Sterling Memorial Library . If you’re aware of the fact that the building was planned as a library and construction completed in 1931, awe quickly changes to wonder.
The design of the main entrance as a nave, which has no functional role at all in today’s library, is intended to instill reverence – an intention that already in 1931 badly suited a library, which, after all, are democratic institutions. But when the library was dedicated, the (card) catalogue, housed in one of the side aisles, where it still stands today, served a function at least. In the interim the catalogue has been digitized and the cards themselves stored in the archive. The card cabinets have been left in the original location – as a artifact to be marveled at.
Counterproductive to a modern library is the total absence of a management and orientation system. There are open stacks for students and faculty, but here, too, I have the impression that one would need to ask a librarian for assistance.
But the beginnings of a modernization process are also in evidence. One example is the Bass Library.
On two levels here one finds open stacks with short loan times (not applicable to the closed stacks), and pleasant mixed work and seating areas. It is in this area that the carrels, group rooms and class and seminar rooms are found. This whole area can be understand as a purposeful opening-up of the library, and it is very popular with students, especially undergraduates.
It is here that I meet with Barbara Rockenbach, responsible for the Library Research Education Program. Our talk includes things that familiar to me from similar discussions in Germany, but also some that are completely new. At Yale (in the Bass Library), attempts are being made to bring academic teaching into the library – and the faculty is offered the bait that it is here, most easily, that materials from the library (including those from the special collections) can be integrated into instruction.
Interesting in this context is something that Associate Director of Development Katherine Haskins tells me concerning a new focus in fundraising activities, that of “technology philanthropy”. Up until now, in her experience, alumni -- the group most important to fundraising for the library – were most interested in buildings and collections. But now they are increasingly enthusiastic about donating money targeted at equipping the libraries with new technology. There are great hopes for this.