WPI founder John Boynton established the school’s first operational fund in 1865, with the idea the money would only be used for the purchase of apparatus, the establishment of a library collection, or emergencies. Boynton did not anticipate there would be so many “emergencies” during the early days of the Institute, so WPI operated without a formal library for its first two decades.
The Boynton Library Room
After the construction of Salisbury Labs in 1889, a formal library space was established in Boynton Hall. Located near the president’s office, the library room featured more than 15,000 volumes of books donated by faculty and alumni supplemented by a memorial fund established to honor founding president Charles O. Thompson. By 1913, the expanding library collection needed more room, therefore the collection was moved to the unused chapel on the third floor of Boynton Hall. In 1925, the newly arrived President Ralph Earle revived the chapel program and called upon the alumni class of 1895 and 1896 to contribute to the chapel renovation fund as penance for their prank of stabling a horse in that space one evening. As a sign of appreciation for their contributions, Earle had the chapel space dedicated in honor of John E. Sinclair, a beloved teacher of the pranksters.
Today as the Gordon Library embarks on the second half of its first century, it continues to serve as a central research hub for the entire campus by ensuring access to the most relevant resources available for every discipline on campus. Librarians partner with teaching faculty to teach information literacy and enable the global dissemination of student and faculty research. Gordon Library’s databases, digital repositories, and online projects are all instrumental in supporting the WPI mission to "Elevate Impact" as WPI continues to forge new frontiers in STEM education and project-based learning.