"It Was Time" by Provost Bill Bussey
I don’t like to speak ill of the dead, but I’m not feeling too bad that the original Putnam Library will no longer be with us following the March break.
Built in 1974, when the student body hovered around 300 students, the Putnam Library had more than served its purpose over the last 45 years. But, honestly, it’s clear that the architect who designed that building had never spent much time monitoring children. The interior design, with its two offices and a classroom deftly placed square in the middle, reduced every sightline, no matter where one stood, to something akin to being stranded on a motionless carousel. Quickly scurrying around the periphery to confront the mayhem on the opposite side proved, for adults, to be little more than a vain illusion. Lofted students, situated 10 feet above the action, often served as sentries atop the plaster plateau, ready to call out, “They’re coming!” as soon as faculty members made their move to stop the commotion.
To be sure, the Putnam Library hosted the reading of many books, the cranking out of an infinite number of essays, and the grading of an equal number of papers. And more importantly, great friendships were formed and cemented there as well. But, down the final stretch, with the school size doubled since the library had opened its doors, students now were stacked like cordwood around every table and open space. Despite people’s best efforts, the biggest distraction was no longer impish behavior, but the noise level. It was time.
I’m telling you straight-up that no photos can do justice to our new academic center or the new Putnam Library that resides within. Curious folks stroll in with great anticipation, but with a rough visual of what’s coming next. Yet, every person that I have watched walk through the front door takes two steps and then stops dead in their tracks. The design demands attention.
The gorgeous layout stretches much farther than folks anticipate. Glass-walled rooms throughout make it possible to watch two or three classes in action at the same time. Small rooms line one side of the building for group meetings. In a seemingly distant corner sits a classroom-sized room where no talking is allowed—and it’s the quietest place on campus. There’s plenty of room for everyone at the large tables, and the chairs are so comfortable that folks are reluctant to give up their spot. There’s a counter that stretches at least twenty feet along the base of a two-story glass wall where students can do their homework facing the outdoors; the only distraction might be the birds outside. The natural beauty of the rocks and trees that surround the academic center, coupled with high ceilings and space that stretches like a Texan plain, seem to have a profound, almost calming effect on those studying inside.
For the time being, the alcoves are now pretty much empty, giving way to a space that seems on some level to serve as a social equalizer. A fair number of students maintain that they are now completing most of their homework now that they have a place where they can truly concentrate. But you will see for yourself soon enough.
Maybe 45 years from now someone like me will find fault with this wonderful, needed addition to our campus. But, for the time being, I’m thinking that this is the place where moonlight sometimes goes to swim.