Michigan State University

Collection Development Policy Statement: Geology

Appendix B: MSU Geology Since 1857, by Diane Baclawski

History of Geological Sciences at Michigan State University

Geology and Mineralogy have been taught at MSU since 1857, when they are first mentioned as senior coursed in an outline of the four-year course of study. The 1861 Catalogue of the State Agricultural College offers the following descriptions of the geosciences on page 21:

The studies in Mineralogy occupy about two months; and the course is sufficient to give the student knowledge of the general principals of the science, and to enable him to recognize the more frequently occurring minerals and those which have an economic value. A course of daily recitations in Geology, during the first half of the junior year, is fully illustrated by maps, diagrams, specimens, &c., and accompanied by familiar lectures on the relations of the science to Agriculture.

From 1900-1906, Geology 1 & 2 were offered as electives. The courses included both structural and historical geology, as well as an introduction to mineralogy and lithology. By 1905-06, Geology became a "Department of Instruction" within Michigan State Agricultural College. Interestingly enough, the geology instructors and course were originally grouped with Zoology and Physiology until 1929-30 when the Department of Geology & Geography was formed under Stannard Bergquist.

Bergquist came to MAC as an instructor in 1915-16, became Assistant Professor in 1923-24, and Associate Professor in 1929-30. Bergquist is largely responsible for the early development of both the geography and geology departments. Bergquist studied glacial geology under Leverett at the University of Michigan, worked closely with the State Geological Survey, and steered the department through the Depression and World War II. Under his leadership the geology and geography courses became full-fledged programs of study offering graduate degrees. He was able to obtain money for new faculty to develop the curriculum in both geography and geology, he helped plan the new Natural Science Building and was an able administrator during the nearly 40 years he served at MAC/MSU. He died in 1957.

By the 1930's in addition to general and introductory geology, the Department was offering courses in mineralogy and petrology, historical geology, structure, field methods and mapping, and mining geology. In 1950’s the new Natural Science Building came online after four years of construction at a cost of $3.6 million dollars. Geography and geology separated into individual departments in 1955.

In 1958 Chilton Prouty became Chair and was able to engineer substantial increases both in the quantity and quality of faculty and in the curriculum until he stepped down in 1970. Among Prouty's most notable accomplishments were hiring A.T. Cross and W. Hinze. These two men created the paleobotany and geophysics programs respectively, and were responsible for giving MSU an international reputation in palynology and a national reputation in geophysics. Hinze's work eventually led to the discovery of the Mid-Continent Rift system and the re-interpretation of early geologic history of the Michigan Basin.

In the following 30 years, under the stewardship of Bill Cambray, Bob Anstey, Tom Vogel, Michael Velbel, and Ralph Taggart, the Department has re-designed the curriculum away from mining and petroleum geology toward research associated with environmental geology, hydrogeology and hydrology of the Michigan Basin, development of low-temperature isotope geochemistry studies, including the new Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (ICPMS), statistical modeling of fluid flow processes, and seismologic studies of tectonic processes.

History of the Library Collection

Prior to the 1920’s the geoscience collection consisted of a small number of books and journals housed in the library of the college. A small number of hand-typed catalog cards indicate that textbooks by Sir Charles Lyell, biographies by Sir Archibald Geikie, a subscription to American Journal of Science, and early publications from the state and federal geological surveys.

Because of the nature of geology and its reliance on descriptive and historical research, geology professors have always tried to maintain a professional library or reading room. Alumni have indicated that Stanard Bergquist had some sort of reading room in Agriculture Hall when the department was housed in that building in the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s. There is evidence of several donations of publications to the department by Richard.A. Smith (State Geologist 1919-1946) and R. Sherrill during the 1930’s and 40’s. During the time when Geology and Geography were united in one department (1929-1955), the Edwin C. Prophet Library was established as a reading room for graduate students and faculty. A number of books still bear the stamp of this reading room to honor Prophet who taught geology from 1930/31 to 1955/56.

The geology reading room received "charged" items from the main library as early as 1962. Some time around 1970 the reading room was made a formal branch library of the MSU Library system. Shelf list records show the transfer of approximately 130 research journals and an unknown number of books from the Science Library to the Geology Library between 1962-1967. In the early 1970's it was moved from the second floor to room 105 on the first floor. In Spring Break of 1976, it moved again to room 5 in the basement of the building.

In 1974, with the arrival of the new Chairman, Dr. Cambray, the department made a commitment to staffing the library with a half-time clerk; Sue Jones was the first clerk to be hired. Prior to this, the library was staffed with graduate students. Sue Jones worked until June 1977, and was responsible for organizing the collection, conducting an inventory, and introducing basic record-keeping procedures for serials and circulation. The field trip guidebook collection was also established. Dr. Cambray and Sue Jones should be credited with transforming the Geology Library from a neglected reading room to a true branch library. Diane Baclawski succeeded Sue in 1977. This Geology Department-paid position was made full-time in 1978.

The Geology Library grew substantially in the subsequent twenty years, both in terms of space and collection. In 1983, the Geology Library acquired room 10 as the Geology Library Annex. In 1991, the Geology Department gave room 4 to the Geology Library as study space for students. In 1993 Geology became a line item on the Libraries’ collection budget for the first time. In 1999, compact shelving was installed in room 10 to increase shelving space.

In 2006 the branch Geology Library in the Natural Sciences building closed.  All books, journals, and maps purchased and maintained by MSU Libraries returned to the main library over the summer 2006. The size of the collection at that time was about 30,000 volumes and 15,000 maps. The maps, folded, flat, and rolled went to the Map Library while the books and journals were incorporated into the regular main library collections.

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