University Libraries Celebrate 50 Years

Posted on February 20, 2018
Alice Jackson

The library opened in its own building on Sept. 15, 1968, and an extensive addition and renovation was completed in March 2003. It was designated the Marx Library in 2013.    data-lightbox='featured'
The library opened in its own building on Sept. 15, 1968, and an extensive addition and renovation was completed in March 2003. It was designated the Marx Library in 2013.

The University of South Alabama libraries – including research and medical divisions, a federal documents depository and an historic archives – will launch a year-long celebration this week to mark their 50 years of commitment and service to the University and the community.

“During the coming months special programs will showcase varied and outstanding assets of our library system, beginning with exhibits and public presentations for Black History Month in the Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Next month, in recognition of being a part of the Federal Depository Library Program for the last 50 years, USA Libraries will host a public workshop highlighting this important resource,” said Dr. Lorene Flanders, executive director of University Libraries. “In addition to similar events throughout the year, this fall the Marx Library will unveil a new learning commons, a flexible workspace designed for group study and project development.”

Dr. Frederick Whiddon, South’s founding president in 1963, understood the need for a first-class academic library before students began classes at the new institution. He directed that the initial library staff use undergraduate shelf lists from the University of Michigan and the University of North Carolina as guides for purchasing its first 10,000 volumes. The initial location was the campus’ first building, known today as the Whiddon Administration Building. The library opened its own building on Sept. 15, 1968. An extensive addition and renovation, completed in March 2003, produced today’s main library. It was designated the Marx Library in 2013.   

Today, the Marx Library contains about 1.8 million books and other printed materials as well as extensive digital access to research materials. The system includes the Joseph and Rebecca Mitchell Learning Resource Center in the Mitchell College of Business, the Baugh Biomedical Library near the College of Medicine, the USA Medical Center Health Information Resources Center and service sites at Children’s & Women’s Hospital and USA Baldwin County.

At 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 21, local historian and storyteller Lorna Woods, descendant of one of the last slaves to be illegally brought to America aboard the schooner Clotilda in 1859, will speak in the Doy Leale McCall Rare Book and Manuscript Library. A resident of the historic Lewis Quarters, Woods will also discuss Africatown and the hand-drawn works of Israel Lewis III, the great-great-grandson of Cudjoe Lewis, the last-known survivor from the Clotilda.

“This lecture is especially important in light of the fact the possible remains of the Clotilda were thought to be recently discovered in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta,” said Carol Ellis, director of the McCall Library. “When that happened, our staff answered numerous requests from the national news media for background history and information on the schooner.”

Founded in 1978, the McCall Library houses one of the largest collections of historic documents, photos, art and memorabilia in the area, including the Doy Leale McCall Sr. Collection, containing the papers of 15 different families, and several individuals, as well as more than 13,000 printed items that document the history of the Alabama Black Belt from 1806 to the mid-20th century. The collection, valued at $3.1 million, was donated to the University by McCall’s three grandchildren. The McCall Library also houses about 1.2 million photographic images of Mobile, the University and the Gulf Coast region.

Appointments to visit The McCall Library are strongly encouraged. To arrange one, call (251) 341-3900 or email

Starting at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, public tours will begin for the Government Documents Collection, part of the U.S. Government Publishing Office’s Federal Depository Library Program.

Marx Library is one of 22 federal depository libraries in Alabama that makes published government information freely available to the general public in both tangible and electronic formats for public inspection and research.

“The ability to offer our patrons free public access to vitally important federal government documents is a responsibility that we take seriously, and we are honored to help the public learn more about how these resources can be used,” said Vicki Tate, senior librarian and depository coordinator of the government documents section.

At 3 p.m. on March 20, Kathryn Bayer, representative of the U.S. Government Publishing Office in Washington, D.C., will speak about “Federal Depository Library Program 101” in Room 305, located on the south side of the third floor. Bayer will discuss the program’s mission and history during the one-hour presentation, which is also open to the public.

Immediately afterward, a public reception with light refreshments will be held in the Mary Elizabeth and Charles Bernard Rodning Gallery of Art, located on the third floor’s north end. The displays will include “1968, A Year in Review with Government Information,” and “What Is a Government Document?”



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