Denison Library Reorganization Offers New Opportunities

Denison LibraryScripps College will take over full operations of Ella Strong Denison Library on July 1, 2010, as it moves to ensure that the beloved library remains an essential academic and ceremonial space on the Scripps College campus. For the past 40 years, Denison Library had been operated by the Claremont University Consortium (CUC).

This summer, the Dorothy Drake wing will close temporarily and the historic Kaufmann building will be open as a non-circulating facility for its collections on a limited basis for the 2010-11 academic year. The Scripps College collections, items in the Rare Book Room, manuscripts, and the Scripps Archives will remain housed in the Kaufmann building; circulating books and journals owned by CUC in the Kaufmann and newer Drake wing will be relocated to the Honnold/Mudd Library.

Scripps College now has an opportunity to enhance and preserve Denison Library and revitalize its role on campus and its contribution to the Consortium. President Lori Bettison-Varga said, “This process comes at a propitious time for the College, allowing us to address significant renovation needs at Denison Library that have been deferred for decades.”

Scripps College has made several capital investments to Denison Library over the years. The College has cleaned and repaired the Gutenberg window and replaced the cast-stone surroundings of the Holbein and Gutenberg windows. The cast-stone arcade between the Kaufmann and Drake wings was also replaced and the Sicilian Court was reconstructed in 2009 to replicate its original design. In 2001, a small building between Denison and Balch, originally the Scripps College Press room, was renovated and connected to the library as the Ellen Browning Scripps Reading Room, which contains the collected papers, books, and personal letters of the College’s founder. Despite these investments, the library is still in need of significant renovation, specifically improvements to the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems.

The College will convene a steering committee to discuss potential renovation designs and programming for the entire facility. President Bettison-Varga said, “During the future renovation process, we must minimize disruption to Scripps College and the larger community; maintain access to the important resources used by students, faculty, and classes; and optimize the final design to incorporate both wings of the library into a flexible academic space that will preserve the historic Kaufmann wing.” As renovation and preservation plans for Denison Library proceed, they will be posted on the Scripps College website.

History of Denison Library

Denison Library is the oldest and arguably most beautiful library at The Claremont Colleges. A desire by the donor, a Denver philanthropist, to place a stained glass window on the Scripps College campus led to the building of the Ella Strong Denison Library in 1931. The prominent Gutenberg window depicts the evolution of the written word and is dedicated “to the greater wisdom of women.” An extension of the library, dedicated in 1966, is named the Dorothy Drake wing for the longtime (1938–70) beloved librarian who introduced generations of students to the pleasures of the book and to research using original and special resources. The original Denison building, designed by architect Gordon Kaufmann in the cruciform shape of a Spanish chapel, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. Denison Library represents the symbolic beginning and completion of a student’s education at Scripps College through two events that traditionally begin at its doors: Matriculation and Commencement.

Denison Library joined the central Honnold Library in 1971 under an agreement providing for a unified administrative structure that, with the subsequent addition of two science libraries, became the Libraries of The Claremont Colleges. In 2009, during the economic downturn, the Council of Presidents authorized the CUC to close the science libraries and deferred the closing of Denison until June 2010. “Closing” a library meant that CUC would withdraw funding for staff and collections and would support library services centralized at the Honnold/Mudd Library. Both Harvey Mudd and Pomona Colleges decided to use their science library buildings for other purposes, while Scripps College decided that the Kaufmann wing of Denison Library would remain open as a non-circulating facility for the College’s rare books and special collections and other academic purposes.


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