Library History

Courtesy of the College of the Atlantic Archives and Special Collections.

We got our start in 1972 when the college appointed its first library director and the first class of students was admitted. Over the next 11 years the library developed its collection in support of the school’s emerging human ecology program. In a dedication ceremony on July 9, 1983, the Thorndike Library was named in honor of Robert Amory Thorndike (1900–1972) and his wife Elizabeth (19081992) in recognition of their support and contributions to the college. Shortly thereafter, a fire destroyed the old Kaelber Hall in which the library was housed.


The college quickly decided to rebuild. Residents and businesses of Mount Desert Island generously gave their time and resources to help reconstruct. The town of Bar Harbor provided space for the library to temporarily relocate at a cost of $1 per year. Book donations from libraries both local and nationwide provided the foundation for rebuilding the library collection. In 1988, the new ecologically designed Kaelber Hall opened, with Thorndike Library spanning the entire second level.  The Charles and Barbara Tyson Reading Room and the Robert and Ethel Blum Balcony were named to recognize the generosity of these individuals to the college and the reconstruction efforts. Today Thorndike Library serves College of the Atlantic and the broader community by providing access to information resources, the COA archives, and audio-visual services. We look forward to seeing you.

amory & betty thorndike

Amory and Betty Thorndike both grew up in Massachusetts and moved to Bar Harbor in 1940, shortly after their marriage. They spent the rest of their lives actively involved in our local community.

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