Sunday, May 17, 2015

324 Ritter Library, Baldwin-Wallace University, Berea, OH

Now for something different. Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio, is my alma mater, class of '62. When I was a freshman in 1958, Ritter Library was the newest building on campus, replacing the Philura Gould Baldwin Library, an ancient, venerable, and very small facility. The main thing I remember about Ritter was that people complained of an apparent lack of books. I say "apparent" because the only problem was that the designer had allowed so much room for growth, the collection was dwarfed by the available new shelving. I worked briefly in both buildings during the first quarter of my freshman year, until it became apparent that my academic career needed more attention.

So...how has the building fared in the past half century?

So far as I can tell, the only external physical change has been the addition of a vestibule/lobby to the entrance. Here, I chatted with a student worker while I signed in. A staff person in a nearby office heard us talking and came out to say hello. She may be the person I exchanged email with when I was figuring out the summer hours. [Summer? In mid-May? Ahh, the academic calendar!) I was granted permission to wander at will, and I decided to start at the top.

Each of the three levels is quite separate from the others and is shut off by a door. A sign on the top floor door informed me that I should respect the need of others for quiet; that I should use a cell phone only in the hall; and that I might have a beverage or snack, but my snack should not be "messy." Fair enough.

The top level includes a couple of classrooms, study rooms with flat-panel computer screens on the wall, the archives and rare books, and a writing lab. Tables and ergonomic chairs were available for study and computer use. A few DVDs are shelved back by the drinking fountain (a "hydration station," I was glad to see). An area with periodicals and newspapers has some informal "living room" seating. There is a reference section, and as I was "warned" before I started exploring, this section is greatly downsized; reference is online now.

The middle level, or main floor, holds more computers. I think an arrangement where rectangular tables radiate out from four sides of large square columns is an interesting use of space. A corner room has huge floor pillows, a fireplace, and a few tables and chairs. A place to simply chill? Seminar room?

There is a display of new books, and I was surprised to see that they have Dewey Decimal classifications, unusual in a college library. (Oops, excuse me, B-W became a university in 2012.)

Down to the lowest level, partially below grade. Here are the stacks that I remember, now quite crammed with books. Again, however, I learned that space issues are largely addressed by the change to eBooks and such.  The books here have Library of Congress designations, more common than Dewey in a academic setting. I wish I had asked about the difference.

There is a row of study tables along a window wall, and a couple of people were at work. They glanced up when I walked by; sorry, guys, that squeaking is my ankle brace and I can't do anything about it.

The Curriculum Collection of the department of education is a recent addition to one corner of this level, moved from the building across the way. The textbooks have their date of publication on the spine; I spotted many from the 90s and 2004, just a couple of sets (Reading Street and Go Math) from 2011. A bright rug, two chairs, and a bookshelf formed a "story corner" of sorts. Two shelves hold a random assortment of manipulatives and educational games. It looked like a work in progress, perhaps waiting for a work-study student to bring order.

Back in the new lobby area I looked for the stairs I remembered to the lower level and discovered that they have been replaced with a vending area and an elevator. Ah, that's right--there was no elevator in my pre-ADA day!

For more about Ritter Library, visit the website at http://www.bw.edu/library/. There is also a Facebook presence at https://www.facebook.com/ritterlibrary?fref=ts.


The entrance to the "new" lobby area

A view down the side of the library, with my dormitory (junior and senior year) in the background.

 



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