Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University

By: Betsy Colquitt

Type: General Entry

Published: April 1, 1995

Updated: November 20, 2020

The Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University, was so named in 1925 in honor of a major university benefactor. From the original bequest, $150,000 was allocated for a library building, the first in the university's history. This building, dedicated in February 1925 and twice extensively remodeled and expanded since, remains the nucleus of the present facilities. The second expansion (1981–82), which increased the building size to 158,605 square feet, was done to plans of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, whose interior design received the 1984 Interior Design Award of the Institute of Business Designers. Major donors to the new facility included Cecil and Ida Green, the T. J. Brown and C. A. Lupton Foundation, and the Anne Burnett Tandy and Charles D. Tandy Foundation.

Records on the early history of the predecessor of TCU are scarce. Only a few references to a library occur in materials on Add-Ran Male and Female College (opened at Thorp Spring, 1873) and on Add-Ran Christian University (so named in 1889; moved to Waco, 1895). At Thorp Spring two student literary societies, the Add-Ran and the Walton, had modest book collections. The first university library dates to 1892, when Edwin J. Toof's gift of 1,045 books and the societies' collections were joined. An audit of 1895 values the library's 2,044 volumes at $3,000. The first librarian was Mabel Grey Crosse (1902–04). During the librarianship of Nell Andrew (1908–25), the library of some 8,000 volumes was lost, on March 22, 1910, when fire destroyed the university's Main Building. Rather than rebuild in Waco, the university moved to Fort Worth. From 1911, when the university established its present campus, to 1925, the library occupied space in the administration building (now Reed Hall), one of the three original campus buildings. From 1925 to 1965 the librarians were Arthur Ray Curry (1925–33), Bertie Hall Mothershead (1933–53), and C. Glenn Sparks (1953–65). In 1957–58 the original library building was expanded by 50,000 square feet, and holdings numbered 330,000 volumes. A major gift of rare materials came in 1955 when the Amon G. Carter Foundation presented the university the William Luther Lewis Collection of English and American Literature. During the administration of Paul M. Parham, who became librarian in 1965, several automation projects were completed, and the library continued actively in cooperative networking through its membership in the Association for Higher Education of North Texas and the AMIGOS Bibliographic Council. The library electronically publishes the Library Newsletter.

Support for the Mary Couts Burnett Library comes from the university, from gifts, and, since its founding in 1972, from the Friends of the TCU Libraries. In 1981 Jean Froissart's Cronycles, printed in the early 1500s, was acquired as the library's millionth item. Library holdings have since reached 1.3 million. In the early 1990s the library added the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition Archives and the former Speaker of the House Jim Wright Collection, which was turned into a permanent exhibit. The library has a staff of more than sixty professional and support personnel.

Betsy Colquitt, Prologue: The TCU Library to 1983 (Fort Worth: Mary Couts Burnet Library, Texas Christian University, 1983). Jerome A. Moore, Texas Christian University: A Hundred Years of History (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1974).

  • Education
  • Museums, Libraries, and Archives
  • Libraries
  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth

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

Betsy Colquitt, “Mary Couts Burnett Library, Texas Christian University,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 22, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995
November 20, 2020

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