Library Rules, 1799

Silhouette of the Campus of the University of North Carolina 1814
Silhouette of the Campus of the University of North Carolina 1814

Ever wonder what library rules were like in 1799, soon after the founding of the University of North Carolina library?  In this gem of an entry from the General Faculty and Faculty Council Records, the Board of Trustees write the rules for the library.  Notice that some things never change: reference books remain in the library for the most part, call slips go out with books, and fees are paid for “defaced” books.

The university acquired its first book in 1785: “The Works of the Right Reverend Father in God” by Father Thomas Wilson.  Though it was still eight years before the founding of the first state university, the book was placed in the New Bern Academy for safekeeping until the university opened its doors

The building they are writing about in the 1799 rules is still standing, though it is no longer a library.  The Philanthropic Society Library was housed in Old West, and was one of only a few university buildings.  There is evidence, though, that aside from the well-stocked “society” libraries, the University Library remained in a 9 feet by 12 feet room in the President’s House until 1814!

The library was only open 2-3 hours per day as late as 1885, which put a damper on students camping out during finals.  Librarians, of course, were not SILS educated, but instead members of the Philanthropic Society who volunteered their time as university librarian to watch over the collection, which numbered a few hundred books.

All students paid a fee of $1-2 per semester until the early 1800s, when the university allocated $250 per year to the library.  The library endowment is now well into the millions, and student fees (though most of the fees are not for the library) are thousands of dollars.

Do you want to learn more about the history of the University library buildings?  This is just a preview for the University Buildings exhibits, coming this spring to a library near you!  The exhibit on the library buildings will be up in Davis Library March 1-May 31.  See the full list of library rules after the jump!

Continue reading “Library Rules, 1799”