Ross Memorial Library

1963 - Present

Main Hall Library

For Cottey's first 80 years, the library was housed in Main Hall. It began in one room and expanded as Cottey grew. It extended into the south wing hallway in 1899, then into the old auditorium when Rosemary Hall was built in 1903.3 By 1927 Cottey again needed more shelf space, so the Rosemary-Main Hall corridor was expanded southward by a few feet. A separate library building had long been desired, but the college's limited funds were always needed elsewhere. In 1939 it was proposed that Missouri Hall be converted into the college's library, but this was deemed too costly.2

Main Hall library, c. 1900
Main Hall library, c. 1900.
Main Hall library, c. 1920
Main Hall library, c. 1920.4
Main Hall library, c. 1952
Main Hall library, c. 1952.12

Ross Library Construction

In 1956, Cottey President Dr. Blanche Dow was authorized by the Board of Trustees to have an architect draw up plans for a suitable library building.4 Blanche Skiff Ross, niece of P.E.O. co-founder Alice Virginia Coffin, established a fund for the library. Ross's daughters Verna Orndorff and Diane Fennekohl also contributed heavily to the fund. Many other donations from P.E.O. members and chapters bolstered the fund as well.

The laying of the building's cornerstone took place at the P.E.O. Cottey Seminar in September of 1962. The Blanche Skiff Ross Memorial Library was finished the following spring and opened on March 16, 1963.5 The Georgian-style building was 27,000 square feet and "completely air-conditioned" ― a novelty at the time.4 It was formally dedicated on October 13th of that year, in the presence of its benefactor.13

Ross Memorial Library, c. 1963
Facade of the new library, c. 1963.13
Ross Library dedication ceremony, 1963
The dedication speaker, Dr. Elmer Ellis, chats with Cottey librarian Miss Homes and trustee Ted McCarrel, 1963.13
Dr. Dow with Blanche Skiff Ross, 1963
Dr. Blanche Dow poses in the new library with Blanche Skiff Ross, 1963.13

Moving In ― Books or Beer?

An interesting event took place when it came time to move the thousands of books from Main Hall to the new library. All Cottey students were asked to help carry boxes of books across Austin Boulevard to the new library. The trouble was that some of the containers were beer boxes. To passing drivers, it looked like a stream of Cottey girls carrying beer across the street! Needless to say, Cottey received many concerned calls from locals that week.

Study Rooms & Lounges

The three-story library was built for more than just books. On the second floor was the faculty reading room, a soundproof typing room seating eight, and two soundproof "listening rooms" with record players.4 Today the latter are equipped with computers and used for writing papers and studying. The faculty reading room has since been turned into a "fun room" with food, drinks, and shelves of popular novels. The defunct typing room is now the Nevada Room, where non-residential Cottey students can hang out.

Library interior, c. 1963
Looking down on the first floor, c. 1963.13 Note all the empty shelves.
View of Ross library from mezzanine, c. 1976
Interior of the library, c. 1976.4 Note the Birchwood study tables that are still in use today.
View of library from second floor, 2005
View from the second floor, 2005. 

Conference Room

Also on the second floor is the conference room, where the Cottey Board of Trustees used to meet. This was originally furnished by the Arizona State Chapter in honor of Ruth Rippey, past president of the Supreme Chapter. By the 1970s the conference room's furniture included a large boat-shaped table of "light walnut" with "matching chairs upholstered in Egyptian blue leather."4 The "copperlaced enclosed book shelves" along the north wall remain there today. They were once filled with "many books of bygone years," including a collection from past Cottey president Dr. Blanche Dow. Since then, the books have been joined by dolls from around the world, donated by P.E.O.s and alumnae. Another interesting feature are the portraits of P.E.O.'s seven founders that adorn the walls.

Cottey Senate meets in the library conference room, c. 1966
The Cottey Senate meets in the library conference room, c. 1966.14 Two of the portraits of P.E.O.'s founders can be seen in the upper left-hand corner.
Library basement art gallery, c. 1965
Art professor Harry Chew stands in the library's art gallery, 1964.1
Student art show, 1969
Art show winners in the Ross gallery, 1969.8 (Barbara Trombley, Linda Wheat, Guena Carter, Cathleen Muhler.)

Art Gallery and Fries Room

The library's basement originally housed an art gallery and audio-video facilities. The gallery was installed in 1964 and displayed the work of students, faculty, and guest artists.1 In later years the gallery was repurposed as the periodicals archive. Adjacent to this is the Floy Fries Room, a lecture hall and audio-visual room with seating for 100.4 It was made possible by a gift from Mr. Fries in honor of his wife, past president of the Montana State Chapter of the P.E.O. The Fries Room was in use until recently, when severe water damage forced its closure. A second audio-visual room was slated to be stationed next to the Fries Room in 1977, but it is unclear whether this plan came to fruition.

Cottey Archives

Perhaps the most important room in the Ross Library is the Cottey Archives, also known as the "Cottey Historical Room". Originally furnished by the Cottey Alumnae Association, the archives contain a collection of catalogues, annuals, photos, letters, passdowns, and other pieces of college history. (There is even a clandestine box of banned items.)


