In the beginning, the library was little more than a room in Kinsey Hall, the original building on campus. But even then, the librarians took their roles as educators seriously.
A visitor to the campus in the summer of 1913 noted the addition of new bookcases for the library, which he estimated contained 3,000 volumes, and was impressed by the large number of magazines on display.William Jerry MacLean in Barton College: Our Century
These books and journals, carefully selected to support the research needs of our students and faculty, were seedlings that continued to grow and flourish as the college’s academic programming expanded.
By the late 1940s, the room in Kinsey Hall could no longer contain the growing collection, or provide the space faculty and students needed for serious reading, research, and writing. Clarence L. Hardy, who served on the college’s Board of Trustees from 1926 to 1949, stepped up with a generous donation to fund the construction of a new, freestanding library. Construction began in the summer of 1949, and Hardy Library opened its doors in the fall of 1951. It was a top tier facility for its time, with three stories and a capacity of 75,000 volumes. The entire top floor and half of the second held the circulating books. The second floor also housed an Education Curriculum Lab and a large microfilm section. The main floor featured an extensive Reference Room and seating space for over a hundred patrons.
But within twenty years, Hardy Library had nearly reached its capacity, with 70,000 volumes and a growing student body to serve. Grants from the Z. Smith Reynolds and Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundations funded a renovation project that expanded the facility by 2,200 square feet of floor space, provided shelf space for an additional 13,000 volumes, and increased the total seating space to accommodate 175 patrons.
Between the time Hardy Library was constructed and the mid-1970s, the student population doubled, and it became clear that the college needed a new, modern facility, one that would accommodate the library’s expanding role in supporting student success. Alumni, trustees, friends of the college, corporations, and foundations came together and raised approximately one million dollars to fund the construction of a new library. Construction began in 1976, and the Willis N. Hackney Library opened in the summer of 1977. It was named for a Wilson businessman and lifelong supporter of Atlantic Christian College. Hackney Library was built to hold 160,000 volumes and contained 27,000 square feet of floor space. The new library could accommodate seating for 250 patrons, and included small conference rooms for group study and closed carrels for faculty. A Learning Resources Center, staffed by the Department of English and Modern Languages, was housed in the library.
As the twentieth century drew to a close, the world of higher education changed dramatically, and the library, true to its mission, supported these changes. By the late 1980s, libraries had shifted from collecting physical volumes to providing electronic access. Hackney Library joined the digital revolution in 1987 with a new computerized circulation system. Within three years, it had installed a CD-ROM-based indexing system.
In 1995, it moved to an integrated library system, which allowed librarians to catalog materials and manage patron records through a shared database, and gave patrons access to an online catalog.
In 1998, Hackney was one of the first libraries to join NC LIVE, a consortium of public and academic libraries that purchases and manages access to electronic resources. This formed the foundation of an electronic collection that grew to over 20,000 journals and 2,700 eBooks within fifteen years. Between 2012 and 2013 alone, the library’s electronic journal holdings nearly doubled, and eBook access mushroomed to 80,000 titles.
The collaboration between librarians, faculty, and student support professionals that began with the Learning Resources Center has continued to evolve as well. In the summer of 2012, the Office of Student Success and Career Services moved to the main floor of Hackney Library. These offices offer counseling on academic progress and study skills, coordinate tutors, and help students explore careers, devise job search strategies, and prepare for interviews.
In Barton College’s 111 years, the library’s book and journal holdings have expanded exponentially. Modern buildings have replaced aging ones. New technologies have emerged. And student services have expanded. But one thing has remained constant. We are, as an early librarian said, “not only a repository and lender of books, but an extension of the classroom.”