The Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library is one of the most important buildings on Whitworth University’s campus. It was named after Harriet Cheney Cowles after she passed away in 1938. To honor her legacy, her husband, William H. Cowles Sr., and her sons gifted [then] Whitworth College with the funds to build the campus’s first real library.
On November 10, 1948, the Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library was dedicated by President Frank F. Warren of Whitworth College. William H. Cowles Sr. unfortunately passed away in 1946 before the library was completed and opened, and as a consequence, his son, W. H. Cowles Jr. took over the process of honoring his mother with the library building. President Warren was nothing but grateful to the Cowles family exclaiming in a letter dating June 11, 1948, “Above everything else, Mr. Cowles, thank you again and again for the gift of the library which increasingly is going to be the very heart of our campus.” The library was 8,556 square feet and home to the potential of 100,000 volumes of books.
By 1965, the library needed to expand. Shortly thereafter, the college announced that the library would receive a new wing and that there would be modern improvements to the interior of the structure. The new addition would include the circulation desk, foyer and lobby, a workroom, a staircase that would lead to the upper and lower floors of the library, as well as an elevator. The new area would increase the library space to 27,632 square feet. The Cowles family once again gifted the funds to the college for this renovation. In 1969, the renovations were completed and the library was once again open under President Mark L. Koehler.
The library remained unchanged for nearly 23 years until a third version of the Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library was in the works in 1991. The growing student population was in need of a new and modern library. There was much debate on whether the old library would need to be completely torn down, or if the college would be able to renovate it to match the needs of the campus. The solution was to build a new wing perpendicular to the original building that would match the dimensions of the old building and wing. The third version of the library would offer the latest in library, computer, and audiovisual technology in one central location. The east wing was opened to students in September of 1992 and was dedicated on October 23, 1992 under President Arthur J. De Jong The new renovations cost $4.9 million dollars and increased the space of the library to 53,400 square feet.
President Frank F. Warren said it best when he stated that Harriet Cheney Cowles Memorial Library would be the heart of Whitworth’s campus. Today the building still stands and fulfills the academic and curious-minded needs of the nearly 3,000 students that attend Whitworth University today under President Beck A. Taylor.