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August 15, 2016

The only classroom that is available for life - the library – Ralph M. Besse

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At the 1961 dedication of Case Institute of Technology’s (CIT) Library Humanities Building, Ralph M. Besse described the challenge facing higher education in a world of exploding knowledge.

“Yet the dilemma of higher education is that a normal college time span permits only the development of either an undisciplined generalist or a narrowly-trained specialist, and neither is adequately equipped to achieve the objective of leadership in cultural improvement. No such gap in the training of leaders is endurable in a progressive society. If the great constructive goals of democracy are to be achieved, a solution must be found. We cannot long sustain leadership in a world in which competition among ideologies increases as fast as competition for material power if our best human talent is trained in only half of the arts of leadership.”

He went on to point out the role of the library in meeting this challenge.

“The dedication of this great new library suggests one of the answers. Within these walls all of the past and most of the developments of the present are recorded. The educational dilemma could be solved at Case if every one of its graduates were to leave college equipped with the skill of extracting knowledge from a library and motivated by a desire to do so.”

That CIT’s first library building was a Library-Humanities Building symbolized the role envisioned for both in a technical institute.

“This building recognizes two fundamental educational needs. It is a center where students, faculty, and representatives of business, industry and other elements of the community can pursue intellectual and cultural activities in attractive surroundings designed to be conducive to learning... The gallery available for displays, the lecture and seminar rooms, the Kulas Hall of Music and the Kulas Record Library bring together the broad cultural interests of the campus.” (Library-Humanities Building brochure, 1961)

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Library-Humanities Building at the center of the new Case Institute of Technology entrance

The building itself was envisioned as a key component of the New Face of Case. “Located at the mid-point of the campus, the Library-Humanities Building is the most prominent and accessible of all Case buildings.” enthused a 1961 brochure describing the building.

The library originally occupied 34,000 square feet on the first three floors of the 83,345 square foot, six-story, building. It had seating for just under 450. This sounds more impressive when compared to the library reading room in Case Main, which seated thirty-two. The original collection capacity was 160,000 volumes, with growth to 250,000 volumes planned.

Frederick L. Taft, librarian, described some of the technical innovations of the new library in a December 1960 Library Journal article. “... conveyors include a horizontal chain drive conveyor which moves books and other materials to and from the receiving and shipping room; a vertical conveyor which carries books from all the upper floors to the circulation workroom... and a dumbwaiter which lifts books from the lower level bookstack to the circulation workroom... The Stromberg-Carlson Pagemaster system has been installed at the circulation desk. This small radious communications system enables a desk attendant to signal by transistor radio certain staff personnel anywhere in the building. The circulation desk is also equipped with pneumatic tubes which carry call slips to and from page stations on all stack floors. There is provision for photo-duplication services including a darkroom...”

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Kresge Gallery
Other floors had classrooms, seminar rooms, conference rooms and the offices of the departments of Humanities and Social Studies and Mathematics. The lobby of the fourth floor was the home of the Kresge Gallery intended for exhibits relating to the Western Civilization courses, CIT’s art collection, and travelling exhibits.

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Located on the second floor, ”The Kulas Hall of Music, a handsomely furnished 60-by-30 foot lounge, paneled in English oak and teakwood, is a harmoniously designed room where students and visitors may listen to music. The high-fidelity sound equipment permits reproduction of recorded material from magnetic tapes, records and AM and FM radio, either monaurally or stereophonically.” The George Sanford Collection, the core of the music collection, contained over 4,000 albums of classical music.

Building construction began in fall 1959 and ended early in 1961. The total cost of the building was $2.8 million. It was one of several buildings funded through CIT’s $6,500,000 Building Fund Campaign, which raised over $8.3 million. Major donors included the Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund, the Kresge Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. David S. Ingalls, Harris-Intertype Corporation, Kulas Foundation. The architect was Small, Smith, Reeb, and Draz and the general contractor was the Sam W. Emerson Company.

In 1966, Lester M. and Ruth P. Sears donated $1 million dollars for the building. It was the single largest non-bequest gift from an individual received by CIT in its nearly 90-year history. In recognition of their generosity, on June 15, 1966 the building was named the Lester M. and Ruth P. Sears Library. The dedication plaque read, “The Lester M. and Ruth P. Sears Library honors the founder of Towmotor and his wife. Lester Sears, innovating engineer, manager and humanitarian and Ruth Sears, his staunch supporter, have set an example for all of us to emulate.”

Sears remained the library for Case Institute of Technology until 1996, when its collections and services were merged with Freiberger Library in the new Kelvin Smith Library.

Posted by jmt3 at August 15, 2016 02:43 PM

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