Volume 21,  Volume 21, Issue 2

Library Spotlight: The College of Engineering and Applied Science Library

Located at 850 Baldwin Hall, the College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) Library provides access to in-depth research collections, inviting study and learning spaces, engaging technical workshops and expert assistance by librarians, staff and student assistants.

reading room of the ceas library
CEAS Library Reading Room

CEAS Library History

The CEAS Library represents the combined collections and services of two historic libraries: the College of Engineering and the Ohio Mechanics Institute / College of Applied Science.  The library in the UC College of Engineering began as a departmental library in the college. A library in the Department of Civil Engineering was established sometime before 1897. In 1897, the Civil Engineering Department, along with its library, moved to the second floor of the original Hanna Hall. In his 1915 Annual Report, Dean Herman Schneider noted that the Engineering College needed a “library properly equipped in our own building, (filled with) not only technical literature, but also copies of (the) non-technical works with which every educated man should be familiar.”[1] In 1916, the individual departmental libraries combined to form the Engineering College Library. 

[1] https://libraries.uc.edu/libraries/ceas/about/history.html

The Ohio Mechanics Institute (OMI), founded in 1828, existed as a separate institution until its merger with UC in 1969. The college adopted the College of Applied Science name following the merger and continued its focus on high-quality undergraduate technical programs. A library for OMI and for fundamental technical education of Cincinnati existed since before OMI’s founding. One of the library’s claims to fame is that Thomas Edison was an avid user in the 1860s when he worked as a telegraph operator in Cincinnati. He later sent an autographed photo and letter to the Institute and expressed his gratitude for the impact of the library’s high-quality collections. In 1869, Timothy C. Day, most known for his service as an Ohio state senator, bequeathed funds to the OMI that eventually became an important endowment to support the OMI Library’s collections (former library pictured on the left). A portrait of Timothy C. Day still hangs in the CEAS Library today in honor of this substantial support.

In 2010, in line with the merger of their respective colleges, the Engineering Library merged with the College of Applied Science Library, forming the current College of Engineering and Applied Science Library. The combined library brings holistic support for undergraduate, graduate and research initiatives of the college and, furthermore, serves as the engineering and technology library for the region’s technical professionals.

CEAS Library Exhibits & Special Collections

The Armstrong Collection

The UC Neil Armstrong Commemorative Archives contains photographs and documents and correspondence, relating to his time at UC. In addition, the collection includes his 1949 flight logbook, a lunar map and more.

the armstrong collection on display
The Armstrong Collection display

The Cooperative Engineer

The Cooperative Engineer was published quarterly from 1921 to 1975 by the students and alumni of the College of Engineering. It provides primary material on the college, the campus and the city of Cincinnati; chronicles the advancement of engineering and industrial processes in the 20th century; and gives insight into student life and social customs of the time. In addition to the digital collection, original materials are held at the UC Archives and Rare Books Library.

The Strauss Collection

This exhibit brings together primary source materials and analysis on Joseph Baermann Strauss, an 1892 graduate (Civil Engineering) of the University of Cincinnati, and the chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge. This exhibit details Strauss’ qualifications as a professional engineer and his pivotal roles with the Golden Gate Bridge project.

Cincinnati Industrial Exposition Posters

This collection includes publicity posters and other items relating to the Cincinnati Industrial Expositions held in the mid to late 19th century. In 1870, the Ohio Mechanics Institute partnered with the Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce to present the first of many ‘Grand Industrial Expositions.’ These showcases attracted exhibitors from across the country representing industrial developments and artistic achievements of the day. In 1879, a massive permanent building was erected for exhibitions and musical performances. This building is now known as Cincinnati’s famed “Music Hall.” The final Industrial Exposition in 1888 commemorated the centennial of Cincinnati’s founding and the settlement of the Ohio Valley and Northwest Territory. Original posters are held at the UC Archives and Rare Books Library.

