Western Libraries: Then, Now, and into the Future

Published on March 29, 2018

Academic libraries around the world are changing to meet the evolving needs of students, teachers, and researchers. Libraries have often been catalysts for change. Let’s take a look at some of the ways Western Libraries has evolved over the past 50 years.

Collaboration Central

Students studying in the Law Library

Law Library group study space, c. 1970-1980.

Group studying in Business - 2017

Business Library group study space, 2017


Students have always studied together, as shown at left in the John & Dotsa Bitove Family Law Library circa 1970-80. Today, evolving teaching and learning styles encourage more group work. Across Western Libraries’ six locations, there are a variety of student workspaces for collaborating on projects, practising presentations, and studying together. At right, students work on a group assignment in the C.B. “Bud” Johnston Library (Business) in 2017 using technology and furniture that facilitate collaboration.

Fostering Community

Weldon Check Out archival photo

Weldon Check Out, c. 1972.

Weldon SASAH Concert 2017

Weldon Atrium, SASAH Concert, 2017.


When the D. B. Weldon Library first opened its doors in 1972, the atrium was the location of the library’s main circulation desk, as seen at left. It’s now an open, multi-functional public space. When not in use by students who enjoy the natural light, the atrium hosts events, presentations, and concerts. At right, a trio of students from the Don Wright Faculty of Music perform as part of the School for Advanced Studies in Arts and Humanities (SASAH) Concert Series in 2017.

Evolving Student Commons

Weldon Reference Hall archival photo

Weldon Reference Hall, c. 1972.

Weldon Reference Hall 2017

Weldon Reference Hall, 2017.

Proposed Learning Commons sketch

Proposed Learning Commons.


The D.B. Weldon Library, with an average daily gate count of 5,000 during the academic year, is Western’s largest library. Built in 1972 in the Brutalist style of architecture, the library’s main floor has had one major renovation in its 45 years. At left, is Weldon’s first and ground floors circa 1972. In 1998, the large open space shown in this photograph was closed up by flooring to create a more accessible entrance, improve the visibility of the service desk, and to make space for shared computer terminals. At centre is a view of the first and ground floors in 2017.

Western Libraries new Space Master Plan envisions transforming the existing reference hall into a vibrant two-story learning commons. A drawing, right, depicts bleacher-style seating and staircases that connect the first floor to the mezzanine level, allowing natural light into the hall and offering more study and specialized learning space. The bleacher stairs will become a gathering place and create a more dynamic venue for public lectures, concerts and other events in this grand gallery.

Service First

Weldon Check Out Counter archival photo

Checking out book from Weldon, c. 1970s.

Taylor Check Out Counter 2017

Reference Help in Taylor, 2017.


The Western Libraries service desks have provided excellent reference, circulation, and interlibrary loan services for decades. Today, Western Libraries boasts new items available for loan at our service desks such as cell phone and laptop chargers, multimedia connectors, along with self-checkout machines for users’ convenience. Many users also access reference services via online chat.

At left, a student checks out a book at Weldon Library in the 1970s, while right, a student receives reference help at the Allyn & Betty Taylor Library.