Historic Farrell Library and Great Room

Historic Farrell Library and Great Room

In 1927, the first free-standing library was built at Kansas State University. It was later named Farrell Library in honor of Francis D. Farrell, K-State's eighth president. After the last addition to the building, the library was named Hale Library in 1997 in honor of the generous gift from Joe and Joyce Hale. The original portion of the library maintained the distinction of Historic Farrell Library.

Today this portion of the building includes the Virginia Carlson Family Reading Room on the 1st floor, a reading room and the Dow Center for Multicultural and Community Studies on the 2nd floor and the Great Room on the 3rd floor.


The Great Room

The Great Room, the Gothic Room, the Mural Room, the Reading Room, the Harry Potter Room: many names for a space that occupies a singular legacy in Kansas State University’s history. Located on the 3rd floor, the room holds special significance in the hearts of K-Staters.

After a fire devastated the Great Room in 2018 with water damage, the entire space, including the murals, was fully restored. Over the years, many contributors have helped maintain and preserve this historic space. The Friends of the K-State Libraries have helped protect and restore the murals for many years and in 2013, K-State alumnus Mark Chapman funded the replication and replacement of the original Great Room windows to improve both the aesthetics and environmental conditions of the room. It was during this project that the purple stained glass borders were added to the windows.

The murals

In 1934, the federal government's Public Works of Art Project, a program that helped people find jobs during the Great Depression, commissioned the murals. David Overmyer, an artist from Topeka, and his assistant Byron Wolfe were hired to paint 4 murals to be displayed in the Great Room.

Each of these murals is 11’ x 14’ and their subjects symbolize the 4 major academic pursuits of the institution at that time: science and industry, agriculture and animal husbandry, the arts and home economics.

Overmyer and Wolfe painted oil directly on plaster to create the images, and the project took them a year to complete. When the murals were first completed, they were the largest group of murals in the state of Kansas.

Learn more about the Great Room murals

Science and Industry

Located on the far left of the entrance, the Science and Industry mural combines an observatory, a chemist holding a test tube, massive gears, an anvil and steam rising from the ladle to represent manufacturing. Centered at the top, the Torch of the Industrial Arts illuminates the future.


Located on the immediate left of the entrance, the Agriculture mural celebrates productivity with vegetation, a farmstead and a church steeple. Also depicted is a harvest, shepherdess, ox and lamb.


Located on the immediate right of the entrance, the Arts mural features an idyllic, classical Greek landscape and an artist with 5 personifications of art: music, literature, drama, painting and architecture. The lamp in the upper left is the Greek symbol for learning.


Located on the far right of the entrance, the Home mural is where a well-cared-for family is represented by a father, mother with child and baby and a Betty Lamp, the symbol of the American Home Economics Association.