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Ely Library at Westfield State University

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About the Library: Mission & History

Library Mission

The mission of Ely Library is to support the curricular, research, and community-building activities of the University through the effective and efficient provision of information resources, services, and instruction in a supportive learning environment.

To accomplish this, the library:

  • Collects, organizes, and makes information accessible in both traditional and digital formats
  • Teaches students how to identify, retrieve, critically evaluate, and effectively apply information in creative and analytical problem solving
  • Provides a supportive and dynamic research and learning environment, both on campus and online
  • Collects, preserves, and provides access to the history of the University through the University Archives
  • Serves all members of the campus community
  • Collaborates with students, staff, and faculty to ensure the effectiveness of library collections, services, and instruction
  • Recruits and develops a skilled, engaged, and diverse workforce
  • Collaborates with partners inside and outside the University to maximize access to resources and the effectiveness of services
  • Assesses and adapts operations to ensure that the library meets the needs of the University Serves as a resource for the citizens of the Commonwealth

More library history

  • Books from the original 1858 collection are still on the shelves of the Library, including several inscribed by James Greenough, who would later become the college’s seventh president.
  • Overdue fines in 1858 were two cents per day for each book overdue.
  • One of the oldest works in the Library is Some Thoughts Concerning Education by John Locke and a Treatise of Education by John Milton, published in Boston in 1830.
  • Sherman Adams, the student who started the Library, went on to own two newspapers in Westfield in the 1870’s: the News Letter and the Woronoco Advertiser (which later became the Westfield Advertiser).
  • The Library was originally named the Sherman Adams Library. It is now named for Joseph Buell Ely, the 52nd Governor of Massachusetts and lifelong resident of Westfield.

Governor Joe Ely throws out the first ball of the season at Fenway Park, 1933:


Westfield State Library History

Library circa 1895
Westfield State Library circa 1895 (Westfield State Archives)

Founded by Students in 1858

Sherman Adams and six other students established a Library of 200 books in the fields of “Literature, Science, and Art” twenty years after the school was founded.

Westfield State students have always been actively involved in shaping the institution, from its early days as a normal school to its current status as a university. So it shouldn’t be surprising that in 1858 a group of seven students (three women and four men) got together to form a library. Until then, only textbooks had been available to students and they felt that a well-stocked library was critical to their studies. The Library was started with 200 books, most of them provided by the students themselves, and the rest donated by faculty members and “friends of Education”. 

The Library was formed as part of the Normal Lyceum and Library Association, a student debate and library club. The students felt that reading extensively on subjects and learning how to speak logically and convincingly about those ideas were integrated activities essential to their education. “In order that these two ends of study may be gained, the student, in addition to the results of his own thinking, must be able to avail himself of the thoughts of others who have labored before him upon the same subject for the same end. This shows the necessity of having in our Library standard works of Literature, Science, and Art. On account of this necessity, the students of the school commenced during the last term a collection of such standard works as would best aid them in preparation for the work in which they are engaged.” (from the Constitution, Bylaws, and Catalogue of the Normal Lyceum and Library Association of Westfield, 1858).

577 Western Ave, Westfield, MA 01086

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