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Orientation within Olin

The original Olin Library -- enhanced through refurbishing of monumental areas, refinishing of furniture, and sensitive use of its expansive square footage -- combines with the lofty spaces of the new addition to provide a gracious ambience for research, study, and learning.

Orientation within the Olin Library building is aided by keeping in mind its 1928 T-shape and the U-shaped wraparound addition of the mid 1980's, represented by the shading on the mainfloor plan. On all floors, east and west corridors follow the periphery of the former exterior wall enclosing the original stack area.

Access to other floors is by the main staircase, two stairways within the stacks, the two elevators in the stack core, or fire stairs on either side (at the notches separating the old and new structures).

Ceiling heights are in multiples of the functional 7.5 foot height of each level of the original Snead steel bracket book stacks. Thus, ceilings are 15 feet high in most corridors and rooms, 30 feet in the lobby and the main reading room, and 45 feet in the new reference area.

Outstanding views of the building's interior may be had from the second floor mezzanine, from the reference center along the north face, from the north reading areas on the second and third floors, and from the third floor bridge connecting these reading areas. All levels of the addition offer exterior views of the University's most evocative open spaces, Andrus Field and Foss Hill and their surrounding buildings.

 

Memorial Lobby

The main architectural feature of Olin's original interior is the palatial 60-foot wide Memorial Hall, constructed in the Renaissance style. Funding for its restoration came from Harvey B. Gram, Jr., class of 1927, and his wife, Mary Worthington Dunbar Gram.

Among the lobby's notable features are the high windowed arch over the bronze and glass vestibule, the vaulted ceiling of ornamental plaster, the pilasters and columns of green Italian marble with bronze capitals and bases, the walls of paneled Italian walnut, the marble mosaic floor, and the chandelier and four lighting standards.

On the side walls, set against marble panels with bronze inscriptions, marble pedestals support bronze busts of the two Olins fro whom the building is named. The busts were sculpted by Henry Hering, pupil of Augustus Saint-Gaudens and friend of architect Henry Bacon.

An interior arch opens onto a corridor which originally housed the built-in card catalog and the circulation/reference desk. On either side of the central stack entrance hang oil portraits of both the Olins and their wives: Stephen Henry and his wife Emeline Harriman on the left, and, on the right, Stephen and his wife Julia Lynch. On the opposite walls are portraits of Wesleyan's first president, Willbur Fisk, and of founding trustee Laban Clark. On the mezzanine above, behind the ornamental bronze railing, hang oil portraits of a succession of Wesleyan's 19th-century presidents.

 

Smith Reading Room

A substantial bequest in 1922 from Harriet Walker Smith -- a well-to-do Methodist widow from Springfield, Massachusetts -- became the nucleus of the library building fund. In gratitude, the trustees perpetuated her name in the main reading room, the first space on the Wesleyan campus to be named for a woman.

The renovation restored this room, like the lobby, to its original beauty and serenity -- its tables refinished and their brass lamps polished. The high-ceilinged 60-foot-long room -- constituting the west wing of the original main floor -- formerly housed the reference collection, which by the 1970's had overflowed into the lobby and adjoining offices. Today its built-in oak bookshelves hold the Develin browsing collection, the Beales collection, and the Leonard W. Halpert collection on freedom of expression.

 

Special Collections

Special Collections & Archives occupies the east wing of the main floor. Wesleyan's class of 1928 funded the ingenious remodeling of what had been the main library office into Special Collections work and reader spaces. Of architectural note is the kiosk housing the rare book reference collection; the reading table within it once belonged to Henry Bacon.

The adjoining Davison Rare Book Room has been refurbished. The walnut-paneled room and most of the collection it houses were among many gifts to the University from George W. Davison, class of 1892 and former president of the Board of Trustees. Since its formal opening in December 1952, the Davison Room has offered a warm and elegant setting for interested undergraduates to encounter the best of Wesleyan's rare books.

