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History of the Curriculum Library (Laboratory)

at Western Illinois University

According to John Hallwas, the Curriculum Laboratory was established in Memorial Library in 1964 (First Century, 158). Nevertheless, I was able to find evidence of its existence as far back as 1962-63 in the telephone books of Western Illinois University. During its initial years it was part of the Library Science Department and housed in Memorial Library on the third floor. During this time the Curriculum Laboratory was apparently staffed by members of the Library Science Department and/or faculty of the Memorial Library itself.

The Wednesday October 6, 1965 issue (p.10) of the Western Courier contained an article about the Curriculum Laboratory entitled: Haven Isn’t Hidden Anymore. The article indicates that the Curriculum Laboratory was located in room 318 of Memorial Library. The article states: “The lab is designed solely to aid students preparing to teach by providing many of the actual materials used in the teaching field.” It goes on to state that the collection includes textbooks used in various high schools, curriculum guides, resource units, charts, posters, maps, other supplementary materials and various intelligence and achievements tests. It says: “There is free access to any of the files or shelves. The lab is arranged so that it can be a self-service unit.” It gives the hours of service for the lab as being Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday evenings from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Sometime prior to the beginning of Fall Semester 1971, the Curriculum Laboratory was moved to Room 35 of Horrabin Hall (the Laboratory School building). It was housed in that area for approximately the next two years until the closing of the Laboratory School in the spring of 1973.

In the beginning of the Fall Semester 1973, one finds the Curriculum Laboratory has once again moved. This time to Horrabin Hall 72 that was a portion of the area in which it still remains housed at the time of this writing (although the room number has been changed to 80). In the latter half of 1973 and for a number of years afterwards, the Curriculum Laboratory was confined to what is now known as the West room under the current configuration of the Curriculum Library. It is also at this point that one no longer finds the Curriculum Laboratory listed under Library in the telephone books. It is now under the Instructional Communication & Technology Department (formerly Audiovisual Education Dept) which was housed in LB401. (LB was library building, now known as Memorial Hall.) In this year, one finds that Room 72 of Horrabin Hall also contained the Self-Instruction Laboratory and continued to do so for a number of years. It was in this year that the area which had contained the Elementary Library for the Laboratory School (HH32A) became known as the Elementary Learning Resource Center. At the time of this writing, the room which held the Elementary Learning Resource Center is presumably what is currently known as the East room of the Curriculum Library.

From approximately the fall of 1973 to June 30, 1991, the Curriculum Laboratory continued to be housed in Horrabin Hall 72 along with the Self Instruction Laboratory. During this same time period the Elementary Learning Resource Center continued to be housed in Horrabin Hall 32A . All three of the areas were considered to be within the College of Education itself or the Media and Educational Technology Department (having various names during this time period) which was within the College of Education.

Spring of 1991 marked the first donation of materials from the Children’s Literature Examination Center (CLEC) to the Curriculum Laboratory. The donation that year consisted of 472 books. Over the years since then and to the time of this writing, the Children’s Literature Examination Center (CLEC) donations have remained the major source of materials for the Curriculum Library collection. Those donations have averaged approximately 1,200 items per year for the last 22 years.

On July 1, 1991, the Curriculum Library became a branch of the University Libraries. This change was the joint effort of Dr. Don Crawford, the Chair for the Media and Educational Technology Department and Dr. Donna Goehner, the Dean of the University Libraries along with Dr. David Taylor, the Dean of the College of Education. At the time of the transition, two staff members of the Media and Educational Technology Department were assigned to the newly created branch. They were Ms. Julie Flanagan, Library Operations Assistant, and Mrs. Barbara Grindstaff, Secretary III Transcribing. Grindstaff’s position remained in the secretarial line and continued to be funded by the College of Education for a number of years after the transition to becoming a branch. Her position was later transitioned to a library classification as well.

At the time of the Curriculum Laboratory becoming a branch of the University Libraries, the East Room contained at least a portion of the Laboratory School Library and its card catalog. The West Room contained what had been developed as the Curriculum Laboratory. During the process of the Curriculum Laboratory becoming a branch, the materials then housed in the East Room were evaluated. Approximately 500 volumes were reclassified to become part of the Curriculum Laboratory collection. By early October of that year, the remainder of the books and the card catalog which had been the Laboratory School Library were given to the Macomb School District. It was at about this same time or shortly after that the Self-Instruction Laboratory ceased to be housed in Horrabin Hall 72.

Following the transition to being a branch of the University Libraries and with the East Room no longer containing the Laboratory School Library materials, the Curriculum Laboratory was able to expand into that area as well. It was at this point that the configuration (which holds to this writing) of the East Room housing the materials in the Dewey number of the 000’s and the 800’s (fiction materials) and the West Room housing all the materials in the other Dewey numbers came into existence.

For the time between July 1991 and May 2000, the staff of the Curriculum Laboratory continued to perform many of the same duties as they had prior to the transition of becoming a branch. The Unit Coordinator continued to perform the selection of the materials although the actual purchasing of materials, which previously had been done by the department secretary, was done by Acquisitions Department in the Malpass (Main) Library. The staff continued to catalog all the materials for the collection, perform the processing of new materials and process patron fines etc in addition to the all the responsibilities related to assisting patrons.

In May of 2000, the Curriculum Laboratory began the last step in being a branch of the University Libraries by making the transition from using its in-house generated card catalog and manual check out system to being on the automated catalog and circulation system used by the other libraries within the University Libraries group. This conversion to the electronic system was done by various staff members of the University Libraries as well as three retired staff members of the University Libraries. The project when begun was expected to take two years to complete but was mostly completed by October 1, 2000.

May 1, 2000 saw the responsibility for the cataloging of new Curriculum Laboratory materials transferred to the Cataloging Department in the Malpass (Main) Library. Also at this time the responsibility for processing overdue notices and fines was transferred to the Circulation Department in the Malpass (Main) Library as well.

During the administration of James Huesmann, Dean of University Libraries (9/2000 – 12/2005), the card catalog was removed from the Curriculum Laboratory. It was also during Dean Huesmann’s administration that the Curriculum Laboratory officially became known as the Curriculum Library (October, 2001).

In the Fall of 2005 under a Physical Plant project, the rooms of Horrabin Hall were renumbered and the area containing the Curriculum Library which had formerly been room 72 became room 80. In addition to the East and West rooms which comprised the main areas of the Curriculum Library, there were three office areas associated with it at this point and they became 80A, office of the Unit Coordinator; 80B, office of the other full time staff member; and 80C, conference room.

At the time of this writing, the Curriculum Library is still housed in Horrabin Hall room 80 (the area that was the library during the lab school days). To this day, it still contains the original circulation/charging desk, many of the original shelving units, and study tables etc from the laboratory school days. All of this gives the Curriculum Library the look and feel of an elementary school library and helps patrons feel very much at home in the area. That being at home feeling is important because the Curriculum Library becomes their home away from home for many of the education majors at Western Illinois University. The collection contains approximately 35,000 items and is categorized using the Dewey Decimal system. The staff of the Curriculum Library includes two full-time civil service staff members and multiple student assistants.

Written by:

Mrs. Barbara Grindstaff, Unit Coordinator
Curriculum Library – Western Illinois University
October, 2013

Units to which Curriculum Laboratory/Library Reported
Names of Responsible Units Years Reported
Library Science Department 1962-1973
Instructional Communication & Technology Dept 1973-1974
Dean – College of Education 1974-1978
Learning Resource Department 1978-1990
Media and Educational Technology Dept 1990-1991
University Libraries 1991-present