Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Compton Branch of the St. Louis Public Library

Compton is one of seventeen branches in the St. Louis Public Library system.
It is located at 1624 Locust Street, nearest 17th Street in the Downtown West Neighborhood. This library is accessible by appointment only. 


Compton Film Library was erected in 1957 and opened at 1624 Locust Street in 1958. 
Besides serving as the location for SLPL’s film collection, space in the building was devoted to other collections and behind the scenes work such as a bindery, book repairs, and bookmobile services.
photo source SLPL Then and Now, circa 1966
As it stands today. Compton Branch is more of a storage, internal working branch and research facility that houses SLPL’s extensive historical periodicals, journal collections, newspapers, folios, patents, trademarks, and local & federal government information. Materials stored at Compton are retrieved and brought to Central Library for patrons use upon request.

Built in 1957, the Branch was named for Charles H. Compton, who had been Assistant Librarian since 1921 and was Head of the Library from 1938-1950. 
Compton wrote a memoir published in 1954 by the St. Louis Public Library. It is a wonderful document of a life spent fighting for public libraries at the local and national level.
The library received a ~$2M upgrade when Central Library was renovated and re-opened with a ribbon cutting on March 15, 2011. Here's an excerpt from the library's press release:
Located two blocks west of Central at 1624 Locust, Compton Library is now home to 1.1 million books and other materials including the extensive government depository collection (federal, Missouri, and St. Louis) as well as the Library’s renowned history & genealogy materials. Customers will also have access to many unique St. Louis publications and files. Although the Special Collections Department is not housed at Compton, staff will be able to provide many of its items upon request. There is a workroom for staff, space for the Library’s digitization projects, storage, and a small public service area with room for about 20 patrons. 
The Compton Library’s focus is on researchers and their needs. It is not intended to be a full-service Branch, so only patrons who need access to its specialized materials and subjects will be able to use it. Compton staff members are experts in their fields and are able to help researchers find information. Additionally, there are computers loaded with research software and outlets for those with their own laptops. 

Among the highlights of the renovation are:

* New energy-efficient HVAC and mechanical systems 

* ADA compliant access to the building 

* UV protection on all windows for protection of collections* Interior lighting UV protected for preservation of materials 

* All new shelving including compact high-density units in the lower level 

* New flooring throughout* Improved exterior site lighting 

* Interior and exterior security cameras 

Said St. Louis Public Library Executive Director Waller McGuire, “The reopening of Compton marks a major milestone in the complex process of restoring Central Library, with literally millions of items that need to be properly stored, yet easily accessible to our patrons." (source)
And, per a 2011 story on KMOX by Debbie Monterrey, the St. Louis Public Library has been a federal depository since 1866 as well as an official depository for Missouri documents and City of St. Louis documents. (source)


I made an appointment to see the building and a kind soul gave me a tour and let me nerd out on all the old books. As you would expect, a building from the middle 20th Century is going to have some MCM charm, and Compton is no exception. The atrium is nearly original, right down to the space age clock.


The exterior is modest, yet not without it's charm...each corner facing Locust has inscriptions with "St. Louis Public Library" from top to bottom.


The rest of the building is fairly utilitarian, yet crisp,  clean and modern.
The library has a treasure trove of old books and records. Original periodicals are properly sequenced, bound and cataloged. Want to check out Rolling Stone, Vogue or the Sports Illustrated from your heyday, it's all in one spot!

And the good news is, the lion's share of the material here is cataloged and available online so you can request it and have it delivered for you at Central.



But to see this old and well preserved stuff first hand...well, this STL-nerd's heart was aflutter.

Here's some items that caught my eye:
 U.S. Senate Session Records 1897-1898
 Daily news from the Missouri Republican circa late 1800's
 Country Life in America
New York Times microfilm (hundreds of spools)
City Directories
                                          Railroad history

Stay tuned for a proper summary of Charles Herrick Compton's life well-spent in St. Louis.

1 comment:

Kathy G said...

Hello! I found your blog randomly while looking for St. Louis factoids. There's some interesting stuff here. I've bookmarked the link and will be back to explore some more.