Started in the late 1890s by Wells Fargo Express President John J. Valentine, the Corporate Library still exists for Wells Fargo team members. But more than a resource for team member development, Wells Fargo’s Corporate Library demonstrates that Wells Fargo’s Vision and Values today are a continuation of values that have been with the company since 1852.
Wells Fargo Corporate Library, 2015 (Wells Fargo Bank)
Valentine believed that a great company goes beyond making money: “ln the administration of our affairs, we appeal to all that is fairest and open and best.” Valentine established circulating libraries by purchasing the works himself. He encouraged employees “to improve their minds and fit themselves for promotion in the Company’s service—making the man a better employee and the employee a better man.” Libraries in New York, Chicago, Kansas City, San Francisco, and Mexico City sent books free across Wells Fargo’s express lines.
The library in 1890 offered mostly classics, some contemporary literature, and a few journals. It grew slowly over time, and in the 1960s it became a full-fledged business research library. This shift was the vision of Head Librarian Alice Hunsucker. In 1980 the library officially got online with dedicated terminals that gave way soon after to internet connections.
The tradition begun in 1897 continues today as a service that provides resources on such topics as personal and professional development, technology and business, and finance to Wells Fargo team members. There are more than 4,000 such resources in the library today. Team members who work in the US can search the entire collection through an online reservation system, and order items to be delivered through internal systems.
It’s the same model as in the 1890s—only the technologies have changed.
Wells Fargo Librarians, 1918 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)
Recommend and donate resources
Over time, news of the library in Wells Fargo publications encouraged donations of books and other materials. This is true today as well. Library staff encourages recommendations for book, DVD, and audio purchases, and welcomes donations by Wells Fargo team members of recent business titles.
With the best resources available, employees had “thus been encouraged to read and to think” the Wells Fargo Messenger reported in 1917. The Library proved “a complete success in showing, if only in a small way, the results that can be attained by employees, entirely without outside assistance, when co-operating harmoniously.”
As true today as it was over a century ago, the Corporate Library stands ready to assist Wells Fargo team members to “read and think.” Said the Messenger: “They have realized that by helping others they will help themselves.”
Wells Fargo Library in San Francisco, 1916 (Wells Fargo Corporate Archives)