Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Library History

THE BEGINNING OF THE COLLEGE

The College of Engineering was established at the University of Cincinnati in 1900, but as early as 1840 Professor Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel had begun lecturing in civil engineering at U.C.'s predecessor, the Cincinnati College.  By 1874 a professorship of Civil Engineering was begun;  and in 1879 an engineer was one of the students in the first class to graduate from the newly chartered University of Cincinnati.  By 1902 degrees were offered in four different fields of engineering.

Herman Schneider

Herman Schneider

Herman Schneider was appointed dean in 1906.  Dean Schneider is most remembered as the inventor of cooperative education.  He had tried to interest several other universities in this idea before bringing it to the University of Cincinnati.  And it was only after he had gained support from Frederick Geier of the Cincinnati Milling Machine Co., and others in the business community, that President Dabney and the U.C. Board of Trustees approved his plan. The co-op plan was an instantaneous success. By 1920 there were so few engineering students who were not co-oping that the program was made a requirement for all engineering students. Also in 1920, women were first admitted to the College of Engineering. For a while cooperative education was known as the Cincinnati Plan. It is now used internationally in more than 75 countries.

STARTING THE ART COLLECTION 

In 1909, President Dabney put Dean Schneider in charge of the plans for a new engineering college building.  Dean Schneider believed that not only did engineers need the practical experience of cooperative education, but they also needed an appreciation of the fine arts, not as something remote and rarefied but as a part of their daily experience.  And so Baldwin Hall has a library, as well as extensive murals and other paintings on the walls.

The murals reflect the civil and industrial life in Cincinnati and show its river front, woodlands, bridges and buildings. Dean Schneider said they struck "a new key in mural decorations, inasmuch as the romance of engineering is worked into beautiful scenic canvases."  They were a gift of the class of 1916 and were painted by Frances Faig.  Mrs. Faig was a pupil of Frank Duveneck, who painted her portrait.  The painting is owned by the family.  Mrs. Faig was the wife of John T. Faig, Professor of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering from 1906-1918.  In 1918, he became president of the Ohio Mechanics Institute, a position he held until his death in 1951.  Read about the 2000 restoration of the reading room murals.

Mural

Mural scene

Telegraph cables

Telegraph cables

Skyscrapers

Skyscrapers

With Dean Schneider’s encouragement, this gift of the class of 1916 started a tradition of leaving money to the college for the purchase of art works.  With this, the walls of Baldwin Hall became an art gallery of original paintings.

Fountain Square in the Rain

Fountain Square in the Rain, L.C. Vogt

Daghestan Types - Cossacks, Euginie Lanceray

Daghestan Types - Cossacks, Euginie Lanceray

Jamming Barges Under the Suspension Bridge

Jamming Barges Under the Suspension Bridge (1921), H H. Wessel

THE BEGINNING OF THE LIBRARY 

The collection of engineering books was growing. The earliest engineering thesis was written by a member of the first class to graduate from the newly chartered University of Cincinnati.  One of these graduates was a woman and one was an engineer.  Antonio De Toledo Piza, the first engineering graduate, was a native of Brazil, and the first of many international students in the College of Engineering. His handwritten thesis onPetroleum in Pennsylvania from 1879 is part of the library collection.  The Howard Breen book fund started about 1910 to honor Howard Breen who graduated in 1882.  The endowment continues to this day.  Howard Breen's handwritten thesis on The Measurement of Base Lines, with drawings, is also part of the library collection.  It was not until about 1900 that theses started to be typed.

In 1901 Mrs. William Merrill donated the Merrill Library of engineering works that included 876 volumes, 478 pamphlets and 185 maps, charts and photo-lithographs. One of these volumes that is still a part of the library collection is A Manual of Civil Engineering by William Rankine, 1865.  The volumes were originally placed in the Van Wormer Library that had opened in September of 1901.  According to the 1902 Annual Report of the university librarian, when the library collection was moved into the Van Wormer Library the books were re-cataloged on typewritten cards, and the handwritten cards were replaced.

The library in the College of Engineering started as departmental libraries within the college.  The library in the Department of Civil Engineering started sometime before 1897.  In 1897, the Civil Engineering Department, along with its library, moved to the second floor of the original Hanna Hall.  In his 1915 Annual Report, Dean Schneider noted that the Engineering College needed a "library properly equipped in our own building, (filled with) not only technical literature, but also copies of (the) non-technical works with which every educated man should be familiar."  In 1916, the departmental libraries combined to form the Engineering College Library.  By 1918, Paul D. Bogle was appointed engineering library assistant, a position he held until 1922.   Starting in the 1920s, the engineering collection, along with the rest of the university libraries collections, was recataloged from the Dewey System to the Library of Congress classification system.   By 1930, there were over 9,000 volumes in the Engineering Library.

Antonia De Toldeo Piza's thesis

Antonia De Toldeo Piza's thesis - first graduate of the College of Engineering

Howard Breen's thesis

Howard Breen's thesis

Antonia De Toldeo Piza's thesis

Antonia De Toldeo Piza's thesis - Handwritten title page

Breen's thesis - first page

Breen's thesis - first page

ENCOURAGING A READING PROGRAM 

In 1920, Dean Schneider introduced a “free” hour in the middle of each day known as the hobby hour.  Students could use this time for extracurricular activities, including athletics and music. A number of student organizations were started at this time, as was the student magazine, The Co-operative Engineer, which lasted from 1921 to 1975.  The time could also be used for “reading,” as B. E. Batson, a civil engineering graduate of the class of 1925, describes as he sits looking out the library window at the cupola of old McMicken.

