Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

These Walls: Oklahoma State University's Edmon Low Library

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

These Walls: Oklahoma State University's Edmon Low Library

Article excerpt

It represented the first building block in President Henry Bennett's grand vision to elevate Oklahoma A&M College, creating a new centerpiece for his expanded Stillwater campus.

Although it proved the last building on that 1920s list to materialize, requiring a special street-change dispensation from the Legislature for its 1953 completion, the Edmon Low Library fulfilled all of Bennett's dreams and more.

"It's certainly achieved becoming the focal point of the campus," said Nigel Jones, university architect in OSU's Long Range Facilities Planning Department.

He credited that in part to a number of classical architecture elements:

* The library's beautiful Georgian entryway overlooking what became OSU's central lawn, capped by an eight-story tower embraced as OSU's iconic brand.

"It's the second-most photographed building on campus," said David Peters, the library's coordinator of special collections. "And over the last 50 years, it's probably the most photographed."

* The polished marble staircase and columns adorning the library's art deco-influenced lobby.

"This grand staircase is easily one of the most recognizable areas of the library," said Senior Communications Specialist Bonnie Ann Cain.

* Its twin two-story meeting rooms, each the size of a gymnasium, providing OSU's ideal study hall and banquet area.

"We're really trying to build communities in the library," said Peters, noting the many different areas encouraging gatherings and discussions.

That environment started with then-head librarian Edmon Low's revolutionary "open stacks" strategy. Instead of having a central reference desk where students requested books, his six-floor, 170,760-square-foot library employed open floor plans that granted students complete access.

"He was the one who came up with this whole idea of open shelves, open stacks," Peters said of Low, who ran the OSU library from 1940 to 1967. "That was his vision for changes in the library world. That's why he worked so closely with Phil Wilber and Bennett in the design of this thing."

That strategy was extended under a 68,000-square-foot addition completed in 1968 by Builders Construction Co. …

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