Along the east corridor next to Special Collections is the exhibition area, with bronze cases presented in 1958 by the class of 1928. On the walls above the cases are two art works from the library's Henry Bacon collection: a Henry Hering portrait bronze of the architect whose ideas shaped the building, and a 1912 rendering by Jules Guerin of Bacon's proposed Lincoln Memorial.

 

Campbell Reference Center

The main architectural feature of the building's 1986 addition is the reference center extending across the north end of the main floor. In September 1989 it was deicated in honor of Wesleyan's president from 1970 to 1988, Colin Goetze Campbell, and his wife, Nancy Nash Campbell -- whose efforts did much to promote an improved library for Wesleyan.

The information center of the library, this area houses the reference desk, online public access catalog terminals and printers, the card catalog listing older materials, index tables, and CD-ROM stations, and, in adjoining stacks, the reference collection. Comfortable wing chairs offer a view of Andrus Field.

By retaining the brick and marble exterior north wall of 1938 as the interior south wall of the reference center, the architects created an atrium effect. New openings were cut in the former exterior wall for access to the book stacks. Facing the old facade's fenestration and aligned with it are arched outer windows, soaring towards the 45-foot ceiling. Three skylights crown this dramatic space.

 

Upper Floors

On the second floor landing, opposite the marble staircase, is a portrait of Victor Lloyd Butterfield, Wesleyan's president from 1943 to 1967. The east wing of the second floor includes the library director's office in the beautifully proportioned original Treasure Room -- furnished by John Gribbel, book collector and trustee from 1905 to 1936, with specially designed glass fronted bookcases trimmed in bronze. To the left of the administrative offices is the Develin Room, originally set up as a browsing room in memory of James A. Develin, class of 1883 and trustee from 1913 to 1923, and now refurbished for meetings and group instruction.

The Stone and Heidel reading spaces, which seem to hang suspended above either end of the Campbell Reference Center, are outstanding features of the second floor addition. Named respectively for William Arthur Heidel, professor of Greek from 1905 to 1928, and for Charles Bragdon Stone, class of 1923 and trustee from 1951 to 1971, their elevated position offers excellent interior views of Olin old and new, as well as exterior views of the campus beyond.

The third floor addition offers similar reading spaces on each side of the building. On this level the reading spaces are connected by an enclosed bridge. The bridge's numerous square windows frame attractive views: on the south, of architectural details of the former exterior wall's marble entablature and pediment, and, on the north, of Andrus Field.

At the west end of the third floor is the entrance to the Scores & Recordings collection, housing materials formerly overseen by the Music Department. This area offers individual and group listening facilities as well as a seminar room for classes.

At the head of the marble staircase on the third floor hangs an oil portrait of John Wesley, copied from one in London's National Portrait Gallery. The copy was painted for Wesleyan in 1961 at the expense of James M. Osborn, class of 1928. On a nearby wall is a portrait bronze, done in 1936 by sculptor R. Tait McKenzie, of longtime associate librarian Eugenia Henry, who retired in 1948. In the east wing of this floor are the headquarters of the CTW library consortium and a staff lounge.

 

Lower Level

On the ground floor directly below the Campbell Reference Center and also overlooking Andrus Field is the Jakobson Periodical Reading Room, donated by the three children of Lucille and Louis Jakobson. Current periodicals and newspapers may be read in comfort at its refinished oak tables and upholstered wing chairs. A section of marble balustrade removed from the former north facade serves as a base for the periodicals service desk window. Beyond this desk are technical services work spaces -- where library materials are ordered, checked in, and processed for use.

In the west wing, directly below the Smith Reading Room, is the Microforms Reading Room, the remodeling of which was funded by the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation. Here, individual work stations provide readers and printers for different micro-formats and video viewing stations. By putting the work stations on two levels, the architects exploited formerly unused space in this high-ceilinged room.

The lower corridor's east end leads to the Preservation Room, renovated with funds from the Hartford Courant Foundation, and to the building's handicapped entrance. The wide cross corridor of the lower level was narrowed by lining it with individual carrels for honors students -- a device also used on the third floor. (Additional carrels are in the converted attic, formerly devoted to storage.)