Swift Hall, that Mr. Batson watched being built as he looked out the library window, completed the buildings in the engineering quadrangle which is now known as the Schneider Quadrangle.

With strong support from Dean Schneider, an elective reading program was adopted by the engineering faculty in 1933.  Typical programs covered various phases of science, philosophy, economics, biography, history, art and literature.  In 1937, a partial list of recent additions to the Engineering Library included about half in engineering, and half in the liberal arts and humanities.  By 1935, book reviews started appearing in The Co-operative Engineer.  In 1937, the magazine carried a homepage article about the Engineering Library and about Mary Condit, the engineering librarian from 1923-1943.  In 1938, The Co-operative Engineer had articles on what students were reading, as well as on the main library of the university.

Dean Schneider served as president of the University from 1928 to 1932 and was asked to remain, but he preferred to return as dean of the College of Engineering, a position he held until his death in 1939.  On the day of his funeral, classes were suspended at the University of Cincinnati.

In 1951,The Co-operative Engineer took note of a new engineering librarian, Miss Peggy Fleming; and from 1966 to 1974 Helen Stafford was librarian.  In 1959, Dr. Arthur Hamlin, the university librarian, proposed a reading program for co-op students.  This experimental reading program expanded the elective reading program started by Dean Schneider. By 1962, under Dean Cornelius Wandmacher and with a grant from General Electric, it had become the Humanities Reading Program.  Students who were co-oping were given paperback books, a format that was new on the market at the time. The books became part of the students’ personal libraries.  The program was voluntary, and students who participated were required to attend discussions led by various faculty members from the English Department.

EXPANDING THE LIBRARY 

With all of this interest in reading, the Engineering Library was getting too small. Part of the planning for the new Engineering College building, Rhodes Hall, completed in 1971, included the renovation of the Engineering Library.  There was discussion about whether the Engineering Library should move into the proposed new central library, the Langsam Library, that was finished in 1978. Finally it was decided to leave the Engineering Library in Baldwin Hall, but to expand it beyond the mural room, to include all the front half of the center section of the eighth floor.

The renovation was completed in January of 1974; that spring the first professional librarian was hired.  In 1975, Dr. Dorothy Byers succeeded Joyce Senescal as Director of the Engineering Library.

The library expanded again in 1980.  This time library space increased by 50%; and the library took over all of the center section of the eighth floor including the space over the central staircase, which was closed off.  In 1984, with a grant from G.E., the Engineering Library was the first library at U.C. to begin to convert its catalog records into machine readable form.  In 1986 the catalog of the University of Cincinnati libraries came online.

THE VIRTUAL LIBRARY 

In 1993, Dean Constantine Papadakis provided the Engineering Library with a UNIX web server and help in learning how to use it.  This allowed the librarians to create an Engineering Library website and to begin to teach Engineering College students about accessing library resources online.  It also allowed 24 x 7 access from the desktop to much of the library's collection, including, starting in 1995, electronic reserves.  

In August of 2000, all offices, including the Engineering Library, moved out of Baldwin Hall so that it could be completely renovated.  When the renovation was completed in January 2002, the Engineering Library had expanded to include the south wing of the eighth floor.  The Library shares the north wing Info Commons space with the college, first with the Office of College Computing and (as of 2012) with the Department of Engineering Education, which operates two first-year engineering education classrooms in this space.

Dean Stephen Kowel was an enthusiast of the library renovation and provided seed money toward conservation of the Faig murals described above. Professor Emeritus James Morand and his wife Diane Morand provided the gift that carried the conservation work to completion. Conservators removed eighty years of grime and yellowed varnish to bring the murals to new life. The original library space featuring the conserved Faig murals is now the Quiet Reading Room, much-needed sanctuary for engineering and applied science students.

By 2003, the Engineering Library had 120,000 catalogued items in Baldwin and another 70,000 in remote storage.  The library subscribes to 700 journals, all but about 200 of which are available electronically.  In addition, students can request books directly from the OhioLINK central catalog; and they can access OhioLINK electronic journals and other electronic resources. It is a portal to off campus resources and used extensively to teach students about the library.

In 2010, in line with the merger of their respective colleges, the Engineering Library merged with the College of Applied Science Library (CAS), forming the current College of Engineering and Applied Science Library (CEAS).  Like the Engineering Library, the CAS Library has had a long history in Cincinnati, with roots in the Ohio Mechanics Institute Library (founded 1852) and earlier library collections of a young Cincinnati.

Today, engineering and applied science students and faculty enjoy a wide range of library resources made available electronically.  In addition, the library provides a wide range of workshops and instruction on new technologies, research skills, and electronic resources.  A growing number of unique digital collections are highlighting what's special about the College of Engineering and Applied Science: a Commemoration of Neil Armstrong: Engineer, Pilot, Astronaut, UC Teacher, Co-operative Engineer online, and much more.

The CEAS Library represents a place of delightful contrast. Baldwin Hall remains the oldest classroom building on the University of Cincinnati campus, and the newly restored Quiet Reading Room is the oldest academic library facility in the greater Cincinnati area.  Hand-in-hand with this historical space, we deliver a vast array of virtual collections and specialized services.