Columbia Library columns (v.34(1984Nov-1985May))

(New York :  Friends of the Columbia Libraries.  )



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  v.34,no.2(1985:Feb): Page 20  


Designing for Rare
Books and Manuscripts


^ OR an architect, a library is an immensely fulfilling
commission for it involves dreams and realities, art and
construction. In addition, for Cain, FarreU and Bell, the
linear descendant of McKim, A'lead and White who planned and
designed much of Columbia's campus at the turn of the century,
the opportunity to design the University's Rare Book and Alanu¬
script Library has been a joyful homecoming. I myself am a 1962
graduate of the School of Architecture.

Often the centerpieces of universities, cities and villages, library
buildings have ranked among the most noble architecture in his¬
tory. One has only to think of the British Library, the Library
of Congress, or the neo-classical Carnegie libraries in small towns
across the American continent. Another dimension is introduced
if the library is a rare book and manuscript library. To hold and
read what others in former times have held and read creates ties
across generations and allows the past to demand the attention it
must have if the present is to count itself as part of history. The
fact that the Rare Book and Manuscript Library is physically part
of Butler Library, the main University library building, rein¬
forces this continuum.

Any proposed building or alteration begins with a set of goals,
a site and a budget. Ideally the goals come first, but in reality all
three are bound together; the Rare Book and Manuscript Library
was no exception. The program or goal was to consolidate certain
of the Library's functions and at the same time celebrate the
glories of the collections. The site chosen was a little-used and
  v.34,no.2(1985:Feb): Page 20