Back to

A Brief History of the Wheelock College Library

Old reference library

The Library has a long history within the context of Wheelock College itself. When Lucy Wheelock founded the school in 1888, she arranged for her students to have access to neighboring libraries and museums in lieu of a dedicated library for the school. When the school moved to 100 The Riverway in 1914, a reference library was among the services provided in the new building.

For four years in the 1940s, the growing collection of materials was housed at 47 Pilgrim Road, then relocated to the Library's present 132 The Riverway address in 1947. At the time, the Library occupied only the second and third floors, with art classrooms on the first floor and administrative space on the fourth. The Library took over that fourth floor space in 1961, but by the late 1970s it was apparent that even more space would be needed to support the Library's mission of providing resources and services to the Wheelock community.

Froebel Frieze being placed above Library entrance

A major renovation completed in 1982 nearly doubled shelving capacity and study space, and brought the Library to its current physical configuration with four main levels, four mezzanine levels and a basement level. It was at this time that the Froebel Frieze, created in 1914 for the original school building, was removed from storage after 30 years and placed in its location of honor above the main Library entrance.

Library renovations in 1994 and 1997 increased electronic access to information, as the card catalog was replaced by a computer-based catalog, and more and more resources became available online.

Library building as it currently stands wtih the new addition

The Office of Academic Assistance and Disability Services, the Writing Center, and the peer tutoring program are now housed at the Library. This co-location of services provides better access for students and offers opportunities for collaboration with Library staff.

The most recent renovation took place in December 2009-January 2010. The first floor, the focal point of this project, was completely redesigned. Walls came down, creating a wide-open floor plan. A fresh color palette and improved lighting make the space more welcoming.

A new service desk combines Reference and Circulation services. There are 19 computers and dedicated workspaces for laptop users - three tables, each with four pop-up outlets and network jacks. A seating area with comfortable chairs has been set up near a display of current issues of popular periodicals and new books. The first floor also now has a large display case that can be used to showcase long-hidden Archives materials, Library projects and student activities.

The relocation of the College Archives to the Lower Level allowed for the creation of a large group study room on Floor 3M. Another feature that was installed due to popular demand by our students is a water fountain on the lower level.

The end result is a renewed energy that is spreading throughout the building.


Circulation Desk before the renovation
Before - view from the Circulation Desk to the rear of the first floor
expanded first floor after renovation
After — view from the new service desk to the rear of the first floor
Circulation Desk after the renovation
The new service desk and technology stations in use