Remarks at the dedication of Middlebury College's new library, October, 2004

by Michael Lynch, Systems Librarian

I started working at Starr Library in August of 1996, and the Library Planning Committee 
had its first meeting in September of 1996. We continued to meet for the next five years.

In May of 2000 the Committee was invited to meet with the Board of Trustees to discuss
a resolution they had passed to ask Gwathmey/Seigel to "develop a design for the College 
Library on Storrs Avenue [...with] the expectation that the resulting design will fully 
accommodate the approved program in a building of genuine architectural distinction."

Now, I confess that as the systems librarian, I suffered from a slight case of tunnel vision. 
When I thought of a building of genuine distinction I mainly saw deep cable trays full of 
yellow network wires. Needless to say, I'm delighted that Charles Gwathmey had a broader 
vision which resulted in the beautiful building we are now dedicating. And there are over 
1700 network jacks in the building, as well as several wireless access points, so my 
limited vision was also well realized.

The other part of that resolution that was very important was that the building would 
"fully accommodate the approved program." I went back and looked at our old web 
site and saw that we had listed seven Goals and Strategies. I was not surprised to 
discover that Gwathmey/Siegel met every one of those goals as well. One of those 
goals was that the building would "recognize the changing character of information 
sources, storage, retrieval, and communication." I think this goal expressed the 
central challenge or dilemma facing the Library Planning Committee, and by extension 
the architect. And that dilemma was how much we did not know.

We knew that we would continue to purchase paper books and journals for some time 
to come. But we did not know exactly when, or how quickly the ratio of print to electronic 
materials would change. We knew that scholarly communication was going to change 
over the next 20 years, but we did not know exactly how or when. We knew that the 
building would be a great improvement for the staff, but we didn't know what the new 
Library and Information Services organization would look like; nor how LIS staff would 
interact with each other and with the staff of the Center for Teaching, Learning and 
Research. Nor did any of us have a clear idea of just how the students would use the 
new facility, although we were all confident that the cafe was going to be very popular!

What the Planning Committee did was to ask the architect to design a very open and 
flexible building. Our hope was that no matter how things turn out, no matter what new 
technologies come down the pike -- and there are many -- future College administrators 
will be able to adapt this building to continue to serve the needs of the Middlebury 
community. And that this will continue to be a building of genuine distinction for a long 
time to come.

In addition to John McCardell and Eric Davis, I want to thank Ron Rucker for his long-term 
vision and commitment to the building, and Jeff Rehbach for overseeing and coordinating 
the moving process which was unbelievably smooth and almost uneventful for most of us, 
although not for him, I'm sure.