Throwback Thursday – Helm Library

Western Kentucky University recently announced renovations coming to Helm Library on the main campus in Bowling Green. This week we’re stepping back in time almost 90 years, when the library was still in its original form. It was built to be the Big Red Barn basketball gymnasium.

Designed by Brinton Smith out of Bowling Green, the Health and Physical Education building was built in 1931. The new two $250,000 facility could seat 5,000 spectators watching the Hilltopper basketball team. Diddle Arena was completed in 1963, making room for a renovation into a new library.

The university kept hints of the building’s past in the new design, including the original red center court floor.  The new library was over 70,000 square feet and home to over half a million books. It was dedicated in October 1967 and its namesake was Margie Helm—who was named the Outstanding College Librarian of Kentucky by the Kentucky Library Association in 1964.

From nearby Auburn, Margie Helm was an integral part of the education and business worlds in the area. She started working at WKU in 1920 as an assistant librarian, dedicating over 40 years to the university. She served as Head of Library Science for the 10 years leading up to her retirement in 1965.

In 1950, the Business and Professional Women’s Club named her Outstanding Businesswoman of Bowling Green. Margie Helm was also instrumental in the establishment of the Bowling Green Public Library itself, bringing educational opportunities outside the university.

Renovations to Helm Library begin in Summer 2019.