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Voorhees Hall: Rutgers' First Modern Library

Fernanda Perrone


The year 2003 marked the 100th anniversary of the dedication of Voorhees Hall, Rutgers' first purpose-built library. Originally known as the Ralph Voorhees Library, Voorhees Hall served as the school's main library from 1903 until the Archibald S. Alexander Library opened in 1956. Voorhees Hall can be seen as a case study of the "transitional" library of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a time when architects and librarians began to work together to design library buildings. Libraries built during this period incorporated the functionality of modern academic library buildings with the monumentality and grace of the book halls of the past. In a broader sense, the history of the Ralph Voorhees Library reflects the evolution of Rutgers from college to state university, and indeed of the development of U.S. higher education in general during the first half of the twentieth century--a period when the growth and diversification of knowledge, and increasing participation in higher education, radically changed the nature of colleges and universities.

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