The challenges of mid-century

The challenges of mid-century

Mildred E. Herrick, who replaced Miss Wilson officially on October 1, 1945, was a graduate of Eastern Michigan University, with an additional B. L. S. and a M. L. S. from the University of Michigan. Her previous professional appointments had been at Swarthmore College and Yale University.

The most pressing problems to confront the new librarian after her arrival concerned the 1928 building, now beginning to show its age and limitations. By the 1947/48 academic year, the collection had reached nearly 73,000 volumes. Record enrollments had become the norm since the end of the war, and space was once again at a premium in the library. On December 19, 1947, Miss Herrick wrote to Dr. Haggard "in regard to a fourth floor of stacks which we need badly." Terrible storage conditions had developed, particularly for periodicals crammed into the lower floor of stacks "in bad condition because students keep picking them over and because water has come in and they have had to be moved up on boxes and boards to keep them dry." The second and third tiers of stacks were also full, and the reading room too was crowded. "We have started to put books on the floor," she warned, "and will have to continue to do so."

Fortunately, Bebb & Gould’s original plan for the 1928 structure had foreseen eventual expansion of the steel stacks into the fourth floor attic space and, as Miss Herrick pointed out to Dr. Haggard, "the lower floors were constructed with that idea in mind." After consultations with Bebb & Jones, as the original architectural firm was now called, the Board approved this expenditure on May 20, 1948. The project was completed by the following year and as the College celebrated its 50th anniversary, the library’s storage situation was temporarily improved.

A second hoped-for improvement was not accomplished. In March 1947, planning began for improving the overhead lighting in the main reading room, long a source of student complaints. In May, because of concerns that such a project would cause expensive damage to the painted ceiling, an alternative was tested. As an experiment, one of the long oak study tables was fitted with tabletop fluorescent fixtures and users were invited to submit comments. These were mostly favorable, but in the end neither Miss Herrick nor President Haggard found this solution acceptable.

Early in 1951, Miss Herrick declared an end to the no-fines policy established by Mabel Zoe Wilson in 1909. As reported in the Western Washington Collegian of March 16, "efforts made by the library staff to keep from introducing the fine system have been unsuccessful" and the volume of overdue materials continued to increase. Fines for overdue general circulation books were set at five cents per day and for reserve books, twenty-five cents for the first hour and ten cents per hour thereafter. Another long tradition ended in the summer of 1957, when students were required to show identification, in the form of the new Associated Student Body card, in order to check out library materials.

Paul Thiry’s wings

Late in the fall of 1954, President Haggard announced that a ten-year building program was "under consideration for the 1955-57 biennium," according to the Western Washington Collegian of December 3. In addition to at least two buildings, as well as extensive improvements to the grounds, the program would include "an addition to the library for $234,000." A long-range planning effort evolved that by mid-1957 had identified many other facilities needs including a science building, dormitories, physical education facilities, and two classroom buildings. The program, The Collegian reported on July 19, 1957, was "designed to meet the needs of the College in 1958, when it will have an enrollment of 5,000."

Funds were available for the new science building, which working drawings placed at the northwest edge of the campus, facing High Street. However, Seattle architect Paul Thiry, selected by the Board in July 1957 to design the new building, argued for locating it instead in the open area south of the existing library. "Putting the Science Building behind the Library," he maintained in The Collegian of November 8, 1957, "will develop the academic center to the utmost," preventing disorganized outward expansion of the campus. Construction of the new facility began in October 1958 on the site selected by the architect. Gone for good was the grassy plain wide enough for the school band to practice marching formations. Also gone was the library’s most straightforward option for future expansion of the building.

On July 10, 1958, Paul Thiry submitted tentative plans to the Board for enlargement of the library. At this time, the Board also authorized him to complete plans and specifications for "relighting of the Main Reading Room," as the Governor had released funds for this project. Over the Christmas break that year, the ornate, Byzantine-style ceiling lamps installed in 1928 came down, replaced by a functional, modernistic grid of suspended fluorescent tracks. If the revision did not exactly harmonize with the room’s 1920’s elegance, it at least brought "the illumination that students had been crying for," The Collegian declared approvingly on January 16, 1959.

In July 1959, the Federal Home and Housing Finance Administration approved funds for "public works plan preparation for the expansion of the library." On May 21, 1960, the Board authorized a capital outlay request to the 1961 legislature for $650,000, based on the architect’s recommendations. Following consultations with Miss Herrick that summer, Thiry completed the preliminary design drawings by the end of October.

