Change was afoot on the campus of West Texas State University in 1974.
According to the front page of The Prairie’s January 16th, 1974, edition, enrollment was down (to just less than 6,000 students), the new science building had finally been completed, and freshmen women had voted to ban curfews at their residence halls. On the back page of the student newspaper was a picture of the recently opened “James P. and Mary Elizabeth Cornette Memorial Library.” And in between on the editorial page was Steve Webb’s glowing observation that the new library would usher in a phase of educational advancement for students and teaching opportunities for faculty.
Webb was correct on both counts.
The Cornette Library will celebrate its 50th anniversary this academic year with exhibits, displays, programs, and speakers. It should be a fantastic opportunity for students and faculty to learn the history of the present-day library and its two predecessors during the more than 110-year existence of West Texas A&M University.
The first phase of the three-step exhibit went up last week on the walls of the library’s gallery. It tells the story of when WT’s library, like almost everything on campus back then, was in the Old Main Administration building.
The next phase will show what the library was like when it was housed in what is now the eastern portion of the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum. Interestingly enough, the original museum and library were stand-alone buildings next to each other. After the library moved out and the museum took over that space, the museum connected the two buildings and made it into what it is today: one large, expansive building.
A historical look at the present-day facility will be the final phase of the library display. It will be a glimpse into what Webb described when he and his classmates took their first tour of the building almost a half-century ago: a place where “students were filled with wonder at the size of the new building, and the bright, clean atmosphere that lends a sense of academia to the campus” and “professors visiting the new facility went away with bright looks on their faces and drooling over the possibilities the library holds for the future.”