Cody Memorial Library

By: John E. Bigley and Jon D. Swartz

Type: General Entry

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: September 26, 2019

The library at Southwestern University in Georgetown began with the founding of the school in 1873. Southwestern, a direct descendent of four of the earliest institutions of higher learning in the state, was founded by Francis Asbury Mood, who made building a library a high priority of the new school. Mood relied on the largess of fellow Methodists, and by 1876 the university catalogs showed regular donations of books and materials. Some 130 volumes were donated in 1876, including works of biography, history, theology, and English literature.

In 1880 Claude Carr Cody, a professor of mathematics, was named university librarian. He continued to build the collection by donations, making frequent and personal appeals to Texas Methodists. In 1885 he reported that Southwestern's library contained 785 volumes. During this time three student literary societies also maintained libraries for the use of their members. The Alamo, San Jacinto, and Alethean societies had together about 1,000 volumes in 1885. These books later were added to the main collection.

From 1892 to 1895 another faculty member, H. S. Hyer, served as librarian. His term is remembered chiefly for the acquisition of the books of Homer S. Thrall, a prominent Methodist author, whose books were the largest single gift that the library had received. Because library space was unduly small the old university chapel was refitted as a reading room in 1895. Special committees to deal with library operations were appointed in May 1897. Among their recommendations were a student-use fee for library operations and appropriations for the library.

After 1900 library development was accelerated. Library quarters were established in a new building completed in 1901. Margaret Mood McKennon, daughter of the founder, became the school's first full-time librarian in 1903. The same year also marked the first standing faculty committee for the library. By 1908 the collection contained 16,000 volumes, and the library's hours of operation had been extended to "every hour during school days."

In February 1910 students met to demand a separate library building. This demand led to plans for a three-story building supposedly modeled after the Library of Congress in Washington, but this building was never begun. The Southwestern library was a depository for United States government documents by 1915, when the staff had grown to three permanent employees and several student assistants. By 1935 library holdings had reached over 35,000 volumes and the library had been expanded to four rooms on the third story of the administration building.

In 1939 Cody Memorial Library was built on a lot east of the administration building. The new building, designed by a former student of Southwestern, Cameron Fairchild, consisted of three stories, was completed at a cost of approximately $81,000, and was partially financed by a Work Projects Administration grant to the city. The fund for a library had been begun immediately after the death of Cody in 1923 and amounted to $46,000 at the time the library was built. The work started the last day of 1938, and the library formally opened on November 26, 1939. By the time the building was constructed, the total collection had grown to 54,890 volumes, and the staff included a librarian, an assistant librarian, and student assistants.

In 1966 a two-story, smooth limestone and glass building was constructed and connected to the original building. The older building was refurbished, and the two buildings were air-conditioned. The 1966 construction and renovation was made possible by a gift from the Brown Foundation of Houston and gifts from friends of Herman Brown, a member of the board of trustees for many years. Nearly 80,000 volumes were in the general collection by the end of 1966, and the staff numbered five, with four full-time librarians. The Edward A. Clark Collection, containing more than 2,400 volumes, was presented to Southwestern in July 1965 and placed in the new Special Collections Room. The Isabel Gaddis collection of the works of J. Frank Dobie, another Southwestern alumnus, was presented to the university in 1970 by the Charles N. Prothros of Wichita Falls. Nearly 1,000 Dobie items made up this collection. In 1982, a grant from the Pew Memorial Trust resulted in the computerization of library holdings through AMIGOS Bibliographic Council of Dallas.

By 1984 the size of the general collection had grown to 152,457, with an additional 6,718 titles in the Clark Texana Collection. Other special holdings at that time were the Bewick, Bible, Blake, and Meyer Hymnal collections. The full-time professional staff numbered fourteen, including five professional librarians. In 1988 the Cody Memorial Library became a part of the newly finished A. Frank Smith, Jr., Library Center and ceased to exist as an independent library.

John Bigley, "Early Library Development at Southwestern University," Texas Libraries 45 (Fall 1984). Claude Carr Cody Papers, Cody Memorial Library, Southwestern University. Ralph W. Jones, Southwestern University, 1840–1861 (Austin: Jenkins, 1973). Texas Library Association, Handbook of Texas Libraries, 1–4 (Austin, 1904–35).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

John E. Bigley and Jon D. Swartz, “Cody Memorial Library,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
September 26, 2019