The Valentine Barker Collection

This exhibit highlights Valentine Barker, a 1911 graduate of the Ohio Mechanics Institute’s comprehensive art program (commercial art). It includes works from his time as a student and items from his professional career as a commercial artist, illustrator and design calligrapher. 

blue ribbon advertisement

CEAS Library Spaces & Art

In 1909, President Dabney put Dean Schneider in charge of the plans for a new engineering college building. Dean Schneider believed that not only did engineers need the practical experience of cooperative education, but they also needed an appreciation of the fine arts, not as something remote and rarefied but as a part of their daily experience. And so, Baldwin Hall has both a beautiful library as well as extensive murals and other paintings throughout its many buildings.

The impressionistic murals in the CEAS Library Reading Room speak to civil and industrial life in Cincinnati and depict its riverfront, woodlands, bridges and buildings. Furthermore, they highlight engineering feats of the time – skyscrapers, Marconi telegraph cables, naval warships and transcontinental railroads. Dean Schneider said they struck “a new key in mural decorations, inasmuch as the romance of engineering is worked into beautiful scenic canvases.”  The murals were a gift of the Civil Engineering class of 1916 and were painted by Frances Wiley Faig, a student of famed painter Frank Duveneck, who in turn painted her portrait. She was married to John T. Faig, professor of Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering from 1906-1918. In 1918, Prof. Faig became president of the Ohio Mechanics Institute, a position he held until his death in 1951.

With Dean Schneider’s encouragement, this gift of the class of 1916 inspired a tradition of student and alumni donations to the college for the purchase of art works. The walls of Baldwin Hall became an art gallery of original paintings by acclaimed artists such as Louis Charles Vogt, Herman Henry Wessel, and Elizabeth Nourse, and served as the foundation of the university’s now-extensive art collection.

Today the CEAS Library’s historic Reading Room provides a haven for quiet individual study. This beautiful space was the original Engineering Library and is the oldest space in the region that is still in use as an academic library. The Reading Room holds current journals, undergraduate senior design reports and an extensive historical collection relating to the college and historical aspects of engineering and technology. The murals adorning the walls were cleaned and conserved as part of the 2001 Baldwin Hall renovation, through a generous gift from civil engineering professor emeritus James Morand and his wife Diane Morand.

A sample of the artwork in the CEAS Library

Current Initiatives

In recent times, the CEAS Library has expanded initiatives that both look toward the future and delve into the past. As much as is possible with constrained library collections budgets, the library has amassed an extensive and growing collection of online technical databases, e-books and electronic engineering standards that support students and faculty anywhere and anytime. In response to an increasingly global CEAS student body, including students in the Chongqing University – UC Joint Co-op Institute, the library added a Global Services Science and Engineering Librarian position to provide targeted support. Finally, thanks to a major donor gift to boost computing education, the CEAS Library is now playing a lead role in developing and delivering foundational workshops on Github, MATLAB, LaTeX and many topics on Python programming ranging from fundamentals to applied topics such as data analysis and bot and game development that grow the technical skillset for the entire campus. They are also responding to the upsurge in generative artificial intelligence (AI) tools by developing workshops on these tools (e.g., ChatGPT) and advising workshop attendees on how to best utilize AI systems for assistance while learning and applying programming tools.

Looking Forward

The College of Engineering and Applied Science has a long history intertwined with the growth and development of Cincinnati as a city. As the college approaches several milestone anniversaries including the 125th anniversary of the College of Engineering (2025) and the 200th anniversary of the Ohio Mechanics Institute / College of Applied Science (2028), the CEAS Library has been active in overseeing work to gather, organize, preserve and document the college’s extensive archival holdings. Thanks to funding from the Herman Schneider Board, the library hired a doctoral student in history to provide support for archival work and storytelling, including oral histories.

The CEAS Library represents a place of delightful contrast. Its spaces are ripe with college and university history and are of great importance to the development of technical education in Cincinnati. Together with this storied legacy, the library delivers a vast array of online collections and specialized services and teaching to meet the needs of today’s engineering students and professionals. A library has been an integral part of CEAS throughout its long existence, and a library remains a critical part of the college’s future progress. 

More about the history, services and resources of the CEAS Library can be found on their website.