Welcome to the year-long celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Kent Library on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University. Kent Library was dedicated on November 7, 1939 and named after the influential and long-time university librarian, Sadie Kent. Seventy-five years later, Kent Library is a dynamic, evolving destination with a strong commitment to serving the needs of Southeast Missouri State University.
Throughout the year we will post stories and memories from people who use the library as a place to learn, to teach, to research, to study, and to find books for information or entertainment. Sadie Kent’s library has seen many changes in the last 75 years, but one thing remains constant: we serve the people of the University and the community. It is for them that we exist, to provide a place for the free exchange of ideas and information. Check back as new interviews are added.
To commemorate the completion of the newly-built library in 1939, the University commissioned 45 stained glass panels by renowned stained glass artisan, G. Owen Bonawit. Bonawit made preliminary sketches of the proposed designs for the Southeast library for long-time librarian Sadie Kent to present to the Board of Regents. The Board approved these sketches and the cost. The Bonawit stained glass panes illustrating the history of printing illuminated the windows of the Kent Library reading room from 1939 to 1968. In 1968, the panes were put into walnut frames and displayed on the mezzanine of the renovated library until 2007, when they were removed for safety during library remodeling. In addition to the 33 illuminated printers’ marks on the windows, Bonawit also designed two smaller collections for the College. One collection of 6 windows celebrates Missouri’s rich history, while another collection of 6 windows focuses on Mark Twain and characters from his novels.
Each week, we will highlight one Bonawit window and provide detailed background information about that particular window. Check back weekly as we unveil a new window each week!
Stop by the lobby of Kent Library today to view an original stained glass window by renowned artist G. Owen Bonawit. This window depicts the Old Normal Building that was the predecessor of Academic Hall. Make sure to visit the Kent Library weekly as we unveil a new Bonawit stained glass window on display each week!
Mark Your Calendars! Make sure to attend the 75th Anniversary Celebration party for Kent Library on Friday, November 7th 2014 to be held at the library. There will be cake, special displays and exhibits and a good time to be had by all as we reminisce and revel in past 75 years of Kent Library’s service to the community.
Sadie Kent served as head librarian at Southeast Missouri State University from 1910 to 1943, when she retired from full-time employment. During her tenure, she submitted the floor plans that were used (with some modifications by the architect) for the new library building in 1939. Born in Des Arc, Arkansas, in 1873, Kent pursued higher education and success in a time when women were just beginning to emerge as leaders in professional life.
Join us for this Athenaeum Event, presented by Bonnie Stepenoff, Professor Emeritus of history at Southeast Missouri State University, on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at Noon in Sadie's Place on the main level of Kent Library.
For years, students at the Third District Normal School (later Southeast Missouri State University) were limited to using the books that they could afford to purchase. Shortly before 1900, literary societies on campus, such as the Clios, collected books for the use of their members. Around this same time, the Normal School purchased a set of reference materials and kept them in the principal’s office of the first Academic Hall. On April 8th, 1902, this incarnation of Academic Hall burned, causing the Normal School to lose their entire collection of books, roughly 4000 at that time, according to the Capaha Arrow. As the Third District Normal School set to rebuild a new Academic Hall, a temporary library was maintained in the Education-Social Science Building. After construction on Academic Hall was completed in 1906, the library was relocated to the East Wing of the building. Ms. Sadie T. Kent, assistant librarian since 1902, became the librarian in 1910. Under her aegis as full-time librarian, the library collection had its true beginnings. The library would remain in Academic Hall until 1939.
By 1935, the President of the College set priorities for a new library building, as the collection was quickly outgrowing its space in Academic Hall. The plans called for a separate library to be built on the site of the tennis courts directly in front of Academic Hall. This new library building would include a reading room that would accommodate 260 people, and also would include a museum and an auditorium on the main floor. Construction on the new building began in the fall of 1938. The new library building, directly across from Academic Hall, was completed with a dedication ceremony on November 7th, 1939. The new library, eventually named Kent Library in Sadie Kent’s honor, came complete with a 5 story stacks area in the rear of the building, stained glass windows reflecting the history of Missouri and famous early printers, and the names of nine leading authors displayed in the frieze that bordered the top of the new library building.
During the decades leading up to the 1960s, Kent Library began to experience growing pains as it struggled to accommodate a student body of 4,000 instead of the 1,200 students it was originally designed to support. A remodel of Kent Library began and sought to enlarge the four floors of the library. This addition was completed in 1966 and greatly enhanced the student experience in their quest for information and scholarly sources. In 1973, the Jake Wells mural was completed in the lobby of the expanded Kent Library. This mural covers four developmental areas of the Southeast Missouri region, including the Mississippi River, mineral resources, timber resources and agriculture.
The most recent changes to Kent Library came through a two-phased renovation process. Phase I saw the creation of Sadie’s Place, a nod to long-time librarian Sadie Kent. Located on the main floor, Sadie’s Place consists of a group study and reading area with shelving for popular current periodicals, new books and best sellers.
Phase II of the renovation took place in 2007, and involved a total reworking of the third floor to create an Information Commons. Included the in the process was the updating of the quiet reading room, the addition of several group study rooms, and the creation of the Heather McDonald Greene Multimedia Center. These recent additions have helped keep Kent Library relevant and continue to provide innovative spaces for student research, work and engagement, just as Sadie Kent would have wanted.
If you are interested in learning more about the 75th Anniversary Celebration, please contact us.
Special Collections and Archives
Kent Library 75th Anniversary Committee Chair
Dr. David Starrett
Dean/Directory of Kent Library
Kent Library 75th Anniversary Committee Member
Director of Development
Southeast Missouri University Foundation