The collection began with the Davidson Academy, which was founded in 1785 when Tennessee was part of the Southwest Territory. Eleven years later, President George Washington signed a bill making Tennessee the 16th state. In 1806 an Act of the Legislature created Cumberland College out of Davidson Academy, and in 1826 Cumberland College became the University of Nashville.
Because many faculty and students joined the army, the University of Nashville closed its doors during the Civil War. When the war ended, the South needed a teacher training school. The University of Nashville was revived due to the generosity of the philanthropist George Peabody. It became the Peabody Normal College at Nashville in 1875 and later the George Peabody College for Teachers.
In 1889 the library began to catalog its books according to the Dewey Decimal System. The cataloger at that time was Miss May Payne. She had studied at the Library School at Albany with Mr. Dewey himself. This was the first library collection in Tennessee (and probably the South) to be cataloged using the Dewey system.
The name of Peabody's library became "Education Library" in 1974, with a new focus on collecting in the areas of education, special education, psychology, human development, and library and information science. When the College merged with Vanderbilt University in 1979, the Education Library became part of the University library system. The library name changed once again in 2002 to "Peabody Library" to reflect the addition of leadership, policy, organization studies and community research to its subject coverage.
This collection, which is more than 200 years old, continues to serve the top-ranking Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, and educators throughout the world. The library offers an impressive array of electronic resources, more than 250,000 volumes, a Curriculum Materials Center, and a Youth Collection.
The Peabody Library building was a gift to Peabody College from the Carnegie Corporation and was one of more than 100 academic library structures endowed by Andrew Carnegie. The gift was valued at $180,000, one of the largest awarded.
Edward L. Tilton of New York was the architect. The building is in the classical style of architecture, complementing the other Peabody buildings. The four-floor building was constructed from 1917-19 with brick and granite and opened its doors May 30, 1919. The rotunda, stairways, and book stacks have floors of marble from Georgia and Tennessee. Please see Edward Lippincott Tilton: A Monograph on His Architectural Practice (Courtesy of Currier Museum of Art, www.currier.org) for more information about Mr. Tilton.
The prominent Peabody School of Library Science was located in the library for many years until it closed in 1988. The library has 38,477 gross square feet and seating for 231.Top of page