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 Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Happy 70th birthday Norlin Library!
by Deborah Fink, planning and promotions librarian

The venerable Norlin Library turned 70 years old Jan. 6, 2010. The building has anchored the historic Norlin Quadrangle for seven decades with its stately sandstone pillars and inscriptions promising "timeless fellowship." It remains a campus architectural icon, even as the structure of the building has evolved in response to cultural, political and pedagogical trends.

Norlin Library opened in 1940 and in that time has received two additions. North and south wings were constructed over the course of nearly three years, starting in 1962. The new wings were a seamless addition, preserving and flanking the west bay window and replicating the same window pattern and native sandstone.

The south wing included the four tiers of stacks that now house the life sciences collection. The project included the rerouting of an underground stream to an open cavity on the lowest underground level of the west wall and the addition of a basement along the entire east side with three low-ceilinged levels, now home to the western historical collection and book stacks.

Although the architectural integrity of the outer structure was preserved and essential space for shelving and student seating was added, the lighting, ventilation, and logic or accessibility of arrangement were sacrificed to budgetary constraints. Thus, Norlin acquired its compartmentalized and maze-like qualities.

Ten years later, an east wing was constructed. Retaining but enclosing the east bay window, the new addition expanded three floors on the east, with the third floor high enough for three levels of stacks. Facing the expanded campus to the east, the new main entrance provided easy access to a relocated and expanded reference area, although the divergence in architectural style of the façade was considered unattractive by many.

Even before the end of the century, however, the building had become functionally obsolete for current technological requirements. The 2008-09 construction of second floor Research Services and the first floor Norlin Commons now enable the libraries to provide state-of-the-art services.

A special photographic display in the Norlin third floor gallery and the corridor between the learning commons and coffee shop brings to life this history and the architectural attributes of the building. The display includes both archival and contemporary photographs, some juxtaposed to classic examples of architectural details on other campuses. The contemporary photos featured on the first floor are the work of University Communications web designer, Kevin Crafts.

The display reflects the spirit of the collaboration between two influential men at the zeniths of their careers, George Norlin, then president of the university, and Charles Klauder, architect of Norlin Library and ten other buildings on campus. The photos reveal the visual evolution of this distinguished, much lived in, and still evolving architectural gem. The show will be on display throughout the spring 2010 semester.

The next time you visit Norlin Library, take a moment to notice the blending of old and new, east and west campus, and the history and future of knowledge that it represents. You might also wish Norlin a happy 70th birthday!

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