Denison Library is the oldest and arguably most beautiful library at The Claremont Colleges. A desire by the donor, a Denver philanthropist, to place a stained glass window on the Scripps College campus led to the building of the Ella Strong Denison Library in 1931. The prominent Gutenberg window depicts the evolution of the written word and is dedicated “to the greater wisdom of women.” An extension of the library, dedicated in 1966, is named the Dorothy Drake wing for the longtime (1938–70) beloved librarian who introduced generations of students to the pleasures of the book and to research using original and special resources. The original Denison building, designed by architect Gordon Kaufmann in the cruciform shape of a Spanish chapel, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Denison Library represents the symbolic beginning and completion of a student’s education at Scripps College through two events that traditionally begin at its doors: Matriculation and Commencement.
Denison Library joined the central Honnold Library in 1971 under an agreement providing for a unified administrative structure that, with the subsequent addition of two science libraries, became the Libraries of The Claremont Colleges. In 2009, during the economic downturn, the Council of Presidents authorized the The Claremont Colleges Services (TCCS) to close the science libraries and deferred the closing of Denison until June 2010. “Closing” a library meant that TCCS would withdraw funding for staff and collections and would support library services centralized at the Honnold/Mudd Library. Both Harvey Mudd and Pomona Colleges decided to use their science library buildings for other purposes, while Scripps College decided that the Kaufmann wing of Denison Library would remain open as a non-circulating facility for the College’s rare books and special collections and other academic purposes.