#ElonTBT: Community moves thousands of books to McEwen Library in 1968

In this edition of #ElonTBT, we rewind to 1968 when Elon opened a brand new library with the help of volunteers who hand-delivered 67,000 book volumes to their new home.

In the #ElonTBT series, the Elon University News Bureau, along with Archives & Special Collections, will flash back to the past to take a look at Elon over the years. You will find videos, newspaper clippings, photos and more to celebrate Elon’s past, while looking ahead to the future. Follow along on Today at Elon and the university’s TwitterFacebook and Instagram pages every Thursday to see what we dig up.

In the late 1960s, the construction of a new library on the Elon campus offered a unique opportunity for community building.

Carlton Library housed Elon’s books for decades. The library was constructed in 1924 after a fire destroyed the original Elon campus the prior year. But by 1968, the campus community and its book collection had outgrown Carlton.

That year, thanks to a generous donation from Iris Holt McEwen, another from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and a U.S. Department of Education grant, Elon opened McEwen Library to replace Carlton. The new library had space for 110,000 volumes and six times the seating capacity of Carlton, which had become a space for the Music and Art departments.

President Danieley leads the move, along with James W. Caviness ’68, Professor of Religion William S. Sloan and others.

With the new library constructed, the next step was to move thousands of books to their new home. Instead of hiring professional movers, President J. Earl Danieley saw an opportunity. He designated July 15, 1968, as “Elon Library Move-In Day” and invited Elon students, faculty, staff and community members to help hand-deliver books from Carlton to McEwen.

With summer classes canceled and offices closed, 250 volunteers helped move books that day. President Danieley, along with librarians Theodore Perkins and Guy Lambert, led the group as it delivered 67,000 volumes to the shelves of McEwen Library. They worked from 8:30 a.m. to 5:05 p.m., and thanks to their hard work, the library was ready to officially open to the public by the next morning.

The volunteers, however, did not work for free. For every load of books a person carried, they received a ticket. With 10 tickets, volunteers qualified for a free steak dinner the night of the move.

Volunteers gathered for a free steak dinner after helping deliver thousands of books from Carlton to McEwen Library.

Durward Stokes, history professor and future college historian, said in “Elon College: Its History and Traditions,” the event was a memorable experience for everyone involved, writing, “There has never been a more cooperative occasion at Elon College before or since.”

Stokes also detailed conversations Danieley had with representatives from local newspapers, radio and television stations in attendance in which the president said the Library Move-In would in the future be seen as a “historic occasion” at Elon.

McEwen served as Elon’s library for 32 years before campus growth led to the construction of another new building: the Carol Grotnes Belk Library. The 75,000-square-foot library had more than two and a half times the floor space of McEwen when it opened on Jan. 31, 2000. It continues to house Elon’s collection of books, research tools and other helpful resources today.

Do you have any special pieces of Elon history? Share your photos and videos with us via email at news@elon.edu or using the hashtag #ElonTBT on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.