By Anna Bolone, The Miami Student
Fifty years ago, on November 21, King Library first opened its doors. In celebration, the Miami University Libraries invited faculty, staff, students, community members and alumni to a birthday celebration at King Library on Friday, November 18.
Before King, the libraries on Miami’s campus never quite satisfied students’ needs. In 1966, when King first opened its doors to the public as an undergraduate library, Miami students walked through the Leland S. Dutton Wing to see carpeted floors, rows upon rows of books and spacious reading areas. Up until that November, students had gone to Alumni Library, where there were elongated tables with limited reading space and closed book stacks to which only the library staff held access.
Today, a number of students who attend Miami take for granted the numerous academic journals, books, databases and more offered to them at King.
George Blakeslee, a Miami alumnus who was a student during the time of King’s construction, remembers how innovative the library was from the start.
“With 50 years of hindsight, the move was in many ways the first step towards the Information Age we enjoy now, where most every published work is freely available,” Blakeslee said. “Information was starting to be understood as a dynamic entity, rather than a static relic.”
Blakeslee was also a participant in Miami’s historical event known as the “Book Brigade.”
On November 19, 1966, 60 students transported over 35,000 library volumes from Alumni Library to the newly constructed Edgar W. King Undergraduate Library.
“As I recall, it worked like an ant colony moving to new quarters,” Blakeslee said. “One line of students took the boxes, some of the heavier ones on carts, and carried or pushed them over to the King Library. The return line marched back to pick up more boxes.”
It continued like that until all of the books had been carried across the 200-yard stretch from Alumni to King.
“We were like kids in a candy shop,” Blakeslee said about walking through the newly opened library.
In 1973, nine years after its opening, King was expanded to add about 2,400 seats and 172 carrels for studying. Six rooms, a vending area and a faculty-student lounge were also included to comprise King as we know it today.
Vincent Frieden, the strategic communications coordinator for Miami University Libraries said King fills a lot of roles for Miami’s students.
“I think it gets to the academic heart of Miami,” Frieden said. “It’s a place that has provided resources for learning but also a sanctuary to get away from campus life.”
First-year Olivia Brady said King has become a place for her not just to study but also to relax.
“Without King Library, I would feel more stressed. It’s a great place to wind down besides my dorm room,” Brady said.
At King’s birthday celebration on Friday, President Greg Crawford stressed the importance of the library to education at Miami.
“Everything we talk about in the liberal arts is key in the library,” Crawford said. “It is central to this campus, the most extraordinary place to come, to learn things, express yourself, be honest with yourself and do new things.”
Dean and university librarian Jerome Conley had some special news about King’s future to share at the event.
“We are beginning a master plan on what the next generation of the library should be and next year we hope to engage all of you in that conversation,” Conley said.