In 1977 the library was redecorated and reorganized, again paid for by Blanche Skiff Ross's daughters.11 The entire first floor was carpeted, in part to lessen the echoes of voices and shoes. To make the building feel more spacious, furniture and shelves were rearranged. A new reading area was created at the entrance of the building, and the microfilm and non-current periodicals were moved to the basement. The basement was also carpeted and a dropped ceiling installed, both thanks to P.E.O. dollars. The Fries Room was updated to function as a "modern audio-visual center," and later expanded.

In 1991 the Academic Advising Center was moved from Hinkhouse to a newly remodeled area of the library.16 It remained there until RBAC was built in 1999, when it found a home in the remodeled Alumnae Hall.

More Photos

Library Exteriors
Sketch of Ross Library, c. 1960
Sketch of Ross Library, c.1960.6
Ross Library at night, c. 1963
The building is impressive at night, c. 1963.13
Ross Library, c. 1966
Library facade, c. 1966.14
Ross Library, c. 1976
Ross Library, c. 1976.4
Ross Library, c. 1976
Library entrance, c. 1976.15

Teri stands with the friendship statue on the side of the library, 1987. (Courtesy Staci Thompson.)
Ross Memorial Library, 2005
Library entrance after Hanging of the Greens, 2005.
  Side of Ross Library, 2005
Side of the library in fall, 2005.
Library Interiors
Bibliophiles in the library, c. 1964
Bibliophiles pose in the stacks, c. 1964.13
Students study in Ross Library, c. 1964
Students study on the first floor, c. 1964.13
Inside Ross Library, c. 1965
Students study in Ross Library, c. 1965.1
Studying in the Ross Library, c. 1966
Studying, c. 1966.14 The same desks and shelves are used today.
Reading in the Ross Library, c. 1966
A nice place to read, c. 1966.14
Circulation desk, c. 1966
"It's about your overdue book . . ." c. 1966.14
Student art show, 1969
Art students admire a piece of pottery, 1969.8 (Rosario Ronduen, Linda Wheat, Lucinda Simmons, Alice Hoffman, Ballou Waldron, Cathleen Muhler.)
Cottey art show, 1969
Pamela Vosper and Linda Cornell of the Student Art Staff help set up the art show, 1969.8
Art faculty judge student work, 1969
Cottey art faculty admire student work, 1969.8 (Ellen Williams [also a Cottey grad], Robert Lawrence, Harry Chew.)
Cottey art show, 1969
Art students pose with student work, 1969.8 (Cathleen Muhler, Linda Wheat, Pamela Vosper, Linda Cornell.)
Cottey students address visiting PEOs, 1974
Members of Associated Cottey Students address PEOs during Cottey Seminar, 1974.9 (President Karel Lyster speaks at left.)
So happy in Ross Library, c. 1976
Who says studying's a drag? c. 1976.15
Ross Library during registration, 1975
Ross Library during registration for classes, 1975.15
Ross Library during registration, 1975
Students sign up for classes the old-fashioned way: With a pen. 1975.15
Physical Education registration table, 1975
Sign up for an athletic course at the Physical Education table. 1975.15
Another birchwood library desk, c. 1976
The omnipresent Birchwood desk, c. 1976.15
Professors chat in the library, c. 1976
Prof. Mary Rhodes, Prof. Gary Winton, and Dean Earl Tinsley chat in the library, c. 1976.15
Librarian Cornelia Hawkins, c. 1976
Head librarian Cornelia Hawkins, c. 1976.15
Library ground floor, 2005
Computers on the first floor, 2005. Note the painting of V.A.C.S. at left.
Christine at computer, 2005
Christine Chillington uses one of the many library computers, 2005. Note her Delphian lanyard.
Periodicals section of library, 2005
Susie Klein and Jocelyn Myers browse the current periodicals, 2005.

Works Cited:

  1. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1965. Print.
  2. Stockard, Orpha. Cottey College: The First 75 Years. Joplin, MO: Joplin Printing Co., 1961. Print.
  3. Troesch, Helen DeRusha. Life of Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard. Wayside Press, Inc., 1955. Print.
  4. Hawkins, Cornelia. "Blanche Skiff Ross Memorial Library." The P.E.O. Record. June 1976: 2-5. Print.
  5. "Fifty Years of Progress." The P.E.O. Record. Oct. 1977: 6-10. Print.
  6. "Miss Cottey Started Her School in 1884." The P.E.O. Record. Mar. 1969: 17-24. Print.
  7. "Cottey College Board of Trustees." The P.E.O. Record. Feb. 1976: 3. Print.
  8. Watson, Virginia. "Fine Arts Week at Cottey." The P.E.O. Record. May 1969: 2-5. Print.
  9. "Cottey Seminar Summary." The P.E.O. Record. Nov. 1974: 14-16. Print.
  10. Cottey Junior College promotional booklet. c. 1940. Print.
  11. Tinsley, Dr. Earl. "Adequacy is Not Enough." The P.E.O. Record. Sept. 1977: 7-9. Print.
  12. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1952. Print.
  13. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1964. Print.
  14. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1966. Print.
  15. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1976. Print.
  16. McBride, Roberta J. "Easy Summer Livin'? Not at Cottey!" The P.E.O. Record. July-Aug. 1991: 14-15. Print.
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