Did you know that when the trustees were planning for the library, they did not budget for books?
“A reading room had been an essential part of the building design, but the trustees, in debt for bricks and mortar, had not budgeted for books. Contributions came from students, faculty, and friends. … Substantive gifts of books came from students and faculty at Amherst, who were formally thanked by the trustees in May. Mrs. Hitchcock donated a collection of minerals made by her brother, and Professor Hitchcock delivered his geology lectures gratis on the understanding that the young ladies would make a special contribution for a set of geology books. Mary Lyon’s first purchase with the student contributions, recorded with approval in student letters, were weighty tomes — the many volume sets of the American Encyclopedia, the Bridgewater Treaties (which showed how the order of nature supported revealed religion), the works of Josephus, first-century historian of the Jews (Green, 1979, pp. 188-9).
“Not all of the reading matter was ponderous. Miss Lyon had always encouraged her students to be interested in current events. Before there were any books on the shelves, the reading room tables contained a variety of newspapers and journals supplied by the students through another of her schemes. Anyone who wished to do so joined a Society of Inquiry by paying 12 1/2 cents toward a school subscription, or by bringing in every week some periodical sent her regularly from home. The titles ranged widely: religious weeklies like the Boston Recorder and the New York Observer, the monthly Missionary Herald, Youth’s Companion, the Penny Magazine, Human Rights, the Emancipator. (Green, 1979, p. 189).
Mount Holyoke’s library still features a section filled with daily newspapers from around the world – you should visit it next time you are on campus!
FebruMary facts come from the book Mary Lyon and Mount Holyoke, Opening the Gates, by Elizabeth Alden Green.
Green, E. A. (1979). Mary Lyon and Mount Holyoke: Opening the gates. Hanover, N.H: University Press of New England.