The Colgate Scene
September 2004

A message from the president
Libraries symbolize academic strength

An excavation on the east side of Case Library will make room for the latest Library Automated Storage and Retrieval System (LASAR). [Photos by Timothy D. Sofranko]

From my office windows, I can now watch as the construction crews with their cranes, backhoes, and sledgehammers transform Case Library into a modern space that will serve current and future generations of students and faculty. We have three live web cameras set up so you can join those of us on campus in watching the construction. (The activity can be viewed by going to www.colgate.edu/caserenovation.)

Watching the construction underscores the massive size of this project and the drama of transforming this building inside and out while still keeping it in use! Although Judy Noyes, Colgate's librarian, meets with the construction manager and writes weekly bulletins so that everyone in the building knows what is happening on the project at all times, the staff is working under "interesting" conditions. For example, library staff members have been issued earplugs (in the style of their choice), and the person responsible for retrieving the mail from the basement of the library now performs this daily ritual wearing a hard hat and safety glasses! This summer's work is just a foretaste of what will occur during the next two years as we build the automated retrieval system, add 50 percent more space to the library by expanding its sides and adding a fifth floor, and restructure the interior to provide state-of-the-art technology and more spaces for research, studying, communication, and collaboration.

The noise and activity are worth the disruption they cause. Libraries are very important to campuses: they serve as the place where knowledge is stored and created and where students, individually and in collaborative teams, master the important skills of finding, producing, and communicating knowledge. Alumni tell me wonderful and sometimes very funny memories of their days in Case! A story from Colgate's more distant past illustrates the importance of the library to students. Carl Peterson, our university archivist, notes that, in the 1830s, after the Hamilton Literary and Theological Institution expanded to include literature and science courses, it became apparent that the library was woefully inadequate for the needs of the students and faculty. To address this problem, many books were donated to the library (particularly by the Colgate family), and a few others were purchased from the seminary's limited budget. But notably, the students also pitched in, agreeing to donate the money they would have spent on their afternoon tea toward buying books for the library. The titles purchased under this scheme are listed in a separate section titled "Books Instead of Tea" in the library's first accession book. How proud those students would be of this project! All the drama, all the work, all the noise and difficulties of the project are about serving students today and into the future.

Architect's rendering of the atrium and central stair at the core of the new Case Library [Enlarge]

Anna Nicholls, catalog librarian
This tremendous project symbolizes the goal of Colgate's new strategic plan: to make our school the leading liberal arts university in the country by providing students and faculty members the best of the liberal arts tradition, while also offering them the best of resources from the university world. The library symbolizes our strength in teaching and research. It will ensure that students and faculty have the resources and space to advance their work and discover the thrill and importance of shaping knowledge in a variety of fields. But discovery and creativity are only half the task -- new knowledge has to be communicated verbally, orally, and, increasingly, through technology. We live in an information age, and knowledge proliferates in books, databases, streaming video and audio clips, CDs, DVDs, and websites. The new liberal arts skills for the 21st century include the ability to research and mine relevant data and bring that information together in useful ways in areas as diverse as business, opera, health sciences, and religion. Colgate's plan is also to continue and strengthen our tradition of helping students learn to build community locally and globally. And in today's world, it is very important that the library provide our students the ability to build community internationally. Not only will we be able to continue friendships and projects begun during study trips abroad, but we will also be able to connect students and faculty members with scholars working on topics around the world.

I hope you will check out the webcam and watch as we all work together to provide students the resources and the space they need for success in the 21st century.

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