History of Cubberley Library

Photo of Cubberley Library reading room in 1938
Photo of Ellwood P. Cubberley seated
Photo of Cubberley Library balconies in 1938

Cubberley Library began in 1891 as a departmental library housing some 600 college catalogs and school reports. This early collection occupied a single room in the Inner Quad. Expansion began in 1898 when Ellwood Patterson Cubberley came to Stanford as Executive Head of the Education Department and immediately focused his attention on the library. By 1903 the small collection had grown to some 3,000 volumes, occupied more commodious quarters, and was overseen by a part-time student librarian.

In 1917 Cubberley was named the first Dean of the newly established School of Education. The development of the library and its collection continued to interest him. After two changes in location, the library moved to the Education Building in 1938. This building, planned by Cubberley after his retirement in 1933 and financed largely from his personal fortune, opened in 1938. A large section of the second floor, consisting of three interconnecting rooms, was designed for the library. The scope of the Cubberley Library collections has vastly expanded since those early days. Originally designed to support teacher training, the collection has grown considerably to support the broader research and teaching interests of the GSE faculty in the social science disciplines.

Damage to Cubberley Library book shelves from Loma Prieta earthquake 1989.
Damage to Cubberley Library from Loma Prieta earthquake 1989.
Damage to microtext cabinets in Cubberley Library from Loma Prieta earthquake 1989.

The 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake left the library with some 100,000 books on the floor, mainly in the basement storage area. Volunteers from the Stanford University School of Education helped return the shelves to order. Card catalogs and microtext shelving fell forward, and two of the microfiche cabinets were damaged beyond repair. Three plaster busts that had been in the main reading room since it opened also crashed to the floor.

Over the summer of 2009 Cubberley Library changed again as part of the seismic retrofit of the building. The balconies were removed, rooms for collaborative work were built, additional power outlets were added, and offices were centralized near a single service counter.