Thursday, October 05, 2006

Library design and construction, or, So much for the power of research

Currently, I am trying to track down information on the original design of both Mackenzie Hall (called the Medical Science Building until its rededication in 1923) and the Library/Auditorium Building (affectionately referred to by all as "Old Library" since the Main Library moved across the street to the BICC in 1991).

While I have not yet uncovered the specific information I am seeking, I did run across a four-page letter sent to Dean Richard Dillehunt by Librarian Bertha Hallam on February 28, 1938, in which Ms. Hallam details all the things a proper library should be. This would have arrived on Dillehunt's desk just as the planning for the new library building was getting underway. Funding had been secured (in equal parts from Dr. John E. Weeks, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Public Works Administration) for what was to be the first stand-alone library building in the School's history.

In true information-organization style, Ms. Hallam breaks her discourse into sections, each clearly labeled with underlined headers in capital letters. The first, ARCHITECT, gives references to persons who might help in selecting the proper candidate. PLACING OF BUILDING notes that "The building should be placed so that the reading rooms have north light." BUILDING PLANS suggests that the Auditorium be located on the second floor. STACKS would need to accommodate at least 100,000 to 150,000 volumes, with ample room for expansion. Helpfully, she even attached a sketch plan (which, sadly, has been lost to the ages).

Dillehunt used the same architect that had been used to build Mac Hall; I have no indication that he was particularly familiar with library facility design. Since the building is oriented with its long sides facing east and west, we have a lovely view of Mt. Hood (or did, before the Kohler Pavilion went up) but very few rooms with a northern exposure. Of course, the Auditorium, now the most heavily used area of the building, is on the lowest floor. I'm guessing that if there were ample room for expansion, we wouldn't have needed to lease off-campus storage space for older volumes.

So much for Bertha's influence on the building plans. I have no doubt that she was highly esteemed by Dillehunt and was so even after the library was complete. Dedicated in 1940, the building is starting to show its age. It still houses a large part of the library collections, including our little History of Medicine Room. The Archives are housed on the fourth floor. Oil portraits of former Deans, Presidents, and faculty members adorn the walls of the second-floor meeting rooms. Part of the school's history, the Old Library also contains a large portion of its historical materials. Long may she stand!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sara, what a fun blog! This is a great idea. -- Noelle :-)