Mabee Library is located in the center of campus between Moore Bowl/Yager Stadium and Henderson Learning Resources Center. The Library was completed during the 1977-78 school year and named in honor of J.E. and L.E. Mabee of Oklahoma. Before their deaths, Mr. & Mrs. Mabee established a foundation to provide money for educational and religious institutions in the Midwest region. Washburn University applied for and received a grant from the Mabee Foundation to build a new library during the rebuilding phase after the 1966 tornado, which destroyed numerous buildings and damaged many others.
The University Library began as the Lincoln College Library in 1866 and was located in a room in the first college building at 10th and Jackson in downtown Topeka. The library of about 2,000 volumes was moved along with the rest of the college into Rice Hall on the current campus site around 1875.
The Library soon outgrew its quarters, so funds were raised back east to construct a separate building. Charles Boswell of Hartford, CT gave half of the $20,000 needed for construction. The new library, completed in 1886 was named Boswell Memorial Library in his honor.
In the early 1900s the library again needed larger quarters and again the College looked to the east for funds. They petitioned Andrew Carnegie of Pittsburgh, PA who was giving money to many communities for public library buildings. He agreed to give $40,000 in March of 1904 and by October construction had begun. Carnegie Library was completed in 1905 and was dedicated during Commencement Week in June of that year.
The Library enjoyed 50 years in the beautiful Carnegie building, but when a new administration and classroom building was being planned, President Bryan Stoffer decided that the Library should be in the same building as the classrooms so it would be more convenient for students to use. In 1955 Morgan Hall was completed and the Library moved into its new home in the west end of the new building. The Law School and Law Library moved into Carnegie from their cramped quarters in Boswell Hall. After the 1966 tornado severely damaged Carnegie it was rebuilt for the Education Department and the Law School and Library stayed in the temporary trailer classrooms until their new building could be completed. In the 1970s a Curriculum Resources Center was set up in the basement as a model K-12 school library with teacher resources. This Center has been a branch of Mabee Library since 1984 and remains in Carnegie.
After less than 20 years in Morgan Hall, administrators realized that the rapidly growing library had nowhere to expand and should again have its own building. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 14, 1976 and in December 1977 a team of students and staff called the "Mabee Movers" formed a book truck brigade to move books and materials from Morgan Hall to their new home. Mabee Library opened in January 1978 and was dedicated May 19, 1978 as part of commencement activities.