The inception of the K-State Libraries occurred when the property of Bluemont Central College, including a library of 2,700 volumes, became Kansas State Agricultural College in 1863. The bulk of the library collection remained in the old Bluemont College building until 1877 when professor M.L. Ward transferred approximately 1,225 volumes to the "old barn" (Farm Machinery Hall) so they could be more accessible on the KSAC campus. When the northern wing of Anderson Hall was completed in 1879 the library was moved from the other locations to a first floor room in the northeast corner of the building.
By 1893 crowded conditions in Anderson Hall convinced the legislature to appropriate $60,000 for the construction of a "Library and Agricultural Science Hall." The library was moved to the new building (named Fairchild Hall in 1902) during the summer of 1894. The growth of the library's holdings and the increased need for reading space were met for some years by additions to the building and acquiring rooms intended for other purposes.
Finally, the need for more space and a modern fireproof building led to the construction of a new library in 1926-27. The cornerstone was laid on June 2, 1926, and the library was opened the summer of 1927. The ceremony dedicating what is today the original wing of the main library occurred on January 10, 1928, and included an address by President Francis D. Farrell.
Because the structure was approximately half of the building that was originally planned, an addition of stacks had to be constructed. The structure, extending south from the original building, was ready for use in 1954. On October 5, 1955, a dedication ceremony took place at which time the entire building was named Farrell Library in honor of Francis D. Farrell, Dean of Agriculture, 1918-1925, and President, 1925-44.
Increases in holdings, staff and services led to the construction of another addition to Farrell Library in 1970. Making the entire building functional to users and an efficient structure to house research collections have been ongoing concerns of the library administration since the completion of the newest wing. Major reorganizing and remodeling projects occurred in 1983 and 1986-87 to create better shelving and storage conditions for collections and to utilize space and staff more efficiently.
The size of the library collection remained small during the 1800's. Lack of financial support during the first few years of the college kept the size at approximately 3,000 volumes and by 1891 only 10,000 publications were included in the holdings. After the turn of the century the growth of the library increased substantially. When the library moved into new quarters in 1927 there were 85,450 books and 750 serials in the collection. There were 590,000 volumes in the collection when the addition containing eight stack levels opened in 1954. In 1986 the K-State Libraries celebrated the addition of the millionth volume to the holdings. In spite of the impressive growth during recent years, the KSU Libraries have the smallest collection among the Big-Eight libraries.
As the college grew the library expanded to meet the needs of the students and faculty. For example, the first comprehensive card catalog was devised in 1886 and the collection was converted to the Dewey classification system in 1894 (the ten year conversion to the Library of Congress system was completed during the 1975-76 year). Congressman, and former KSAC president, John A. Anderson designated the library a depository for public documents in 1889. In 1897 the library began holding books on reserve for classes. Instruction in the use of the library dates to 1903 when the faculty voted that sophomores should take a course in how to use the library.
In the 1990s, the priority of creating additional space for its expanding collections, services, and staff led to the construction of Hale Library, dedicated in 1997. The library is named after Joe and Joyce Hale whose financial support played a key role in making the new addition possible.