On January 13, 1961, The Collegian reported that Thiry proposed "two wings of five floors each to be built on the ends of the current library." The revised cost estimate proposed to the legislature was $963,200. Governor Rossellini’s budget for that year failed to include the library addition, but President James L. Jarrett, who had succeeded President Haggard in September 1959, vowed "to continue to press for it," according to The Collegian of January 27, 1961. His newly appointed administrative assistant, H. A. "Barney" Goltz, confirmed that Western "would ask the Legislature to authorize … these additions to the library in accordance with our original request." The additions, Goltz explained, "would fold around" the courtyard of the new science building dedicated in December 1960 as The Haggard Hall of Science.

In early February, President Jarrett, members of the Board, and a group of faculty and administrators journeyed to Olympia to press Western’s case. Now as in 1925, support among local legislators was strong. Representative Dick Kink of Bellingham assured readers of The Collegian of February 19 that "we’re all doing the best we can and fighting as a unit regardless of political affiliation so that we get the proposed budget for Western – especially the library addition for this biennium." There was ominous talk of being able to complete only the shell of the addition, The Bellingham Herald reported on March 6, if full funding was not received.

Strong support on the Senate side, however, resulted in passage on March 31of a budget bill including $794,400 for the project, which a reluctant Governor Rossellini eventually approved. The general fund would supply the rest of the money. "$155,600 will go toward Western’s library addition," The Bellingham Herald reported on March 29, 1961, "the need for which so impressed several visiting senators six weeks ago, making a total of $950,000 for that project."

On July 7, 1961, the College entered into an Architectural Contract with Paul Thiry for professional architectural and engineering services for "Additions and Alterations to the Library Building." Newland Construction of Everett was selected as the general contractor. President Jarrett was anxious for construction to begin no later than October 1 so as to ensure completion by the fall of 1962. The library immediately began relocating parts of the collection. The children’s library was moved to the campus school building and over 1600 feet of books and periodicals, including the reserve collection, went to temporary shelving erected in Haggard Hall.

The contractors broke ground on October 31, 1961, for the construction of the two new wings at the southeast and southwest corners of the 1928 Bebb & Gould building. The exteriors of the wings, wrote the recently appointed Circulation Librarian, William H. O. Scott in The Collegian of November 17, would feature brickwork and "continuous columns of colored windows to harmonize with the architectural features of the old Library and the adjacent new Science Building," a notably undecorated, reinforced concrete structure.

Achieving operational harmony between the old and new components posed many challenges, and the disjunction of architectural styles was not to everyone’s taste, but at least the library’s square-footage would almost double. There would be space to accommodate up to 200,000 volumes along with larger, well-lit areas for study, reference work, and collection use. Mildred Herrick succinctly summed up the plan as "not one hundred percent perfect, but it’s the best we can come up with."

As Dr. Jarrett had hoped, the expanded, re-organized library was for the most part ready for the start of the 1962/63 academic year. In August 1962, the scattered collections were returned, except for the children’s library, which remained in the Campus School for the time being. By now, there were more than 95,000 volumes in the collections and the staff included seven librarians, in addition to Miss Herrick, specializing in reference, cataloging, acquisitions, circulation, and the campus school.

The new configuration of collections and services housed circulating books on the second through fourth floors of the new wings and periodicals in the original four-tier bookstacks. Reference services now operated in the former periodicals room area on the first floor, and offices, operations, and services were concentrated on the first floor and in the basement. New features included classrooms for library science, a "professional workroom" with curriculum materials for teacher-education students, a separate microfilm room, and an audio-visual center with films, projectors, and other media equipment.

The 1962 ALA survey

Earlier in 1962, President Jarrett had requested that the American Library Association (ALA) arrange for a survey of the library of Western Washington State College, as it was now known. This evaluation was suggested by the informal faculty library committee, of which Miss Herrick was a member. The survey team consisting of E. W. Erickson, head librarian at Eastern Michigan University, and LeMoyne W. Anderson, director of libraries at Colorado State University, conducted its work in May 1962. Among other conclusions, they found the library seriously understaffed, undermined to some degree by the continued existence of independent libraries in some academic departments, in need of a clarified organizational structure, and lacking in well-defined policies for budgeting and acquisitions.

In terms of resources, the surveyors reported that while the library held an acceptable percentage of titles included in standard lists of resources for similar academic libraries, its periodical holdings were inadequate for the needs of the College’s expanding curriculum and programs. They also cited profound unhappiness among faculty members who complained of "imbalance, disparity, and inequality of the book stock," as well as simple lack of essential resources.

Financial support for the library was deemed to be a critical problem, with WWSC far below comparable institutions in the region in library expenditures per student, ratio of full-time staff to enrollment, and percent of total institutional budget expended for library purposes. The surveyors also noted the increasing dissatisfaction among faculty and students alike with the library’s hours of operation, especially the traditional closures during vacations and intercessions. Perhaps most alarming, the surveyors predicted that even with the building addition then nearing completion, the facility would not accommodate the library program beyond 1970.