Even with its gothic architecture, Sterling Memorial Library might seem a lot younger than its years.
From September to April, the University will celebrate the 75th anniversary of what many call “the heart of the University.” Festivities have been planned for the library’s anniversary, including special exhibits and lectures by authors David McCullough ’55 and Jamaica Kincaid.
“The Heart of Yale” exhibit kicks off the anniversary celebration, featuring biographical sketches and historical documents of John William Sterling 1864, who left $17 million to Yale at his death, said Judith Ann Schiff, the curator of the exhibit. Though the exhibit is not yet complete, it can be visited during library hours in the Memorabilia Room.
“This anniversary gives us the time to celebrate something to value and treasure, especially at a time now when some people might question why we even need a library,” Schiff said.
Every month, the library will host at least one lecture relating to a different theme, said Amanda Patrick, the library’s development and communications coordinator, who is responsible for organizing all anniversary events. The month of October features McCullough, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author, who will give a lecture on the “Heart of the University,” the general caption of the anniversary.
In subsequent months, one can learn how the Yale Library visual collections have built up over the decades and also receive guided tours of the beautiful stained glass windows. In February, in celebration of Black History Month, the library will feature Kincaid, the critically acclaimed author of “Annie John,” “A Small Place” and “Mr. Potter.”
April, the last month celebrating the anniversary, is dedicated to honoring SML’s architecture, and will combine an open day with Communiversity Day, Patrick said.
“I think ‘Treasures of the Library’ is a fitting synopsis of who we are,” Patrick said. “There are so many treasures and things that people don’t ever realize, special collections that people don’t know about are right here.”
Eddie Higgins ’06, who works at Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, toured the exhibit in its early stages last week and said the exhibit holds a lot of interesting artifacts.
“Sterling puts out a lot of exhibits that students don’t take time to look at,” he said. “It’s really because of the awesome history of the library that students have great resources available to them.”
The foundation of the library consists of 2,000 tons of steel and iron incorporated in the construction of the stack, and a ton of marble in the floor. Motifs underline the medieval feeling all throughout the building, from telephone booths designed to look like confessionals to the glass in the nave crafted to reflect the history of Yale and New Haven in the 17th century.
Despite Sterling’s age, library staff members say they are always trying to think of new ways to use the space.
“We want to maximize the use of the buildings,” Schiff said. “We want to come up with new uses and ideas to improve things.”