Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Library History and Nostalgia

Artists flock to the Louvre in Paris to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. Writers clamor to Walden's pond to walk in the footsteps of the transcendentalists. Historians hunger for a chance to see the tombs of the ancient Egyptians. What do Librarians do to feel like they're standing on the shoulders of giants?

We trek to New York, New York! The New York Public Library is a dream destination for any Librarian on this side of the Atlantic. Why? Oh thank you for asking!

Maybe it's the marble floors, the grand staircases, the cavernous hallways, the angelic murals on the ceiling, the gorgeous (and enormous) wooden doors, or the big glass windows overlooking Fifth Avenue that makes one feel like it's possible to step back in time and listen in on the conversations of the New Yorkers who made this beautiful building a reality.

But what really makes a Librarian want to leave the small-town behind are the reading and research rooms at America's most famous public library. 

Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0
New York Public Library Research Room

Gorgeous, isn't it? I had the wonderful opportunity to visit this heavenly place in September, and it did not disappoint.

(Fun Fact #1: The New York Public Library was dedicated in 1911 and featured 75 miles worth of shelves for its collection of over 1 million books! And that was over 100 years ago!)

Hop in my DeLorean and let's take a trip back to 1963...

(queue Johnny Cash)

My quest to see this famous landmark got me thinking about the history of our very own William and Evelyn Banks Library, now called William and Evelyn Banks Hall -- the library I worked and studied in as an undergraduate not so long ago.

Banks Library, west front c. 1963.
LaGrange College Archives.

William and Evelyn Banks Library Interior c. 1963
LaGrange College Archives
Banks Library was dedicated on June 1st, 1963, and was an improvement over the even older location of the library in what is now The Quillian Building (called the William Banks Library, at the time) which housed the library in the 40's and 50's.

And where was the library before that you ask? Ok, I'll tell you.

The first floor of Hawkes! Back then it was known as the Rufus Wright Smith Library. And guess what year Hawkes was built and came to house the Rufus Wright Smith Library?

Interestingly enough, it was 1911! (This explains the ghosts. Sleep tight!) 

So the very same year LaGrange College opened a new library in Hawkes, the (much larger and more expensive) New York Public Library opened to the public for the first time!

Moving day, April 3rd, 1963. Hilltop News.
LaGrange College Archives 

Fun Fact #2:

When the library moved from Hawkes to the William Banks Library (now Quillian) in the 1940s, students carried stacks of library books across the quad from the 1st floor of Hawkes (the Rufus Wright Smith Library) into the new space. 

In a similar fashion, on April 3rd, 1963, the students moved library books from William Banks Library (now Quillian) into the new William and Evelyn Banks Library (now Banks Hall). 

President Gulley Joining the Lewis Library Book Brigade!
January 27th, 2009

The parade of books is a LaGrange College tradition! We even followed this tradition when we moved into the new Lewis Library in 2009!

Lewis Library Book Brigade, January 27th, 2009

Both the New York Public Library and the former libraries of LaGrange College have rich histories and stories to tell.

To learn more about the former William and Evelyn Banks Library, visit Lagrange College's Archives and Special Collections on the 1st floor of Lewis Library, or ask a long-time Faculty member for his or her memories!

If you would like to learn more about the New York Public Library, check out this DVD from our collection:

The People's Palace: A Portrait of the New York Public Library
DVD Z733 .N56 2007

*This post was authored by Lindsey Lowry with help from Jacque Hornsby
*Photo of the New York Public Library Research Room by David Iliff. The license for this photo can be found at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:NYC_Public_Library_Research_Room_Jan_2006.jpg

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