Architect’s rendering of John B. Coleman Library – Groundbreaking Ceremony 1986
Plans for the John B. Coleman Library at Prairie View A&M University were conceived and developed as early as 1983-84, as more space was needed to hold the growing library collection held in the first Library Building constructed on the campus in 1945, the W.R. Banks Library. According to the 1987 Yearbook, the W.R. Banks Library (constructed in 1945) was “….expanded with a “half-million dollar addition to the building in 1968….and provides seating for five-hundred readers. The fast-growing total collection contains 260,000 volumes, 168,298 microfilms, a Texas State Documents Collection, curriculum materials, and a Prairie View A&M Archival Collection. Over 1,976 periodicals and other serials are currently received by the library…the building itself has not grown with the materials accumulated and a “new grand library” with five stories is being constructed and is scheduled to open in 1988.”
The Groundbreaking Services for the “new library building” were held on July 18, 1986. Mr. Robert Wedgeworth, then Dean of the Columbia University Library School, and former Executive Director of the American Library Association (ALA) was the keynote speaker.
The construction of the “new” library was completed at an estimated cost of 17 million dollars,and all library services and materials moved in 1988, during the Presidency of Dr. Percy Pierre, and forty-two years after the dedication of the W.R. Banks library. On July 22, 1988, the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents voted unanimously to name the new library in honor of Dr. John B.Coleman, the first black regent on the Texas A&M Board of Regents. Library records indicate that Dr. Adele Dendy (1987- 1991) was the Director of Library Services, and coordinated the opening of the “new grand library.” According to the 1988 Yearbook, the opening of the “new landmark on campus” coincided with the celebration of the 110th Anniversary of the University, referred to as “A Renaissance of Academic Excellence: 1878-1988.” The focus of the Anniversary Renaissance Celebration, November 10-13, 1988, was the dedication of the new $17 million dollar library, at the end of a week of special ceremonies, on November 13, 1988.
“You’ve given me the greatest honor anyone could have given to me by naming this library after me,” Coleman is cited in the 1988 Yearbook, as stating to the members of the Texas Board of Regents and to the Administration of Prairie View. Texas State Senator Craig Washington, a 1966 graduate of Prairie View, praised the work of Coleman as he gave the convocation address. “The most gratifying thing for me is to drive up (U.S.) 290 from Waller and see the John B. Coleman Library rising from the top of the hill,” Washington said of the new building. Other dignitaries applauding Coleman included Dr. Percy Pierre, former regent Joe Richardson, and A&M Chancellor Perry Adkisson. “Of all the buildings on the campus, the library is the core,” Pierre said. At the time of the dedication, the library held 220,000 volumes, but the new building was designed to hold between 500,000 and 600,000 volumes; it will seat 1,400 students. Among other features mentioned were the archives and special collections on the fifth floor, an art gallery on the 1st floor, and the donation of a collection of paintings from Hazel Biggers, presented by Coleman’s wife Gloria. Later, a portrait of Dr. Coleman was commissioned and now hangs inside the main foyer.
Since 1988, the library collection has grown to close to 400,000 volumes and the building has undergone several upgrades, renovations, remodeling, and reassignment of space, including the addition of the Jazzman Café on the 1st floor, in 2003; a larger Art Gallery that holds the Delco Collection and an African Art Collection, on the 4th floor, in 2004; wireless connections and other technology upgrades, 2004 to present; the installation of Information Desks on floors 1-3, beginning in 2006; installation of a surveillance camera system, in 2008; refurbishing of all tables and chairs in public areas in 2009; interior decorating and upgrades, including painting of the interior walls and columns, new panels and flooring in the elevators, new carpeting installed in all public areas on the 1st to 3rd floors, in 2009; and ongoing systematic upgrades of all public and staff computers, and library technological systems, including state-of-the-art electronic resources with remote access. From 1988 to Present, the John B. Coleman Library has been under the leadership of four Library Directors and an Assistant Director of Technical Services (Mrs. Helen Yeh), who served for three Interim Director terms:
Dr. Adele Dendy, Ed.D. (1988 to 1991)
Dr. Dudley Yates, Ph.D. (1992 to 1997)
Dr. Frank Bruno, Ed.D. (2000 to 2004)
Dr. Rosie L. Albritton, Ph.D. (2005 to 2016)
Dr. Albritton was Appointed September 1, 2005, as Director of Library Services and Professor of Educational Media & Technology. (She holds the B.S.,Tennessee State University; M.S., Governors State University – Park Forest South, IL; M.A. and A.B.D, from The University of Chicago; the M.L.S., University of Michigan; and Ph.D., University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign).
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