History of Terman Engineering Library


Terman - Photo by Michael Nack/SUL

The Engineering Library at Stanford was established when departmental collections from Civil, Electrical, Mechanical and Mining Engineering were combined with additional engineering material from the Main Library.  None of these departmental libraries had full time staff, and they were scattered over several locations.

In April 1942 the library held about 20,000 volumes and occupied space on the first floor of the Main Library building (now the Bing Wing of the Green Library) which had been previously used for the Hoover Library collection.  Dr. van Patten, Dean Morris, and Prof. Leon B. Reynolds of the School of Engineering were especially active in the formation of that first library. 

Throughout its history the Engineering Library has been directed by a number of librarians who supervised the library's operations.

Head Librarians of the early Engineering Library

1942-1944Hertha Bengtson
1944-1945Margaret Windsor
1945-1952Catherine E. Johnson

The next major change occurred with the formation of the Science and Engineering Division of the Stanford University Libraries, now called the Science and Engineering Group (SERG). It was recognized that the sciences and engineering were developing collection needs and service offerings which differed from the Humanities Libraries on campus.

Under the leadership of Librarian Catherine E. Johnson, the remaining four branches of the Engineering Library (Engineering Main, Guggeneheim Aeronautics, the Electronic Research Laboratory, and Ryan Nuclear Technology Library) were united with the Chemistry, Geology, Mathematics and Physics Libraries.  At a later date, the Biology Library also joined the group.

The 1950's through the 1960's

During the decade of 1951-1960, departmental instruction and research expenditures at Stanford increased three-fold. University operating expenditures increased four-fold and organized or sponsored research went up eight-fold. Yet the University Library budgets only doubled.  In fact, the library as a percentage of the University's operating expenditures during that decade actually declined from 6 percent to only 3 percent.

In 1965, the Engineering Library was the largest member of the Science Division.  It had a collection of 45,438 cataloged volumes, and another 15,933 uncataloged books, pamphlets and reports.  Head Librarian Elizabeth Bates supervised a staff of four, and served all nine departments in the School of Engineering, including 5 branch locations (Engineering Economic Planning, Guggeneheim Aeronautics, Radioscience, Ryan Nuclear Technology, and Solid State Libraries).  But the library was too small, and scattered to serve its users as well as it would like.  Elizabeth Bates had a vision of a new Engineering Library for Stanford’s future.  She passed away prior to its completion, but is recognized as a driving force in re-establishing the Engineering Library as a partner in the School's educational agenda.

Head Librarians of the Pre-Terman Center Engineering Library

1952-1953Madeline Wilkinson
1953-1955Gilbert Campbell
1955-1957Mary Knights
1957-1959Ellen Riedel
1959-1960Michael J. Sadoski
1961Jack Pooler
1962Aileen Donovan
1963-1964Jeanne B. North
1965-1975Elizabeth R. Bates

The 1970's

In 1973-74 plans were finally established for a new Engineering Library in the soon to be constructed Terman Engineering Center.  A comparison of the planned changes is documented in our history folder.


Old location

Terman Building

Floor space6000 sq. ft.15,600 sq. ft
Study carrels1857
Shelving65,000 ft.138, 000 ft.
Journal display426 titles880 titles
Micro readerYesYes
Micro printerNoYes


The Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Center was an experimental building in many ways.  It reflected the 1970s interest in efficient, low-tech environmental systems. The L-shaped plan capitalized on the orientation of the sun and maximized the number of windows. The windows and interior doors were all louvered to allow cross ventilation, and many of the walls were designed to be moveable or re-movable. Today we recognize it as an early attempt at "green building".

Fred Terman looks out over the courtyard of the new building. Photo by Chuck Painter, Stanford News Service.

Fred Terman looks out over the courtyard of the new building. Photo by Chuck Painter, Stanford News Service.

The building (Harry Weese Associates, 1974-1977) was constructed using a combination of pre-cast concrete and laminated wooden beams.  After its opening in October 1977 it was home to the Dean of the School of Engineering and the faculty of several of the different departments in the school, as well as the Engineering Library.

Head Librarians of the Engineering Library in the Terman Engineering Center.

1975-1978Jack Pooler
1979-1981Celine Foster Walker (acting)
1981-1986Michael Sullivan
1986Charlotte Derksen (acting)
1986-1990Eleanor Goodchild
1990-1998Steve Gass
1999-2000Karen Greig (acting)
2001-2006Karen Clay
2007Susan Payne (acting)

The 21st Century

After 30 years of occupation, the Terman Engineering Center had ceased to be state-of-the-art.  The glue-laminated beam construction had begun to succumb to the combined attacks of termites and dry rot, and the building infrastructure was challenged by the amount of electricity needed to power computers and other electronic equipment.  It was time to find a new home for the School of Engineering and the Library.

The Engineering Library's move from the Terman Engineering Center to the new Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center was an opportunity to do more than just haul books from one building to another.  A new head librarian, Helen Josephine, jumped at the chance to create a state-of-the-art library for the future.

Although the new library has returned to its pre-expansion size of 6000 square feet, there is a world of difference.  The determined purchase of digital resources has reduced the need to keep print volumes of material on the shelves, and allowed the library to dedicate a higher than normal percentage of library space to student use.  The seating is designed to be flexible, allowing users to re-arrange furniture when they please for purposes of either study or collaboration as the need arises.

The investment in digital collections has made the entire building and quad usable as unofficial library space, with librarians available to assist researchers via e-mail, phone, internet chat or drop-in visits.

In August of 2010, the library opened in its new location in the Jen-Hsun Huang School of Engineering Center. Up to the time of its re-opening in 2010, the Engineering Library was one of the few campus libraries without an official donor name, though sometimes referred to as the "Terman" library due to its location in the old Terman Building.  It is now officially named  the Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Library, as stated on the plaque inside the entrance, thanks to donors who wished to honor Dr. Terman's association with the School.

In addition to housing the last decade of print material, and ongoing print purchases, the Terman Library has become home to the computer science book collection in support of that curriculum.

Head Librarians of the Frederick Emmons Terman Engineering Library in the Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center

2007-2017Helen Josephine
2018-presentAshley Jester


  • The Past, Present and Future of Stanford's Libraries: But Will There Be Any Books?
    by David C. Weber
    Sandstone and Tile, Vol. 15, No.2, Spring 1991, pp. 11-18

  • Use of Glu-Lam Framing in Terman Engineering Center
    by Byron L. Nishkian, ASCE, President, Nishkian, Hamill & Associates, Consulting Engineers, San Francisco, California
    ASCE Fall Convention and Exhibit, San Francisco, CA, October 17-21, 1977

  • Terman Engineering Center: Ten Years Later
    by Byron L. Nishkian, ASCE, President, Nishkian, Hamill & Associates, Consulting Engineers, San Francisco, California
    in "Classic Wood Structures" edited by the Task Committee on Classic Wood Structures, American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, NY, 1989