailed. The library remained online. Faculty and students used their W&J credentials to access study materials. Research services were conducted online. Charges weren’t assessed for overdue items.
Amazing things can happen when people put away the social media, open a book and do some research. The resources at the Clark Family Library at Washington And Jefferson College may help.
This article was published in