Speaking Out

Response to Mr. Burrison

In the "Age of the Sound Bite," omission does not necessarily mean absence. The "sound bite" offered me was intended to focus on the rehabilitation effort planned for the next few years rather than provide a history of past efforts at improving the Van Pelt- Dietrich Library Center; I felt, perhaps wrongly, that the latter would eat up too much space. I am grateful to Mr. Burrison for providing me with the opportunity to recognize contributors of the past, and would like to assure him that my concentration on the future was not an attempt to derogate the past.

The Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center consists of two buildings with a linking passage way completed between 1961 and 1964. The building was designed in a style some architects call "neo-brutalist," and was intended to provide what was the largest open stack library collection space in any American university at the time it was built. There have been, over the years, significant efforts to upgrade the facility after it opened. I will welcome the opportunity to recognize some of the most important:

Perhaps the most notable was carried out through the generosity of Adolph G. Rosengarten, Jr., whose great uncle, Joseph G. Rosengarten had similarly upgraded and embellished the University Library in its previous home in the Furness Building (now the Fisher Fine Arts Library). Adolph Rosengarten moved the Lea Library (including the complete gentleman's victorian library furnishings and equipment) from its old location in the Furness Building into Special Collections on the sixth floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. He also provided the reserve late night study area and the adjacent computer lab on the ground floor east of Van Pelt. The Special Collections area of the new building was also enriched by Robert Dechert and by Lessing Rosenwald, who helped provide useful and attractive space for exhibits and events.

The Class of 1937 laid the foundation for much of what we currently plan, through its generous provision of the Class of '37 Lounge with the wonderful class memorabilia which adds so much flavor to that much-beloved study area, and also a computer lab with Thomas Moser carrels, and the Class plans to provide a row of new Moser study carrels as well, adjacent to their lounge. Their example has provided motivation for a dozen other classes who have agreed to enrich the working lives of Penn students through the current rehabilitation effort.

The Eugene Ormandy Memorial on the fourth floor of the Dietrich Graduate Center was made possible through the work of a Committee and many benefactors who provided funds for an advanced listening facility for the Department of Music and for Penn students. This wonderful facility with its attendant exhibit of Eugene Ormandy's scores, photographs and other highlights of the Philadelphia musical scene will soon be paired with a Marian Anderson Memorial, for which the funding is now about 80% complete. This is a collaborative effort by her nephew, the conductor James DePreist, and a number of Friends who will thus make possible a completely rehabilitated music library in the Dietrich Graduate Center.

The Dietrich family has continued to play an important role in the evolution of the fabric of this building. H. Richard Dietrich provided a reading room on the ground floor of the Dietrich Graduate Center wing of the Library which has provided a study haven for many students until the beginning of the current rehabilitation project, during which it will temporarily house the Current Periodical Room.

The family of Herbert Moelis provided a room (the Larry Moelis Memorial), in which reference staff can carry out computer-assisted information search instruction, and Muriel Freeman provided us with a room, the Bernard Freeman Memorial, on the fourth floor of the Dietrich Graduate Center.

Dietrich Graduate Center and the family of Philip Klein, Class of '28, provided a recently rehabilitated memorial lounge which houses the University's famous Orrery and other University memorabilia, including the bell that hung in the "new building" that housed the first incarnation of the University of Pennsylvania in the 1740s.

The handsome Kamin Gallery, used for library exhibits, was generously provided by his widow, Dorothy Englert, and sons Daniel and Robert Kamin. It has proved both successful and popular.

I am sure there are other examples of generous contributions to embellish and upgrade the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center over its long life. Both Richard DeGennaro, my predecessor, and I have worked to raise money for improvement of the facility and its furnishing. However, only the Class of 1937 and Adolph Rosengarten provided funds for the ongoing upgrading of their spaces, and other areas have fallen into disrepair over the years. We have included in our plans for rehabilitation that a small portion of capital gifts be placed in a pooled endowment fund that can be used for periodic refurbishing of the spaces thus endowed. We hope that in this way the Library will continue to reflect the quality and utility provided by our superb alumni and alumnae.

-- Paul H. Mosher,
Vice Provost and Director of Libraries