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Erhard Konerding, documents librarian, works inside the Olin Memorial Library, which was built in 1928.
 
Posted 01.31.05

Olin Memorial Library Earns "Building of the Year" Award

When Wesleyan's Olin Memorial Library opened in 1928, the classically symmetrical structure fronted with six marble columns stood out as a bold yet elegant structure. Nearly 80 years later, the building is still turning heads.

On January 13, The Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of Greater Hartford awarded the library with The Office Building of the Year (TOBY) award in the historic building category. The TOBY award recognizes excellence in building management, operational efficiency, tenant retention, emergency planning and community impact. The Olin Library won in the "proper maintenance of the historical building," category.

"It was built in 1928 and still has that old world charm," said Pete Caniano, chairman of the TOBY award committee. "I could find myself getting lost in a great book in Olin all the time."

Caniano, district manager for American Building Maintenance Janitorial Services of Danbury, Conn., provides janitorial services to Wesleyan and nominated the library for the award.

"I nominated Olin because I felt it had great architectural character and it has gone through some excellent architectural renovations throughout its history that add to its appeal," he said. "Olin library is a wonderful landmark on campus."

Caniano and members of the judging panel inspected the facility, grading it on physical attractiveness, cleanliness, mechanical functionality, aesthetics and standard building operation equipment and procedures. Each category had to receive a passing grade for the building to be considered for the award. Caniano said Wesleyan's Physical Plant had a lot to do with the outcome of the judges' findings.

"If the building had been simply attractive and architecturally marvelous but not maintained well and had antiquated maintenance systems, it would not have won," he said.

Caniano noted many positive points while touring the library. The stacks, he said, are well organized; the building is kept in pristine condition; and the ambiance of the reading room "is exceptional." He also favored the private alcoves used for student research and described the library's staff as "very helpful."

"The building is kept in pristine condition and is very practical for student use," he said.

Olin Memorial Library was first opened as a memorial to Stephen Olin, Wesleyan's president from 1842 to 1851, and his son Stephen Henry Olin, class of 1866, a Wesleyan trustee for 45 years and the university's acting president in 1922 and 1923.

The original plans for the building were begun by Henry Bacon, who designed the Lincoln Memorial, and after his death were completed by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White. It currently provides Wesleyan's 2,730 students and 1,060 staff and faculty members with 1.5 million publications and a variety of electronic and archival services.

A major renovation and expansion of the building, completed in 1986, was designed by Perry, Dean, Rogers & Partners. It nearly doubled the space available in Olin for study areas and collections.

The 163-foot wide fašade surmounted by a pediment and capped by a balustrade. Marble, exterior and interior, amounted for 20 percent of the final construction cost of $727,000.

Now that the library has won at a local level, it has an opportunity to advance to the regional level in each of the eight North American regions of BOMA International. Regional winners advance to the international level.

 
By Olivia Bartlett, The Wesleyan Connection editor