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Article on the 1996 library renovation

From MIT Libraries' News, Vol. 8, No. 2
November 6, 1996

There is a brand new library on campus. The Rosalind Denny Lewis Music Library opened its doors this October after a five-month renovation that transformed the old music library into a dynamic facility. This past May, the entire contents of the library were placed in storage so that the old library space could be demolished. Construction lasted from July until October when the library was essentially completed. The Lewis Library incorporates an elegant beauty along with the practical functionality demanded by today's academic libraries.

Designed by MIT Architect Melanie Brothers, the Lewis Library incorporates a highly efficient use of space that expanded the old library by 2,500 square feet. The extensive collection of 10,000 books, 25,000 music scores, and 20,000 recordings is housed in compact shelving (on movable tracks) which will allow the collection to expand well into the 21st century. A curved mezzanine contains 22 custom-built listening carrels, a listening lounge, group listening/viewing room, conference room, librarian's office, and audio preservation room. Along the outside of the mezzanine are 19 glass panels which contain an etched piece of music composed specifically for the library by Pulitzer Prize- winning composer and MIT Professor of Music, John Harbison. The first floor features a custom-built circulation desk, staff offices, shelving, reading areas, display case, and a special collections room with climate control. Artist and MIT alumnus John Powell designed the library's front door, light fixtures, and mezzanine glass panels. The exquisite woodwork seen throughout the library consists of sycamore with a mahogany trim.

Fundraising efforts for the new library were spearheaded by Ellen Harris, Prof. of Music, and then Associate Provost for the Arts, and completed by Alan Brody, current Associate Provost for the Arts. Cherry ('41) and Mary Emerson, who have been strong supporters of the arts at MIT, offered to support the much desired and necessary renovation of the MIT Music Library in the spring of 1995. The Library is named for Mary's mother, Rosalind Denny Lewis, wife of the late MIT professor, Warren K. "Doc" Lewis, and grandmother of Dean for Undergraduate Education, Rosalind Williams. Professor "Doc" Lewis was Cherry Emerson's advisor at MIT.

Many other donors have made very generous contributions to the project. These include Sandra and David Bakalar ('51), whose gift will name the Bakalar Listening Center; Lawrence C. Erdmann ('63), whose gift will name the Erdmann Special Collections Room; Cynthia du Pont Tobias ('72) and Professor Emeritus Warren Rohsenow, whose gifts will name the Roy Lamson Conference Room; Dr. W. Gerald Austen ('51); Norton Belknap ('50); Anne and Bruce Blomstrom ('59); Dorothea and Bradford Endicott ('49); Frances Fahnestock; Gordon P. Getty; Marilyn B. Hoffman; Robert B. Millard ('73); Carlos Prieto ('58); Raymond S. Stata ('57); Ruth and Daniel Vershbow ('45); and Peter J. Wender ('71).

As might be expected, the new library has been enthusiastically received. Comments from students include the following: "In general, very cool. Almost makes me wish I weren't a senior." "I love it here!!." "My house will look like this!!" "This place rocks!!"

MIT now has a music library as compelling and attractive as its collection. Thanks to the generosity of donors and the hard work of library staff, this project has become a reality. The Lewis Library will provide valuable music resources in a comfortable setting for generations to come. Music lovers rejoice!

Peter Munstedt, Music Librarian

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