This week a student came to do a staff development presentation for us here in the library. He’d done his senior thesis on the history of the library building and the stylistic metaphors each incarnation used as a foundation.
I was completely captivated. I wish I’d taken notes because now the talk is receding into a mysterious and tantalizing blur of impressions and phrases. “The second building to be built on campus was the library.” … “The original library was built in what was, at the time, the quintessential library style. Anyone would have looked at that building and known it was a library.” … “The 1956 building strove for universality of style, a very modernist enterprise.” … “Two art history professors were the driving forces for bringing buildings in the modern style to Carleton.” … “The 1984 building was designed to fit with the buildings that made up its context.”
I haven’t been able to find an image of the 1956 version of our building, but what I found striking about the remodel wasn’t brought up in the talk. The 1956 building (which I can’t find an image of, sorry) had a grand “drawbridge” entrance, which was supposed to “usher students into the halls of learning” or something like that. But it also had the effect of making the library something that stood apart, something that you had to cross a long bridge to get to. The new building entrance seems to lean forward to be part of the campus rather than reserve itself as a hallowed destination.