Denison Makes Scripps Scripps

Four years ago I stood on the threshold of Denison Library and looked back over my shoulder so that my roommate could take a picture of me walking through the doors and into the library during Matriculation. The counterpart to this photo will be taken on the morning of May 17, when I again walk through those doors in the opposite direction over to Elm Tree Lawn, a diploma and life after Scripps.Walking through Denison's doors not only marked my symbolic entrance into Scripps College, but also marked my first introduction to the magic of the library. Back in the Fall of 2005, I frequented Denison to do my Core I reading. The ambiance somehow made Condorcet and Locke more endurable. Exploring Denison during study breaks made me feel like I was exploring Hogwarts, especially when I found myself in Valencia Courtyard with its orange trees and romantic columns. The following year, as part of a class on artist books, I got to hold a cuneiform tablet in the rare book room and flip through a variety of opulent artist books, ranging from St. Francis Preaches to the Birds, a book by Bread and Puppet Theatre founder Peter Schumann illustrated with block ink prints and accompanied by a vinyl record of the performance that inspired the volume, to Mesmer: Secrets of the Human Frame by Toni Dove which uses the voice of Freud, his patient Dora, Echo and a cyborg angel to explore ideas of female identity. These are few of the many treasures to be found in Denison that any bibliophile can appreciate.

It was in the Holbein Room that I first read "Ligeia" and "The Fall of the House of Usher," two of the three short stories by Edgar Allan Poe that I used in my senior thesis. As I read about "the wind [that] was rushing hurriedly behind the tapestries" of Lady Rowena's deathbed, I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a spider scuttle across the floor. While I do not mean to suggest that there are spiders in Denison, the effect of this creepy-crawly on my reading experience could not have been more perfect. The room's creaking steps and shelves of old children's books didn't hurt either.

All this being said, I was alarmed when I first heard rumors about closing Denison Library last fall. I found it inconceivable that anyone would so much as think of depriving students of its classic academic atmosphere and its unique collection of rare books and primary documents by the likes of Browning, Eliot and Stein. My concerns were somewhat alleviated when President Weis, during a meeting with students to discuss the future of Denison Library on October 5, 2008, told students that "Denison is not going to be closed, I can assure you of that." Six months later, Denison's future has been decided. Sort of. On April 16, 2009, Dean of Faculty Cecilia Conrad sent out a memorandum to the Scripps community announcing that Claremont University Consortium will cease to fund and operate "the libraries located on the Harvey Mudd, Pomona and Scripps campuses...and will return the buildings to the home campuses for other purposes." While Sprauge Library, at Harvey Mudd and Seeley G. Mudd Library, at Pomona, will be closed on June 30, 2009, Denison Library at Scripps will "continue to be operated by CUC until the end of the 2009-10 fiscal year." After CUC ceases to fund Denison Library, it will be turned over to Scripps. "Scripps College will continue to provide an active library program in the Denison Library in support of learning and teaching at Scripps," wrote Conrad. While there is uncertainty as to the specifics of what this "active library program" will entail, Denison librarian Judy Harvey Sahak ('64) commented, "I can probably say with some certainty that the current state of Denison Library will not be the new Denison...probably the core of the physical collections will be our wonderful special collections of rare books, archives and extensive holdings on the book arts." For those of you continuing on at Scripps next year and in the years to come, who share my appreciation for and attachment to Denison Library, I urge you to voice your love for this space when it comes time for decisions to be made about its long term future. Scripps is currently in the midst of an exciting transition. As we grow accustomed to seeing more of the sky while walking through the Elm Trees, the Revelle House sits cheerfully across from the lawn waiting to welcome our new President home. While it is important to look toward Scripps' future, we must also remember Scripps' history. Denison is part of this history. Its doors mark our entrance and exit, and it is part of what makes Scripps Scripps. Let's work together to continue this tradition.