Thorndike Library’s History

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 husband and wife Robert Amory (1900-1972) and Elizabeth (1908-1992) Thorndike 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.


The library furthers the COA mission by assuming an active role in teaching and learning, providing access to information, resources, and tools and creating a welcoming, engaging physical and virtual environment that stimulates intellectual curiosity and discourse.  The library fulfills its role through active collaboration with the COA community and external partners and via proactive and innovative services with flexible, individualized attention that prepares students for success with life-long information skills.


The library fosters self-directed information discovery and scholarship through creative and innovative information resources, services, and technologies.  The library embodies both the virtual and the physical with a dynamic, information-rich Web presence that provides convenient anytime/anywhere access to library resources that complement its welcoming and engaging physical space.  Library staff is in demand for their knowledge and skills to enhance teaching and learning at the college.


  • Curiosity, exploration, and self-directed learning and information discovery
  • Flexible service and individual attention
  • Inclusiveness and community collaboration
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Interdisciplinary connectedness
  • Responsibility, respect, and stewardship