One hundred years on
Libraries hitting the refresh button
Almost 100 years ago, in October 1913, SMU's first librarian, Miss Dorothy Amman, was hired. In addition to her duties as assistant to President Robert Hyer, Miss Amman was entrusted by him with the job of pulling together books and journals to support the first freshman class. The very first book, Marcus Aurelius and the Later Stoics, by F.W. Bussell, was accessioned the next year. Because we are celebrating SMU's Centennial — 1911 being the date of the articles of incorporation and 1915 the date when the first students entered — President Turner has declared that 2013 will be the Year of the Library on campus, and a celebratory year of marvelous and significant events is planned.
It, therefore, seems fitting that we indicate the momentous change in how we conduct our business by renaming and redesigning our biannual newsletter. We believe that we have made a very significant shift in our thinking — a "swerve" as Stephen Greenblatt calls it* — and we want you to join us as we metaphorically "hit the refresh button" on the libraries and embrace the opportunities provided by the information age.
Another driver for our "swerve" is the official beginning of the project to renovate the Fondren Library Center — the main library on campus comprising Fondren Library East, the DeGolyer Library and the Science and Engineering Library, which were joined together in 1998. A library feasibility study was completed in 2011, and we have now begun the process of bringing architects and construction managers on board. In preparation, we will develop a staging process to maintain basic library services and access to critical materials throughout the renovation. We will think of this as our interruptio creativa that will force us to assess every single process and service, enable technology as our friend and surrogate, and harness the synergy and innovative thinking that our staff will bring to this project.
What would Miss Amman think? My sense is that she would be amazed to see the hundreds of students crowding onto the Laura Bush Promenade during National Library Week and filling almost every seat to be found in Fondren during finals, and that she would be delighted with the array of resources and services available to students and faculty today. After all, we do have that copy of Marcus Aurelius available electronically so that it can be accessed by more than one student at a time.
This is a very exciting time, and I invite you to join us as we browse forward into a new building and a new era for SMU's libraries.
* "... an unforeseen deviation from the direct trajectory ... a change from one way of perceiving and living in the world to another..." The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt. N.Y.: W.W. Norton, 2011.