Everyone likes “Top Ten” and “Best of” lists, particularly if you make the list. Readers Digest recently published its list of the Most Impressive Libraries in Every State. Their criteria appears to be chiefly based on architectural merit with a nod to the importance of the collections.
The libraries chosen range from the venerable to the very new. UNC-Chapel Hill’s Wilson Library opened in 1929 while University of Georgia’s Richard B. Russell Library opened in 2012.
Representing South Carolina—our own Thomas Cooper Library. Designed by famed architect Edward Durell Stone and the firm Lyles, Bisset, Carlisle & Wolff, what was then called the Undergraduate Library opened in 1959 and supplemented the existing McKissick Library with some 40,000 sq. ft. of additional space. Well regarded from the time of its construction, in 1963 the Undergraduate Library was recognized with a First Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects.
Eventually, it was decided to concentrate library collections and services in an expanded Undergraduate Library and, in 1976, the newly renamed Thomas Cooper Library opened with four new floors added underground to provide a total of nearly 290,000 sq. ft. of library space. The pool we all admire was added at the front of the Library at the same time.
How is Thomas Cooper faring today? Libraries the world around are facing a sea change as we deal with the growth of electronic resources which can be accessed anywhere at any time. This would seem to diminish the need for physical libraries, but student use of Thomas Cooper has actually doubled in recent years. The addition of Hollings Library at the rear of Cooper may be the most dramatic change in recent times, but change and the evolution of University Libraries, its resources, and staff, is constant as we strive to meet the demands of our faculty and students.
I was pleased to see Readers Digest select the University of Michigan’s Law Library to represent Michigan. The classic old building received a major renovation since I graduated. Like Cooper, they too added underground space to preserve the original old building while adding a significant addition that has received rave reviews.
By Herb Hartsook