Cowles Library - 1967 Building

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Cowles Library - 1967 Building Addition

Originally submitted by Max Chorpash, Drake University, Fall 2011

Updated June 2012 by Dr. Susan Fink

Brief History

In 1907 the Carnegie Library was formed in Carnegie Hall, and this was the first official library on campus. It wasn't until 1937 that the library was renamed what it is today, Cowles Library. The building addition came in 1967 when the library grew in size and was completely redone. In 1969 two new features of the library were created. The Science Periodicals Room, which stored books and journals on the basic science and math subjects, was added to the southeast corner of the older part of Library. In addition, in 1969, the Browsing Section contained about 600-900 books that were added.

1967 Addition

On May 7, 1967 Cowles Library expanded the original building with an additional 66,000 square feet, which was nearly triple the space of the old facility. This new space allowed for 1,400 students to be seated in the library as opposed to 300 students in the old one. The new addition was built in a "U" shape around the east, north and west sides and the main entrance faced Carpenter Avenue. The addition included individual study nooks which provided places that students could study and have their own personal workspace. Also, the glass-enclosed study room on the 2nd floor was designated as a smoking room. This was the only smoking friendly room in the library, but one of the many study lounges in the library at this time. In fact, each floor had numerous amounts of lounge study areas that were student friendly. In addition, there were open stacks and this made finding books and volumes extremely easy to students.

Renovation Projects

A renovation of the building began in 1993 with new lighting, carpet, paint, and furnishing. In 2000, the Reading Room received a much needed renovation which included fixing windows and repairing water damaged walls. Also, the hallway that leads into the reading room, was expanded and made bigger, and made into a commons area.

2009 - Cowles Cafe added

The library added a cafe that proudly serves Starbucks and serves a variety of food and drinks.

2012 - After Hours Renovation


In May of 2012, renovation of the lower level of the original building which housed the cafe went under renovation. The area will include an update to the cafe, addition of an after hours entrance, modern group and individual study area and restrooms in the area. This study space will be available during the regular library hours as well as available after the library closes. Construction began on May 21. Current plans call for the area to be available for the start of classes for Fall 2012. The Library is maintaining a project website that has regular updates -- including photos and videos -- of the construction process.

Cowles Library's Facebook Page

Gardner Cowles Sr.

It isn't possible to talk about the library without talking about the man who started it all, Gardner Cowles Sr. Cowles was born in 1861 in Oskaloosa, Iowa, and was already facing some rough times when his mother died when he was at the young age of 12. He went to college at William Penn in Oskaloosa, and was interested in the arts and journalism. In 1903, Cowles received a call from Harvey Ingham and asked if he would partner in a newspaper called The Des Moines Register and Leader that was deep in debt. Cowles agreed, and the newspaper ended up doing very well, and he and Ingham ended up being very wealthy men. In 1937, Gardner Cowles Sr. gave a 185,000 dollar donation to the library, and in return it was named after him. Still today the library remains named after him, and after many renovations remains standing today.