Monday, February 15, 2010

Alfred University Library; Travel and Change Through Time

From the beginning of Alfred University’s History, the site and size of the acting Library has changed often, moving towards the bigger and the better. The first library in Alfred, the Alfred Union Library, was used by both the school and the town, and was opened in 1815. Alfred was chartered by New York State as “Alfred Academy” in 1836, and soon after, the library was moved to a room in the upper floors of Alumni Hall- which, at that time, was called Chapel Hall, where multiple classes were held. However, conditions were not optimal: the room was small and dark, and open only twice a week, for about fifteen minutes a student. The functionality was severely restricted, and it was not able to accomplish much for its audience.
Therefore, as time progressed, Students began collections and literary societies on their own, spreading the knowledge base throughout the university in multiple collections. These collections were not combined and kept together until 1887, when they were placed, first in the tower room, then moved to the entire second floor, of the new Kenyon Hall.
Kenyon Hall stood on the same plot that today’s Powell Campus Center now stands, though Kenyon was considerably smaller- more similar in size and architecture to today’s Seidlin Hall. For the first time in years, the University’s collection was organized and in one location. By 1890, the collection was comprised of about 7,000 books in a space of crammed bookshelves, busy tables, and two librarians, who organized the collection according to Alfred Graduate Melvil Dewey’s Dewey Decimal System. This new “technology” of a world-wide cataloging system allowed for a much easier system.
However, yet again, it was clear that a larger space was needed for the many volumes that Alfred University was slowly accumulating as it grew. Therefore, throughout the early 1900’s, the University President Boothe C. Davis attempted to secure funding for a new construction from Andrew Carnegie, the Carnegie Steel Company owner, and an advocate for educational libraries. In 1907, Davis finally received an offered donation of $25,000, and after fulfilling a requirement made by Carnegie in his “challenge grant”, the new building was constructed on a donated plot of land along Main Street, and was opened in 1913. The ne w Carnegie Library (now Carnegie Hall) was meant to function as a library open for use by the whole of the town of Alfred. Within thirty years, the collection housed in the library had multiplied, growing from 7,000 to nearly 63,000 books. This continuing expansion created a need for the library to move yet again.
World War II reached even Alfred, and when the enrollments dropped, so did staffing in the library- and they had already run out of space. Overflow collections were begun in the Gothic, Allen Hall, Kenyon Hall, and the new South Hall- the residential dorm now closed on the south side of campus, near the health center. The functionality of the space was no longer sufficient for the students needs, and with morale down because of the war, change was a difficult battle to fight. However, the University had no means of creating a new building until 1955, when Margret Brown Herrick donated $500,000 for the construction of a new library.
Herrick Memorial Library was built and in full use by the fall of 1957. This new building had room for 200,000 volumes, as well as seating space, study rooms, faculty lounge and staff rooms, spread amongst three floors. Finally, the collections were in one place, with enough space to be used effectively. From here, the collection grew even further. In 1967, the daunting task of converting the Dewey Decimal System cataloging to the newer Library of Congress classifications was begun, which was not finished for at least twenty years. By 1978, a new addition had been added to Herrick, in order to improve its functioning. More study space, as well as room for the periodical collection and seminar rooms, was added on. The Special Collections room was fabricated using the faculty lounge, seminar room, and a small auditorium, all located on the third floor, and the space was fitted with 17th century oak paneling and furniture, creating a fantastic ambiance in which the university students and staff alike can sit back and enjoy the atmosphere while studying. The use of these materials and style is homage to the past, and an acknowledgment of many individual’s longing for a rich space that contains more substance that simple functionality.
Yet another renovation was finished in 2007- the Herrick Library collection now contains over 250,000 volumes and near 35,000 journals (both paper and electronic). The space includes seating, computer labs, and a café for students.
The Alfred University Libraries have grown and spread with the times. Its value is priceless, and its history is studded with dedicated individuals determined to spread knowledge and preserve all they can for the good of the university. To see the movement and change, from one building to the next, is an important aspect to the history of our collection, and the realization that these buildings that surround Alfred today are not as solid or old as they seem. The small town of Alfred has changed much over the years, even though it is hidden from view.

Works Cited
Horowitz, Gary S. A Sesquicentennial History of Alfred University; Essays in Change. Alfred: Alfred University Press, 1985
"History of Herrick Memorial Library." Herrick Memorial Library. 12 Feb. 2010

No comments:

Post a Comment