The Charles Wilson Memorial Library
As the oldest building on campus and part of the original university that stood on this land, the Charles Wilson Memorial Library is the centerpiece of the beautiful old campus area of Central University. Back then the building was simply known as Carver Hall and housed about half the classrooms and all the offices on the entire campus. The rest of the campus from that day stood on what is now known as the Central Walk (or more regularly, The Commons), but none of the other buildings survive to this day.
As the campus grew and needed more room, newer buildings were constructed around the old, some of which you would recognize as Administrative Row and the campus courthouse. The rest of the original buildings were torn down, making room the open Central Walk area of campus to be surrounded by the mix of main buildings and offices. It was also at this time the school changed from being New Town Central Community College to becoming the much larger Central University of New Town. The large Carver Hall was also remodeled into the main library and central offices of the university.
With the remodel and change in purpose, the building was also renamed Wilson Hall after Charles D. Wilson, the founder of the newly designated and accredited university. His office was even located in the center of the top floor, looking out over the whole campus (as it stood at that time) . He loved the library and even as the campus grew and the rest of the offices moved into actual administrative building—allowing their old areas of the building to expand the library's collection—he never moved out of his upstairs office apartment.
One of the only known surviving pictures from the days of Charles D. Wilson, taken by him.
Doing all his work from his apartment and office at the top of the building, Charles would rarely leave the library and made the place a safe harbor for himself and those of a like mind. As he aged and his involvement in running the school lessened with every year, he became more and more of a recluse, even rarely coming out of his apartment and only allowing certain visitors in from time to time. Although he was no longer directly involved with nearly anything at the time of his death, the building was still renamed the Charles Wilson Memorial Library in his honor for all he had done in the past. His office and apartment remains closed off to this day.
The rest of the halls of the library remained active and used by both staff and students for their information and research needs, even expanding into those previous office spaces as they needed more room for the collection. Two expansions onto the building were added in later years—one on each side—allowing the library to add more modern safe areas for delicate collections and computer access rooms in recent years.
With all the new areas and room open to them, the library has been reorganized and even remodeled multiple times over the years. The one thing that remained the same was the original central library building area, kept in its antique wood style for the classic look. The contents of this area changed some over the years, but the look always remained the same. It's the first thing students see when they walk in and gives the best impression of a proper university library.
The side areas and upper floors of the central building also have numerous sitting and study areas for students to rest and do their work or reading in comfort and general silence. The librarians are strict about keeping these areas undisturbed so that all students can work hard in peace, even going so far as to supercede inspections and many other normal school rules.
The basement floors are where most of the common books and research documents are located. There is far more storage area down there, but the racks are less spacious and ostentatious. Instead they are the more tightly spaced metal racks that are common among most large libraries around the world. Both basement floors, spanning the entire footprint of the building (including both additions), are filled with these books and papers. They are kept organized by a team of assistant librarians and work-study students.
One of the side additions houses the special collection—where rare and delicate books and documents are housed. The area is carefully insulated and temperature regulated to ensure that all the delicate materials will not break down more than they have already due to age and environment. Research and restorative teams are the only ones allowed to actually handle them and they are slowly being fully digitized to preserve the collection.
The other side addition was originally the microfiche storage and international press research department of the library, housing millions of newspapers from around the world—eventually getting moved onto microfilm after a number of years in storage. Over time it was turned into an audio-visual collection as well—housing thousands of movies, films, and audio recordings. Over the last Fifteen years the wing has been transformed into a high tech digital research facility—containing all previous information in a small digital form and millions of items more. The entire wing is networked and connected to the internet to allow for maximum research capabilities.
As with most libraries, the collections have to be organized and categorized to make it easier to find the items you are searching for. This was originally done with card catalogs, using the Dewey Decimal System. In the center of the library was the master card catalog, listing each and every book within the library. Each section also had its own card catalog, organizing the books within the category the section contains, allowing you to look up related books and subjects without having to return to the main central part of the building.
Over the years things have changed, replacing these card catalogs with fully digital reference systems that are more easily searched, edited, and tracked. At first they were used in combination with the card catalogs, but in the last fifteen years or so the cards have all but been phased out of use. There are still some used for smaller special collections that have not yet been fully integrated into the digital record yet, but those will eventually go away too.
Research is now mostly started on computers and often ends there too, but the library is still a great resource of physical information for those willing to put in the work to find it. Most everything can be found online, but it's just not the same as holding it in your hand and seeing it with your own eyes. Plus there are things that even the online community has yet to digitize and some things that just don't work on a flat screen.
Despite its focus on research and study, the Library is no stranger to special events and disruptive activities. Some that are planned by the staff and others that are not sanctioned at all. Some that are annual events and others that are one-time deals. No matter what they are, they disrupt the normal quiet solitude the librarians work hard to maintain and usually make them unhappy.
The most common of these events is the annual run that actually passes through the library's first basement. They open two of the normally locked access/emergency doors and let the run pass in one end and out the other, much as it does through numerous other building on campus. The librarians allow this sanctioned event only because they are able to control where the runners go, instead of them finding their own unplanned way through the building—as happened in years prior to this arrangement.
Although the Charles Wilson Memorial Library is mainly for student and staff use, it does allow members of the general public to come in if they have special need of its collection or services. These special circumstances are arranged by the main office and require special passes and arrangements ahead of time to happen. No member of the general public is allowed to just walk in and use the library—or any part of campus for that matter.
The news and media collection is more extensive than any within a hundred miles and of great use to many outside the walls of the campus. The collection is often of use to local media doing research for stories and local companies that want to look at certain trends or information. Sometimes there are others who want access, but without long-standing previous arrangements—and most media companies have—these special arrangements are much harder to get and usually requires some kind of insurance that they will show the establishment respect.
New students often spend hours simply exploring the grand halls and deep stacks of the library the first time they discover it in their time at Central U. It's an amazing experience that seems to hit everyone the first time, but keeps hitting those of a particular bent. Those special few find the Charles Wilson Memorial Library to be the most magical place on campus.
No matter which side you fall onto on that spectrum, however, don't allow yourself to get on the bad side of the library staff. The librarians have totally rule within the library and use that power to keep the place exactly the way they want to see it be—quiet and still, perfect for study. Be good and use the place for your work and everything will be grand.
The history and life of the Charles Wilson Memorial Library is a varied and interesting one, starting as the central offices of a new struggling local school and ending up the large expansive library we know today. What we covered here is only the tip of the iceberg as far as what thee walls have seen. If you are interested in learning more about the place, I hear the Charles Wilson Memorial Library is a great resource for such knowledge.
Last modified on 2014/8/23 by Admin