History of the Moore Reading Room
The development of the Moore Reading Room collection began in 1901, when the Kansas Bible Chair was established by the Kansas Christian Women’s Board of Missions and the women of the First Christian Church of Lawrence, to facilitate the study of the Bible at KU. A small farmhouse, on the present site of Smith Hall, housed the collection along with the Kansas Bible Chair. The mission of the Kansas Bible Chair gradually expanded to include instruction in the academic study of religions other than Christianity, and in 1921 was reorganized as the interdenominational Kansas School of Religion. Over the next fifty years, continuing acquisitions through donated funds and materials allowed the collection to grow. From the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s, an annual endowment from the Episcopal Church, along with other donors, provided funding for book purchases.
Dr. William J. Moore, for whom the reading room is named, was appointed Dean of the Kansas School of Religion and the director of the Kansas Bible Chair in 1960. Under Dr. Moore’s direction, Smith Hall (built in 1967) was designed with the book collection in mind. In their history of the Kansas Bible Chair, The Bible on Mt. Oread, Dr. Moore and co-author Dwight F. Metzler remembered that “from the start of the planning [of Smith Hall] the library was considered the most essential element in the new building.” The integration of the impressive “Burning Bush” stained glass window, designed by Jacoby Studios in St. Louis and gifted by Mr. and Mrs. L. Allyn Laybourn, into the design of the reading room speaks to the importance of both the collection and the reading room’s role in providing scholars and students with a place for research and reflection. In 1977, the Kansas School of Religion was officially disbanded and reconstituted as the University of Kansas Department of Religious Studies. The William J. Moore Library was dedicated in honor of Dr. Moore a year later, on November 10, 1978.
From 1978 onward, the Moore Reading Room has continued to build, preserve, and provide access to the long-standing collection of the Kansas School of Religion, the only collection of its kind in the state of Kansas. In addition, the MRR is now home to two additional collections. One is the Hermes Peace and Justice Library, an eclectic collection of books and other materials established in 1985 to promote the study of peace and social justice issues, housed previously at the Community Peace House, the Plymouth Congregational Church, and the Social Service League of Lawrence. In 2001, the library was moved to its current location in the Moore Reading Room. The second collection is the Religion in Kansas Project, an ambitious and ongoing archival endeavor to document the historical and contemporary role of religion in the lives of Kansans. Started by Dr. Timothy Miller in 2009, the Religion in Kansas Project partners with libraries, archives, museums, religious communities, and individuals throughout the state and greater Kansas City area to facilitate the digitization and preservation of resources documenting the diversity of religious tradition and experience in Kansas. It is a varied and highly used collection, accessed digitally by persons in over ten countries and averaging around seven thousand item views and five thousand item downloads a year.
Acquisitions for the Moore Reading Room are selected by members of the Religious Studies faculty and the Moore Reading Room archivist, purchased with funds from an endowment made possible by the generosity of private donors.