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Library Mission, Collections, & History  

Last Updated: Apr 22, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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Gallaudet University Library was begun in 1874, when the National Deaf-Mute College (as Gallaudet was called) purchased a collection of Deaf-related books from the estate of Charles Baker, headmaster of the Yorkshire Institution for the Deaf.  The Library was housed in one of the old Kendall School buildings.

A Library of 1,021 volumes, including the 518-volume Baker Collection, was moved into the second floor of College Hall, the men’s dormitory, in 1876.  The Library was moved to a first floor suite in 1949 to accommodate its increased size and to make it more accessible to women students.  

Ground was broken for a new Edward Miner Gallaudet Memorial Library (now the Edward Miner Gallaudet Building) on June 4, 1955.  The building was largely paid for by alumni donations, and on moving day, June 30, 1956, 139 stalwart alumni moved 26,000 books from College Hall to their new home.  Afterwards, everyone celebrated with a well-deserved picnic.  The building was dedicated on February 5, 1957.  

Planning for a new Learning Center to accommodate a growing Gallaudet’s Library, classrooms, TV studio, and educational support services began in 1967.  The Learning Center was designed by David W. Doelp of the Kling Partnership, a Philadelphia architectural firm.  Turner Construction Company supervised the construction, which began in May, 1978.  The final costs were approximately  $10 million for the building and $1.8 million for equipment.  The building opened in early January,1981, and was dedicated as the “Merrill Learning Center” in honor of former President Edward C. Merrill on March 14, 1985.

In 1983 an east wing, designed by Mills, Clagette and Wening Architects and constructed by Emjay Engineering, was opened.  

Merrill Learning Center is approximately 100,000 square feet.  About two thirds of the building are underground.


  • Edward C. Merrill Learning Center.  Gallaudet University Archives Gallaudetiana Collection.
  • Edward Miner Gallaudet Memorial Library.   Gallaudet University Archives Gallaudetiana Collection.
  • Gallaudet College Alumni Association.  (1974).  Gallaudet Almanac.  Washington, DC: Gallaudet College Alumni Association.
  • Library: Old and new.  (1971). Gallaudet Today 1 (3), 2-11.
  • Pendell, L.H.  (1957).  Gallaudet College Library.  D.C. Libraries 28 (1), 4-8.



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