In 1963 the Normandy Residence Center, a two year junior college, officially became the institution now known as the University of Missouri – St. Louis. The original University Library was located in a small section of what had previously been the clubhouse of Bellerive Country Club. It contained a meager 3,800 volumes under the stewardship of a single professional librarian. By 2005 the Libraries of the University owned more than one million volumes, including a Federal Depository Library, a computerized Library Research Commons, and the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.
The Thomas Jefferson Library was one of the first of three new buildings constructed on the campus. It opened in 1968 under the leadership of its first Library Director, Susan Freegard. The Library was designed to house more than 240,000 volumes and allow seating for 1,000 students within its 5 stories. The area outside of the original "TJ Library" entrance also sported a swimming pool and basketball court, which have since been removed.
By the 1980s the growing library collections began to displace staff and study areas. Assistance was on the way with $6.1 million in funding provided by the State of Missouri and three local St. Louis corporations: McDonnell Douglas, Emerson Electric, and Anheuser-Busch. In 1990, the new McDonnell Douglas, Emerson Electric, and Anheuser-Busch Wing of the Thomas Jefferson Library was dedicated. Of architectural interest is the glass pyramid on the west side of the building. It is strikingly reminiscent of the version designed and built for the Louvre Museum in Paris by famed architect I.M. Pei.
In 1996 the 1,250 members of the Mercantile Library voted for and approved the Library's move from its downtown St. Louis location to the Thomas Jefferson Library building. On October 2, 1998, the St. Louis Mercantile Library at the University of Missouri – St. Louis was formally rededicated. The Mercantile Library now resides on the first two floors of the Thomas Jefferson Library building beneath its signature glass pyramid.
As part of the campus-wide celebration of UMSL's 50th Anniversary, the Libraries prepared a History of the UMSL Libraries - Jubilee Video describing the people and places of UMSL's Libraries over the years.
Established in 1846 by civic leaders and philanthropists, the Mercantile exists today as a vibrant community and cultural asset. It is the oldest general library in continuous existence west of the Mississippi.
The task of the Mercantile Library as a research library is to make its collections, which have come to concentrate on Western Expansion and the history, development, and growth of the St. Louis region and of the American rail and river transportation experiences, available to the widest number of local and national users.
For more information, please visit the Mercantile Library's web site.
Ward E. Barnes, one of the founders of UMSL and a superintendent of the Normandy School District, saw a need for public higher education in the St. Louis area. In 1958, he began working with Bellerive Country Club (whose property became what is now North Campus), the President of the University of Missouri, and the state legislature to establish the University of Missouri Normandy Residence Center. The first registration for classes was held in May 1960. Almost 200 students enrolled, with more on a waiting list. In 1963, the property was transferred from the Normandy School District to the University of Missouri and the Normandy Residence Center became the University of Missouri – St. Louis.
Before UMSL acquired the property, the area that is now South Campus was owned by the Daughters of Charity from 1900-1976. Plans for the dramatic two-story glass building were completed in 1956, and it was named the Elizabeth Seton Library. At that time, the other buildings on South Campus served as a residence, seminary and college for the nuns. UMSL purchased some of the property in 1976 and in 1977 the Seton Library became the Education Library. In 1988 it was renamed the Ward E. Barnes Education Library.
From 1981-1985, the Education Library was on the first floor and the Health Sciences Library was on the second floor of the glass building. These two libraries functioned as separate entities. In 1986 the Health Sciences Library moved to the chapel building on South Campus location until 1999, at which time the Health Sciences and Education Libraries merged collections and became the Ward E. Barnes Library.
In May 2014, the Ward E. Barnes Library was closed and merged into the Thomas Jefferson Library on UMSL's North Campus.