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Alachua County Library History: Library History Timeline

This guide is home for my library history project that includes documents, images, web resources, and other information gathered from research.


A Summarized Timeline of the

History of Libraries in Alachua County


This timeline is an expanded and revised version of notable dates and activities compiled from the following sources:


Ø Vernon Kisling, University of Florida Libraries Web page, “UF Libraries History Timeline” (

Ø  Matheson Historical Museum file document, “Gainesville-Alachua County Library History” (revised 1990)

Ø  Alachua County Library District Web page, “History of the Library” (


1884 In 1883 the cornerstone is laid for the new, main academic building of the East Florida Seminary, 419 NE 1st Street in Gainesville. The two-story brick structure, now called Epworth Hall, opened in 1884 with a library on its second floor - the first recognized library operating within the county.


1905 The Twentieth Century Club, a local women’s organization, gathered donations for two years and opened a subscription library. Another subscription library, the Gainesville Circulating Library, opened the same year.


1905 The University of Florida (UF) was established in Gainesville and included a      library within Thomas Hall, a faculty library committee, and the first UF librarian, C.A. Finley. 


1906 The first Gainesville Public Library opened but is available only through an annual subscription fee. The collection was boosted by the Twentieth Century Club donating the contents of its library to a new volunteer group, the Library Association. The Gainesville Public Library’s collection also received a donation of books from the library of the defunct East Florida Seminary and numbered approximately 800 volumes.


1910 The University of Florida’s Agricultural Library, which had shared quarters with the Main Library in Thomas Hall, is relocated to Agriculture Hall. The university now numbered six libraries, as four – the Law Library, the Botannical Library, the Zoological Library, and the Physics Library – had been created in the previous year.   


1915 The City of Gainesville Council deeded property for a new library building and issued an ordinance and referendum – subsequently passed by a majority of voters in a special election - that established a Library Board and provided library funding through property taxes.  


1918 The first free public library in Gainesville was opened with funds acquired through the Andrew Carnegie Corporation. The library was located at 419 East University Avenue and its first librarian was Mrs. Jesse S. White and the collection numbered 1,588 volumes.


1925 The University of Florida’s Main Library was built to house a collection of forty thousand books and numerous journals and documents. The new library building, built in the collegiate Gothic architectural style, included a reference room, a reserve reading room and offices.


1938 The UF Library allowed books to circulate outside the library for the first time. At the same time, the public library was suffering from inadequate shelf-space and high use, with annual circulation exceeding seventy thousand books.


1941 The UF Library automated its book circulation and fines using an IBM punch card and sorting machines.


1949 The Gainesville Public Library became a department of the city of Gainesville, and its Library Board was dissolved and library governance was replaced by the City Commission, which appointed a new Library Advisory Board as a counsel for library issues.


1950 The annual meeting of the Florida Library Association was held in Gainesville and hosted by the Director of the UF Libraries, Stanley West. The meeting included a dedication of a new addition to the main library building and a donation by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings of many of her papers and manuscripts for the creation of a Creative Writing Collection.


1953 A separate public library for segregated African Americans, the Carver Branch Library, was opened at 536 NW 1st Street.


1954 The Library Advisory Board, an architect hired for the project, and Stanley West all recommended that a new library be built because the old Carnegie building was in too poor a condition to be renovated. The public library was temporarily relocated and the Gainesville Friends of the Library group became established and began plans for a book sale to raise funds for the new library.


1956 After several construction delays, the new Gainesville Public Library opened on the site of the original Carnegie library, 419 East University Avenue, with six hundred people attending the opening ceremony. The University of Florida opened a medical school within the Shands Hospital & Health Center complex that includes a large research library, the Health Sciences Center Library.


1957 The John A.H. Murphree Law Library (originally named the Alachua County Law Library) opened and was located in the Alachua County Courthouse


1959 In the previous year the city and county commissions forged an agreement for county-wide library service, subsequently the High Springs, Hawthorne, and Micanopy Branch Libraries are opened and the first bookmobile began operating in rural areas. Regional library service was initiated when Alachua and Bradford counties joined to form the Santa Fe Regional Library.


1963 The University of Florida’s libraries acquired its one millionth volume.


1965 The Santa Fe Community College and library opened, and later moved to its northwest Gainesville campus in 1972.


1966 The Gainesville Public Library automated circulation by acquiring a Regiscope checkout system.


1967 The University of Florida’s Graduate Research Library opened (in 1970 was renamed Library West), and the Main Library became the Undergraduate Library (in 1970 was renamed Library East). For the first time students and patrons were allowed to browse open stacks. The Veterans Affairs Medical Center Library opened.


1968 The new Gainesville Public Library opened at 222 East University Avenue and contained a record collection, but due to city budget constraints and rising construction costs the 17,500 sq. ft. library building was scaled back from the size originally proposed.


1969 After sixteen years serving the black community, the Carver Branch Library was closed without a press release or public announcement. It had been temporarily closed for repairs and was never reopened, as blacks were now allowed to use the main public library. The Hawthorne Branch library is newly opened.


1970s The UF Libraries underwent large developments in automation throughout the decade by installing terminals with access to the bibliographic utility OCLC and other online databases, hiring its first computer programmer, and creating a Systems department.


1980 The UF Libraries acquired the NOTIS software to run a PC-based, automated online card catalog and circulation system.


1985 The Florida Center for Library Automation (FCLA) was established in Gainesville and the NOTIS online system with over four million bibliographic records made available state-wide. By the following year, the first terminals to access the online catalog are offered for use to library patrons.


1987 A new Central Science Library (later renamed the Marston Science Library) is opened at the University of Florida. The library was created from the merger of several science branches, including the Hume Agriculture Library.


1991 In February, at a cost of over eleven million dollars highlighted by a large central octagonal tower, the Alachua County Library District opened its new 78,000 sq. ft. library building & headquarters at 401 East University Avenue in Gainesville.


1992 In November, the Millhopper Branch and Tower Road Branch libraries are opened.






Acquisitions Librarian - Library Science Selector

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