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Libraries merge print
Friends of the SMU
Lao She collection
Access to library
A message from the Provost
By Ross C Murfin, provost and vice president for academic affairs
When things get stressful in the Provost's Office, my two assistants know what I am likely to say the moment an appointment or meeting is canceled: "I'm going to the library."
I like everything about libraries. I love the way they smell. Old books, when properly cared for, smell homey, not musty - and what smells nicer than a newly printed book or journal? I love the peace and quiet libraries contain. Not unlike churches, temples, and other holy places, they provide a refuge from the trivial, mundane, and often stressful aspects of our daily lives. Most important, I love the wisdom and wit, the information and inspiration libraries house.
Although I enjoy working in the reading rooms of massive, closed-stack libraries or rare book libraries, I most love open-stack collections in which you can wander from floor to floor, shelf to shelf, check out books you're looking for, and find still others that almost seem to have been looking for you. I've been known to take a volume of poetry from the third floor to the fourth floor only to spend my hour away from the provost's office reading a book on India I found lying on a table by one of the big windows.
Paul Fry, a famous literary scholar at Yale who also happens to be an old friend, calls this "inadvertent discovery." Have you ever gone into the stacks looking for two or three books on a subject, sat on the floor with those particular volumes only to find them terribly disappointing, and then just happened to find exactly what you're looking for in some other nearby book? I've even found what I was looking for in a book that fell from the shelf behind my back. True believers in the Library of Congress or Dewey Decimal system of cataloging would tell you this cannot occur. But remember, they work in libraries and, therefore, are probably less open to the mysteries and miracles of libraries than the rest of us are.
That's what I like best about libraries. Hundreds of thousands of people - some dead, others living, but every one of them lively of mind - await your visit, whether or not you think you are seeking their thoughts and ideas. It sounds paradoxical, but libraries - quiet, peaceful, and relaxing as they are - are also, in another sense, crowded arenas of never-ending discovery.
Library promenade honors
Texas First Lady
For the past six months, patrons of Fondren Library Center have used an outside garden area and walkway for conversation and reflection, thanks to the efforts of Texas' governor. SMU dedicated on April 27 the Laura Bush Promenade outside the library honoring the Texas First Lady, an SMU alumna. The promenade was made possible by a $250,000 gift to SMU from Gov. George W. Bush in honor of his wife's contributions to the advancement of libraries and literacy.
The promenade includes walkways, planters, and benches on each side of the Fondren Library Center. The west side of the promenade faces the Main Quad and the east side faces Airline Road, marking SMU's eastward growth.
"This is a serene and peaceful place," Gov. Bush said at the dedication ceremonies, "just like Laura."
Laura Welch Bush received a Bachelor's degree in elementary education from SMU in 1968 and a Master's degree in library science from UT-Austin in 1973.
Texas First Lady Laura Bush and Gov. George W. Bush admire the Laura Bush Promenade, outside Fondren Library Center, which the governor made possible as a gift to his wife.
She credits her SMU professors with inspiring her to become a teacher and librarian. "I liked being part of University College (now Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences)," she says. "I liked focusing on the big picture of the liberal arts, which in particular give you the opportunity to read the great thinkers in our civilization."
In her role as First Lady of Texas, Laura Bush draws on her background as a teacher and librarian to encourage in others her lifelong passion for reading. A supporter in particular of Texas literature, she helped organize the Texas Book Festival in 1996 to celebrate the writings of Texas authors and to raise funds for public libraries. In the past three years the festivals have raised $600,000 in grants for 230 public libraries in Texas.