Melson Society Home at The University of West Georgia

History of Ingram Library

Professor and Mrs. J.H. MelsonWest Georgia's library began in January 1908 when Professor and Mrs. J.H. Melson hosted an afternoon event inviting the community to provide the newly-formed Fourth District Agricultural & Mechanical School with a "Cloudburst of Books." Three hundred twenty-five books were donated and Mrs. Melson organized the volumes in a converted linen closet in the Administration building. She later secured a classroom for use as a library. Ingram Library’s Penelope Melson Society, a friends group, was founded in 2008 in honor of the library’s centennial, and in recognition of Penelope Stevens Melson’s voluntary efforts to establish and manage the institution’s first library.

By the 1930s the library collection had over a thousand volumes. In 1933, the newly-formed Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia granted junior college status to the school. President Irvine Sullivan Ingram appointed Annie Belle Weaver, a professional librarian trained at Emory University, to develop a library to support the institution's new mission. At the time, West Georgia College had 200 students.

Sanford LibraryIn the fall of 1936, Miss Weaver received blueprints for a new library building. Construction was funded through the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA). Construction on the library began in October of 1936 and was completed in February of 1937. Though the WPA provided no funds for shelving and furnishings, the empty library building was opened to great fanfare. Sanford Library was central to West Georgia's first accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1940 the Julius Rosenwald Fund gave $20,000 for an addition to Sanford Library, boosting its seating capacity to 130 and providing shelving space for 15,000 books.

Construction of new libraryEnrollment grew dramatically during the 1960s. The modern Academic Center, composed of four air conditioned buildings including a new library, was dedicated in 1968. Upon Miss Weaver’s retirement, Robert Simmons was named Library Director. He served until 1978, when Charles E. Beard was appointed Director of Libraries. The library was enlarged in 1980 and named for Dr. Irvine Sullivan Ingram. Special Collections was named in honor of Annie Belle Weaver. Ingram Library moved into the electronic age in the 1980s and 1990s with its first automated library catalog and the birth of GALILEO, Georgia Library Learning Online.

Speaker MurphyIn 1983, Congressman Newt Gingrich, later Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, agreed to deposit his papers and political memorabilia at the University. The collections of Georgia's Political Heritage Program, a program established by Dr. Melvin T. Steely, Professor of History, with the assistance of Dr. Ted Fitz-Simons and Dr. Don Wagner, are housed in the library's Special Collections, and include the papers and office contents of former Georgia House Speaker Thomas B. Murphy. Other notable collections include those of Congressmen Bob Barr and Mac Collins. Georgia Senator Bill Hamrick donated his papers in 2007, adding to the numerous collections associated with political leaders from the West Georgia region. The Georgia Holocaust Commission's Thomas B. Murphy Teacher Training & Resource Center opened on the second floor of Ingram Library in 2001, the only center of its kind housed within the library of a state institution of higher education.

The 2003 State University of West Georgia Campus Master Plan identified the need for additional library space to support the growth of the institution, and its move to university status. Director of University Libraries Charles E. Beard chaired the Campus Master Plan committee. Mr. Beard retired in 2004. E. Lorene Flanders was appointed Director of University Libraries in 2005, and named Dean of Libraries in 2010. In 2007 Sizemore Group, AIA of Atlanta developed a Strategic Program for the renovation and expansion of Ingram Library. During the 2008 Georgia State Legislative Session, $8 million was appropriated in the 2009 state budget to fund the renovation of the library as a tribute to the late Speaker Murphy. Houser Walker Architecture of Atlanta served as architects. Parrish Construction of Perry, Georgia, acted as contractors on the renovation project, which was completed in 2011.

Ingram Library Today

The Thomas B. Murphy Reading Room and State Capitol Office Replication, dedicated April 19, 2012, is located on the ground floor of Ingram Library. The Reading Room contains interpretative exhibits tracing Speaker Murphy's life and political career. The exhibits are aligned with Georgia Performance Standards for the study of Georgia history. The floors of the Reading Room are laid with Cherokee marble, the material used in the Georgia Capitol, and the room overlooks the Townsend Study Garden, located on the east side of the library. The garden was established in honor of the institution’s fifth president, Dr. Maurice Townsend, following his death in 1993. Dr. Townsend’s first major construction project was the 1980 expansion of the library. He donated some 7,000 volumes from his personal collection to the library during the course of his presidency. The Townsend Garden was rebuilt in 2012 with plans developed by the Jaeger Company. The Annie Belle Weaver Special Collections, the Center for Public History, the Thomas B. Murphy Center for Public Service, and Georgia's Political Heritage Program are located adjacent to the Murphy Office as part of  the university's Center for Civic Engagement. 

The library's main floor features flexible study environments, help desks, computer stations, and areas for programs and exhibits. The library’s reference, new books, map, and U.S. government documents collections are housed on the main floor. The library’s main entrance faces Back Campus Drive, and an additional entrance through Starbucks faces the UWG Campus Center and Love Valley. The bust of Georgia House Speaker Thomas B. Murphy by sculptor Michael D. Jernigan stands in the main entrance lobby. It was transferred to the university in 2012 from the Capitol Education Center. The bust was commissioned by the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, and unveiled at the State Capitol in 2000 in a ceremony attended by Governor Roy Barnes and Lt. Governor Mark Taylor. Ingram Library houses a collection of student and faculty art, including “The Prophet,” a bronze by Gary Coulter, presented by the Class of 1968. A bowl by renowned artist Phillip Moulthrop, Class of 1969, which Mr. Moulthrop donated to the College of Arts & Humanities in 2012, is also displayed on the main floor. 

The library’s second floor contains study rooms, circulating collections, the Assistive Technology Lab, administered by UWG Disability Services, the Thomas B. Murphy Holocaust Teacher Training & Resource Center, administered by the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust, a conference room, and the office of the Dean and Library Administration. The Dean’s Conference Room contains the original conference table from the office of the Speaker of the Georgia House of Representatives. It was built for Georgia House Speaker George L. Smith, who assumed the office in 1959, when he was appointed by Governor Earl Vandiver. He served in that capacity until 1962. George L. Smith fought for the independence of the House from the Executive Branch, and was elected speaker by his fellow members of the House in 1967. He served as Georgia House Speaker until his death in 1973. Speaker Tom Murphy also used the table during his tenure as Speaker 1974-2002. 

The library’s third floor, designated for quiet study, contains classrooms, computer workstations, and the offices of the library’s Instructional Services unit. “Sporangium Disseminating Spores,” a large ceramic installation by Cameron Covert and Bruce Bobick, was completed in 1980 and installed on the library’s main floor. Removed and stored during the 2011 renovation, “Sporangium Disseminating Spores” is slated to be re-installed on the third floor of the library.

A Century of Success: A UWG History

Ingram Library Renovation

Irvine Sullivan Ingram, 1892-1981