50+ Years of Robeson Library at Rutgers–Camden

Camden | Robeson Library
Paul Robeson, Jr. at the the naming ceremony of the Rutgers–Camden Library in honor of his father on February 25, 1991

Beginning with a reading room at The College of South Jersey (founded in 1926), the library at Rutgers–Camden has evolved through three buildings, countless library faculty and staff, and thousands of students and community members. The library has been the central campus space for research, programming, and more for the entire history of the Camden campus. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Robeson Library’s main building and we’re commemorating it with a new exhibit, curated by Robeson Librarian Bart Everts, that explores the history of the spaces, people, and events of Rutgers–Camden's library. 

The exhibit focuses on four eras of the library at Rutgers–Camden. It begins with a look at the early years of the campus, and the transition from The College of South Jersey to Rutgers University. Campus librarian Beatrice MacCarter was instrumental in securing a dedicated library building for the campus, the first of which was built in 1951. 

The Camden campus soon outgrew the single story library completed in 1951, and again MacCarter lobbied campus and university administrators to build a larger library to accommodate the research needs of a growing campus. In 1958, a new multi-story modern library opened on campus. 

In the 1960s, the needs of the campus continued to grow, and this time it was a new librarian, E. Parker Worley who campaigned to add a new building to the library. In 1969, the library expansion was completed and it now serves as the main space for the Paul Robeson Library. 

The final part of the exhibit focuses on the renaming of the Arts & Sciences Library to the Paul Robeson Library. In 1969, the Black Student Unity Movement submitted a list of demands for the Rutgers–Camden campus. Included in their demands was the renaming of the campus library for actor, singer, activist and Rutgers alum Paul Robeson, who lived the final decade of his life in Philadelphia. In 1991, the library was renamed the Paul Robeson Library in a ceremony featuring the actor's son Paul Robeson, Jr.