There was little need for an institutional library when the Stout Training School opened its doors in 1891. Textbooks and course materials were provided for the fifty-nine students by their instructors for a small fee. In addition, the nearby Mabel Tainter Free Library was open to the students and faculty and had a collection of nearly 3,000 volumes. However, within seventeen years the growth of the school began to dictate the need for a library. Student enrollment had climbed to over two hundred students. The recently incorporated Stout Institute expanded to the following divisions: the Stout Manual Training School, the Kindergarten Training School, the Training School for Domestic Science Teachers, the Training School of Manual Training Teachers, the School of Physical Culture, and the Homemaker's School. Clearly, there was a need to centralize the various departmental libraries.
The origins of the library at Stout began in 1908 when Grace R. Darling arrived as an English teacher and as the first librarian. She was assigned a room in the "Yellow Lodge" (Harvey Hall) and equipped it with tables and chairs she "borrowed" from other departments. After rounding up the scattered books, the total number of volumes was 600.
Darling stayed on as a teacher at Stout, but after her first year, she was replaced by Stout's first full-time librarian, Katherine Hahn. Hahn came to Stout after graduating from the Library School of the University of Wisconsin in June 1909. It was under her leadership that the growth of the library collection had greatly accelerated. By June 1910, she reported that the library now contained 1,071 volumes and 3,172 pamphlets. Within two or more years the number of books nearly doubled, and Genevieve I. Field was hired as Hahn's assistant.
At that time, the library was maintained by a five dollars a year "library and reading room fee." The library itself was divided into three departments: Manual Training, Domestic Science, and Homemakers. One student, in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, left the following description of the building:
"Three spacious rooms contain the literature of this institution of learning. These rooms sumptuously appointed with everything to make the erstwhile irksome task of studying an unalloyed joy. Shelves line the dignified walls and hold rare old copies of our greatest writer of Art and Science. A system of ventilation that is the acme of human ingenuity ensures a perfect circulation of air."
In 1914 the Yellow Lodge was torn down, and the library was moved to the Gymnasium-Natatorium Building. It was also at this time that the collection was classified under the Dewey Decimal System and a dictionary catalog was created with a complete index of the material in the library.