In 1959, the Clemson University Board of Trustees listed a new library as “the most needed building on campus.” The library had outgrown the building, now known as Sikes Hall, that it occupied for more than 30 years. Before that, the library had been housed in three rooms in the Administration Building (now known as Tillman Hall).
R.M. Cooper Library opened in August 1966. It was designed by the architectural firm Lyles, Bissett, Carlisle and Wolff and built in what was then the geographic center of campus. Construction took almost two years and cost over $3 million. The building and architects received awards from the American Institute of Architects and the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare Education Facilities Laboratory Design Awards Program, as well as the AIA South Carolina chapter.
When it opened, Cooper Library had three floors and an unfinished basement. But it was designed to be expandable. Eventually, the basement was finished with stacks, office space and study areas and two additional floors were created – Level 6 (1978) and Level 2 (1980).
Future library expansion was achieved by adding locations on and off the main campus – Gunnin Architecture Library in Lee Hall, Special Collections and Archives in the Strom Thurmond building, Education Media Center and Digital Media Learning Lab in Tillman Hall, the Library Depot at the Clemson Research Park and the Clemson Design Center Library in Charleston.
Robert Muldrow Cooper
Robert Muldrow Cooper, a 1909 graduate of the University of South Carolina, served as a state representative and a state senator, collector of Internal Revenue, director of the Public Service Authority (Santee-Cooper) and two terms as director of the State Development Board. He was president of South Carolina’s Livestock Association, State Fair Association and Dairyman’s Association and the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, as well as the American Guernsey Cattle Club. He also farmed and raised livestock at his home in Wisacky in Lee County.
Cooper began serving on Clemson’s Board of Trustees in 1922 and became president of the board in 1951. He served on the board for 44 years. He received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan award in 1963. After Cooper’s death in February 1966, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name the new library in his honor.