The James P. Boyce Centennial Library exists to support the mission of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The library seeks to accomplish this mission through the ongoing development and organization of collections and services so that every member of the Seminary community will have the resources to advance their ministry competencies.
The library also commits to improve continuously the overall quality of its resources so that the experience of library research is deemed valuable and the ministries of members of the Seminary community are marked by dedicated study for the glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.
From the beginning and continuing throughout the history of the seminary, its library has assumed an important role in the life of the school. This is epitomized most clearly in a famous saying of Thomas Curtis quoted by one of the seminary founders. He insisted that the requisites for the new seminary should be three “b”s: brains, books, and bricks – in that order.
The first home of the library was in one of the three small rooms in the then recently vacated church building of the First Baptist Church of Greenville, South Carolina, beginning in September of 1859. Here the library remained until the removal of the seminary from Greenville to downtown Louisville, Kentucky in 1877. The second home of the seminary library was on the third floor of the Louisville Polytechnic Building or Public Library Hall on Fourth Street. Here it remained until 1888, when it was moved into the fourth floor of the newly completed New York Hall, the first building erected by the seminary in Louisville, on the east side of Fifth Street. The library was moved in May 1891 into its first separate building, known as Memorial Library, on the corner of Fifth and Broadway. This building had been erected with funds donated for the purpose by Mrs. J. Lawrence Smith in memory of her recently deceased two nieces and two nephews. When the seminary moved to its present home at the “Beeches” on Lexington Road, a library wing of two buildings (a reading hall and a book stack) was constructed at the northwest corner of the new Norton Hall. The library moved into its present building, known as the James P. Boyce Centennial Library, in November 1959.
The original collection began with a transfer to the seminary of the 2,000 volume religion collection from the Furman Theological Institute of Furman University. It was further enriched in 1860-1 by addition of about 200 volumes from the Columbian College collection. By 1877 the library had grown to approximately 7,000 volumes when housed in the same building with the Louisville Polytechnic Library. While in New York Hall, the collection was enlarged by the gift of the 5,000 volume theological collection from the library of James P. Boyce, bringing the collection to approximately 15,000 volumes by 1887. In 1926 when moved to the “Beeches” on Lexington Road, the library contained about 35,000 volumes. When the James P. Boyce Centennial Library building opened in 1959, the library contained approximately 140,000 volumes. Today, the library has over one million items in its various collections.