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The Rutherford Library

By Edith Park

The new Rutherford Library is now completed and will be officially opened on May 15th. It is hoped that it will be ready for use by the coming summer session. We were fortunate indeed in being allowed to go over the building just prior to the moving day, and to say that we were vastly impressed would be putting it with all the Anglo-Saxon understatement possible.

Handsome as is the exterior of the new building, the interior, from the general decoration down to the minutest detail of finishing, is truly remarkable and should be a source of pride to all who have any connection with this university. Great credit is due to the architects of the building, Mathers and Haldenby of Toronto, and the Edmonton firm of Rule, Wynn and Rule, and to all others who were responsible for its erection, but we would like to give a very special word of praise to Miss Sherlock and Mr. Glyde who planned the interior. The choice of woodwork, paneling and flooring materials and the truly marvelous use of color is something we do not think could be surpassed in any building we have seen.

To those of us for whom the library was a simple matter of some dozen or so tables, one desk, and a crowded basement stack, the new library, with its many reading rooms, delivery room, periodical room and so forth, is, to say the least, bewildering. To give readers as clear a picture as possible it would perhaps be best to describe it floor by floor.

The main door leads through the entrance foyer into the main hall. Both the foyer and hall are finished in polished Tyndall stone and the floor is gleaming terrazzo, all in a warm buff tone. The only furnishings in the hall are a number of oak benches and glass display cases to be used for rare books and museum articles. On the main floor, besides coat rooms and staff work rooms, are the reserve reading room, the Weir Memorial Law Library and the medical sciences reading room. These rooms are all units in themselves, with their own offices and access to the stacks. The law library is distinctive in having dark woodwork and furniture, of solid and comfortable design, and mushroom-colored walls, which, we don't quite know why, seemed to us exactly in keeping for a law library. Both the medical sciences and the reserve reading rooms are finished in limed oak, as is the rest of the building. Turquoise walls and recessed fluorescent lighting combine with the light woodwork to give a pleasant, light and restful effect.

The staircases in the building are worthy of note, being finished in gleaming Italian marble with a polished brass stair rail. Downstairs in the basement is the applied science reading room for the use of the engineering and agriculture faculties, with their own stacks, delivery desk and full time reference service. To compensate for basement lighting, walls here are a warm sunny yellow. The extension library is also housed in the basement but has its own entrance at the side of the building. The basement also contains staff rooms, including comfortable lounges and well-equipped kitchen. Something of an innovation is the smoking study room. Tables here are round and less formally arranged, permitting discussion and a freer atmosphere. A novel effect has been achieved in the furniture which is sturdily constructed of birch, limed in turquoise to blend with the turquoise walls and light knotty pine panelling.

Also in the basement is a large projection room capable of seating one hundred people. This is for the use of classes which require moving pictures and is also to be used by the Extension Department to show documentaries and other outstanding films during the noon hour.

The majority of students using the building will mount the stairs to the second floor to reach the main delivery room. This is a large room, handsomely paneled in light oak, with a large oak desk extending in an arc, to facilitate the checking in and out of books. At one side is the main catalogue. Students may consult the catalogue while standing at convenient desks or seated in comfort at tables if they have many references to look up. References are then given to library attendants and speeded to the various stack levels by means of pneumatic tubes. Books are delivered to and from the stack by means of an electric elevator. To the left of the delivery desk is a browsing corner where current books will be displayed and comfortable red leather chairs will invite students to pause and catch up on their general reading.

The main reference reading room, reached through an archway from the delivery room, will accommodate two hundred and sixty-five readers. Two stories high, with oak paneling and walls of empire green, this is truly a magnificent room. The lighting comes from incandescent fixtures recessed in the coffered ceiling. The room is dominated by a large mural depicting scenes and incidents in the history of Alberta.

The mural is the gift of Professor Glyde of the Fine Arts Department. It is a composite work depicting the civilizing influences in the early life of the province and particularly of the Edmonton district around the period 1850-1870. The two dominant figures are those of the two great missionaries, Father Lacombe and Rev. John MacDougall. The latter is depicted holding a service in an Indian encampment. At his side is a "mountie," to indicate his co-operation with the forces of law and order. Father Lacombe is shown with raised crucifix in one of his many courageous attempts to pacify the warlike Indians. Another important figure is the famous Hudson's Bay factor, Rowan. Behind him are the York boats of the traders and in the background the inhabitants of Fort Edmonton coming down to the river to meet them. Lesser figures include trappers and traders and bands of Crees and Blackfeet. Three famous early churches are shown – the Morley church, the original MacDougall church and Father Lacombe's chapel, now at St. Albert, which was the first school. The painting is done in casein and demar varnish in a fresco technique, and we are told that it is the only mural of its kind in Alberta. Professor Glyde was assisted in his work by the staff of the Fine Arts Department. The mural is to be unveiled at the official opening.

To get back to the library itself, we should mention that the second floor also contains an up-to-date cataloguing room and order room, and the office of the chief librarian. On this floor, too, is the periodical room where all the current general periodicals will be available.

Of the rooms on the third floor, the music listening room is perhaps the most interesting. Here students may select recordings and have them played. The setting is perfect for informal listening. Comfortable loyalist maple furniture is upholstered in soft tones of coral, chartreuse and grey, the same colors being repeated in the drapes. If such inspired decorating is not essential to music appreciation it certain leaves nothing undone to encourage it.

The third floor also contains a number of seminar, conference and typing rooms. A small art gallery and a museum for the display of the university's Indian collection, occupy one end. There is also a painting room for fine arts students who wish to copy prints of the great masters. Somewhere along here was a room for projecting or viewing microfilm or whatever you do with microfilm – by this time, we'll admit we were getting a bit hazy.

Not much can be said in describing empty stacks, except to say that there are six floors of them and that these provide about seventy carrells or study cubicles and study desks for more than forty readers – these are for the use of graduate and honor students and faculty, of course, and include typing cubicles where research students may tap away without disturbing others.

So far we have talked more about the decorating in the library than the books, chiefly because the books had not been moved when we were there. But if a library without its books is something of an anomaly – rather a pie without its filling – at least one could see that every possible device to facilitate the selection and availability of books has been embodied in this wonderful building. One small instance particularly took our fancy – it was the tilting of the lower shelves so that titles could be seen without stooping. Special shelves have been devised for the most convenient display of periodicals. A hundred and one little touches have been added to save time and work both for student and staff. Lighting is subdued and yet completely adequate; the use of color throughout cheerful, airy, yet never obtrusive.

Whether the students who will enjoy these modern facilities will be better educated than we who can remember only the crowded tables, the creaky old book lift and the mouse traps in the stacks, we would not care to guess, but if they are not it will not be for lack of the most beautiful and most perfectly equipped library in the West.

Published Spring 1951.

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