Before Seymour

Adelphi had been formed in 1846 and in 1847 moved into West Bricks (along with East Bricks one of the two long buildings that flanked Old Main until the turn of the century). Gnothautii was organized and established in East Bricks in 1849. These 19th century equivalents of fraternities organized lecture series and debates, coached their members in rhetoric and oratory, and, in general, contributed more than their share to a lively social life on campus through their rivalry with one another. Both took a sort of gentlemanly pride in maintaining sizable libraries in the rooms the College gave them for their meetings and debates--and simply as those all-important places just to hang around in.

The Third Floor of Old Main This arrangement worked well enough for awhile, but by the late 1850s both societies were complaining about their cramped and shabby quarters in the Bricks. They moved their libraries into small rooms on the second floor of Old Main following the Civil War. The opening of Old Main in 1857 also created the first deliberately planned space for the College’s own library somewhere on Old Main’s top floor. The College library was open between 3 and 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays, the literary society libraries between 4 and 5 on Mondays and Fridays. A fee of 25˘ per term was charged for the use of the College library. A senior student was appointed every year to carry out virtually all library duties, which included tending the fire in the library’s coal-burning stove.

The brief hours kept by libraries well into the twentieth century were due in part to suspicion of what was even then an established technology: artificial lighting. Candles and gas lamps had been considered unacceptable risks in libraries, and electricity was guilty by association. The large, elevated reading rooms which remained a standard feature of library architecture until the second world war (and of which Seymour Library’s Muelder Reading Room is a very graceful example) were a result of the need to bring as much natural light as possible into libraries.

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