The golden age of American library buildings began with the philanthrophy of Andrew Carnegie. Inspired by his immigrant past and his belief in education as the key to individual success, Carnegie financed the building of countless late 19th- and early 20th-century library buildings. The Carnegie Corporation and Hamilton Smith of Durham funded the first library building on campus in Hamilton Smith Hall in 1906-7.
The design of Hamilton Smith Library reflected the classical theory of the library as a repository of information made available through the guidance and preservation skills of librarians. Spaces reflected the architecture of a classical past.