By: Vee Glessner
When Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) opened in Prescott in 1978, its library was what remained of the Prescott College library.
rescott College was a liberal arts college, and their library had little to offer to STEM and aviation-focused students: about 15,000 print books focused primarily on the liberal arts.
The summer that ERAU purchased the Prescott College campus, faculty purged the old library of many of its books.
The removal of many liberal arts titles created a clean slate for the university to develop its own, unique library system.
In 1980, the campus hired its first librarian, Sarah Thomas, a recent graduate from the University of Arizona’s Masters of Library Science program, to give the library the upgrades it needed to support the rapidly growing population of students in its aviation-focused degree fields.
“I was hired in July 1980 as THE librarian,” said Thomas, now Director of Hazy Library and Learning Center. Building 17 housed the old library.
Building 17 is now known as the 16,000 square foot home to the College of Security and Intelligence, but at the time was just over a quarter of its current size, at 4,992 square feet.
The way students and faculty accessed print information for research at the time was very different than the current systems Hazy library employs.
“In 1980, the collection was comprised of 15,000 print books and 50 print periodical titles. We used a card catalog to locate materials in the collection.
There were no information resources in digital format,” according to Thomas.
One of Thomas’s early roles was to “develop a collection of engineering book to support the new Aeronautical Engineering degree program and meet accreditation requirements,” she said, because the Prescott College library had contained no engineering or aerospace books.
Over several years, the library continued to change and grow to fit the needs of its community. With the rise of the internet, the card catalog became obsolete.
“In 1990,” according to Thomas, “we converted the card catalog to an automated system, shared with the Yavapai Library Network, which was a major visionary breakthrough at the time.”
In fact, ERAU was one of the quickest to embrace the age of the internet, and was one of the first institutions in Arizona to have internet access on campus.
In 1990, the library installed three personal computers in the reference for students to use in their academic work.
This “allowed the library to become connected, indicating ERAU’s prominence in science and technology,” said Thomas.