Since September, people have murmured about the changes to Rush Rhees Library as part of the new Evans Lam Square—compliments, complaints and recommendations alike.
During the Nov. 10 forum, which predominantly focused on changes to the library aesthetic, students favored the incorporation of traditional design elements—rich, moody colors and regal, stoic woods—in the vision for the Square. Nods greeted a suggestion to emulate the 2014 changes to the Morey Lounge.
In a previous editorial, we failed to emphasize our main concern—the library’s new look. Frankly, we didn’t like what we saw—or, what we imagined. At the time, we didn’t know what the changes would be, and, to an extent, we still don’t. But, we’re getting closer.
We have a clearer idea of what the goals for the new space are because of the forum’s stress on what the plans are not; we appreciate this strategy.
Attendees of this week’s forum saw three photos of spaces that didn’t fit with the library’s plans for Evans Lam Square. The first contained a letterman-jacket-wearing male on a sofa, surrounded by plaques and trophies—country club decor. The second showed a vacant space filled with oddly-shaped tables, fluorescent colors and bright lights—like a preschool. The third showed a bland space—a “sea of desks,” as library staff called it—that resembled the current circulation area, with uninteresting furniture, an incongruously dark rug and clammy walls. According to Dean of the River Campus Libraries Mary Ann Mavrinac, the circulation space is “actually quite soulless.”
We don’t deny this. The space screams for a unifying aesthetic. Look at previous renovations to the library: the Great Hall and the Periodical Reading Room underwent major overhauls to restore them to their original grandeur. This sort of change was what we had in mind, and we think other students seem to concur. We want an academic library—a library with dignity.
It seems necessary, then, that whatever the new decor happens to be, it will contain classical elements. The library staff seemed receptive to the students’ ideas about this. An architect from the firm was particularly pleased with the excitement about Morey Hall, the renovation of which he had orchestrated. This is reassuring. At the same time, we understand that libraries are changing. A modern library needs to cater to a variety of student needs, needs that have changed since Rush Rhees Library opened in 1930 and that will continue to evolve.
But, we are still unsure how Library administrators will proceed. The library admit that any renderings we’ve seen are not final, and this ambiguity makes us uneasy. We await the release of new renderings that might illustrate what will effectively be the center of campus.
We want a space that incorporates new technology, while still evoking the prestige of the University. We want the detail of the Rush Rhees entryway, the wood paneling in the Welles-Brown Room, the coziness of the Great Hall. We want a space that will impress students when they first see it. A change could be good—we hope this one is.