By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Fitting for a library that doubles as a work of art, Jerome Library will unveil a new piece at its celebration of the 50th anniversary.
The program will start at 4 p.m. Friday. There’ll be short presentations on the history of the library as well as a presentation by Librarian Amy Fry on the mural. Then a piece by sculptor and book artist Vince Koloski, that draws inspiration from those murals, will be unveiled.
The eight-story tall building with six floors of abstract art running up both the west and east faces first opened in 1967. Dean of University Libraries Sara Bushong said she’s been assured by the artist Donald Drumm that the designs have no hidden meaning.
Bushong said that at the time, students “either loved it or thought it was the most atrocious thing they’d ever seen.” Now it’s hard to imagine campus without it.
While the mural has been a constant landmark on campus over the past 50 years the services within it have evolved.
When it was built it was devoted mostly to stacks of books. Now every one of its floors have been repurposed, sometimes several times over, Bushong said.
The change is most evident on the first floor. “The goal is to have the first floor to be a very student services focused,” she said.
The floor hosts the Learning Commons, Student Athletic Services, and, most recently, the Collab Lab. And, she added, “we’re still circulating books, which is good.”
A member of the accreditation team for the architecture program commented that he was “impressed with how many people were coming in the building,” Bushong said. “There’s a lot of reasons to come here.”
The library has about 450,000 visitors a year, that’s students, faculty, community member, and tour groups.
The library went up in the midst of a university building boom. With its step down entrance and the dramatic murals, it was intended to add contrast to the flat landscape, Bushong said. Like any 50-year-old structure it has shown its age. The battle against leaks has been ongoing since 1967. Recent work on the roof over the first floor has solved problems on the first floor, though areas around the base of the tower, still cause leaks on the second level.
And the library was not constructed with the ensuing digital age in mind. Bushong said that internet service is available throughout the building, but on some corners of the first floor cell phone service is spotty.
Several years ago as the university was starting on its master plan, Jerome’s fate hung in the balance. “We had to decide whether the building was worth keeping,” the dean said. “We decided it was.”
That’s meant a steady program of work on the building’s intricate inner workings.
Bushong, who grew up in Bradner, remembers the building in its early years. Her father, Nick Ezzone, did graduate work at BGSU, and she would sometimes come to campus and visit the library with him. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music education at BGSU from 1976-1980 and remembers the building not having changed much.
When she and her husband, Brian Bushong, returned to the area in 1983 so he could join the Tower Brass, she had a hard time finding a full-time teaching job, so she applied at the university and was hired in the curriculum resources library. She has worked in the library since except for a few years when she worked as a school librarian in Perrysburg. She earned a master’s degree in education at BGSU and then her Master of Library Science from Kent State.
Bushong became dean in 2010.
She’s overseen a rapid change in the university’s offerings. Now a student will come to the library with computer, textbook, and a library book. The library has been a central player in addressing concerns about the cost of textbooks.
Students and faculty can tap into the library’s electronic resources even if they are on the other side of the globe. “You can access them anytime, anywhere,” Bushong said.
OhioLink and EBSCO offer an array of databases that carries students from pre-K through graduate studies. Ohio is a leader in in this, Bushong said. “I don’t think there’s any other state that has that great expanse of educational electronic content.
For all the changes, the core mission of the library remains the same. “The commitment to teaching, learning and research, among everyone who works here, that’s the common thread on all the floors,” she said. “We all have a unified goal to help students and faculty succeed. Libraries are ultimately for the public good. If we can really help educate students who are going out of here to be engaged citizens, all the better.”