Monday, August 27, 2018

The Library as a Hub of Learning (Part Two)

Since the school’s founding in 1892, the library has played a central role in supporting faculty research and student learning.  From its humble beginnings of being located in a small classroom to its current massive holdings of analog and digital holdings, the library has sought to keep pace with emerging scholarly trends, changing researcher needs, evolving uses of technology, as well as a growing student population.  This second blog post about the history of the library at UNCG will examine the profound changes in its collections and space between the years 1945 to 1974.

Carnegie Library Building
At the time of the school’s celebration of its fiftieth anniversary in 1942, the Woman’s College of the University of North Carolina (UNCG) library was considered the largest woman’s college library in the South.  Its staff of eleven professionals supported the needs of 2,300 students and 300 faculty.  Yet, library administrators and college faculty declared that the current facility was “inadequate” in accommodating the growing collections.  The library’s director (Guy Lyle) and the Faculty Library Committee worked together to build a “case” for the construction of a new library building.  Lyle noted that the library had seen a marked growth in collections and patrons since 1923.  Drawing on its annual statistics over the past 20 years, Lyle found that the number of faculty had grown by 101%, the student body had grown by 75.9%, the number of titles in the collections had grown by 441%, and the over-all circulation of titles had grown by 175%.  Lyle also noted that the seating capacity of the library had only increased by 14.7% since 1923.  During the course of the war years (1941-1945), a number of Greensboro newspaper articles raised the issue of the library’s “space crunch” by referencing Lyle’s key talking point that the facility’s seating capacity had not kept pace with the growth of its student population.  Before Guy Lyle left to take a position at Louisiana State University in 1944, he had the Winston-Salem architecture firm of Northup and O’Brien develop drawings and a conceptual plan for a new library.  His successor, Charles M. Adams, would rely heavily on these designs as he advocated for a new building.   

In 1945, Woman’s College submitted a request to the North Carolina General Assembly for monies to build a new library.  Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson, Dean of Administration, stated that $380,000 was needed for the new structure.  As the Advisory Budget Commission considered this funding request, the library’s director Charles Adams continued to make his case to the general public.  Quoted in a December 1946 article in the school’s newspaper, Adams stated that the “present quarters are so crowded that it is nothing short of a shocking academic situation.”  Adams also noted that the current library could only seat 10% of the student body while the new library was expected to seat upward of 50% of the student body.  In this same article, it was mentioned that the cost of the new library now stood at $1,128,400.

With the North Carolina General Assembly approving this funding request in 1947, contractors quickly submitted bids for the $1.1 million dollar project.  The new building project was to be located on Walker Avenue between McIver and Forest Streets.  The city of Greensboro approved the permanent closing of this portion of Walker Avenue on campus.  While there was some local opposition to this shift in traffic patterns, a groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 27, 1948.  Surrounded by dignitaries, faculty, and students, Chancellor Walter Clinton Jackson wielded a pick axe and a shovel to formally mark the start of construction.  Jackson stated that the new building marked “the beginning of a new era of greater usefulness of the college to the people of the state.”  The building project started in earnest in October 1948 with the grading of the land.  The installation of steel girders took place throughout the winter months.  The building quickly took shape and was completed in March 1950.  During the College’s exam period in 1950, the library staff relocated the collections from the Carnegie library to the new space.  The College supplied canvas laundry baskets in which the books were packed in.  To expedite the moving of books from the second floor of the Carnegie building, the laundry baskets were sent down chutes into waiting moving trucks!  The new library building opened on June 5, 1950.

Walter Clinton Jackson Viewing the New Library Building
The structure was built to be fire-proof by employing a steel frame and reinforced concrete floors and roof.  All floors were designed for a live load of 100 pounds per square foot.  The floors were covered in terrazzo.  The building contained an elevator for staff to move collections between floors as well as a pneumatic tube system to assist with the sending of call cards to all floors for book retrieval.  Air-conditioning was only provided on the first floor of the three story building.  The exterior of the building featured sand-finish colonial face brick and white Georgia marble.  The main entrance of the library featured a marble columned portico.

The building was designed to meet the projected future growth of the student population from its current 2,300 students to 3,000 students.  The seating capacity was set at 1,384 seats (which included seats in the reading room, seminar rooms, study carrels, and lecture hall).  And, the building’s new book stacks areas now had the capacity to handle 300,000 titles which was more than double its current holdings.  The design also allowed for special services that ranged from seminar rooms for faculty, a small lecture space for book talks, a large lecture room for classes, a student lounge, and sound-proof rooms for audio listening.  Interestingly, access to the collections was restricted to those students who were given a “stacks permit” (mostly juniors and seniors).  

New Library Building, c. 1955
After ten years of service, the “new” library building was formally named the Walter Clinton Jackson Library in 1960 in honor of the former Chancellor.  At the same time, the building was already reaching its projected capacity for titles and patrons.  Indeed, the library was already installing extra shelving in the stacks areas as well as in seminar rooms to accommodate new acquisitions. 

With Woman’s College becoming a co-educational University in 1963, the library was now required to support new graduate programs and an ever-growing student population.  By 1964, the library’s director Charles Adams began to consider plans for an addition to the building.  To assist the planning process, Adams turned to the architecture firm, Odell and Associates of Charlotte, to develop a plan for the addition.  Odell and Associates recommended the construction of a ten-story structure to be located at the rear of the present library building.  The designers consciously designed a building whose features differed greatly from the more traditional brick and marble Jackson Library.  The bright white concrete clad tower embodied the architectural approach known as Brutalism.  Nevertheless, the two distinct buildings would be connected and function as one facility.  The designs and conceptual plan were submitted to the University and to the North Carolina General Assembly. 
Walter Clinton Jackson Library
In 1967, the General Assembly authorized funding of the addition.  However, it was only in 1969 that the General Assembly actually appropriated funds.  The leadership of the library changed in 1969-1970.  Charles Adams retired.  Elizabeth Holder served as the acting director until a search was completed.  Dr. James Thompson was hired in July 1970 to oversee the library and the coming building project.  He immediately began to work with the architects to realize the construction of the ten story addition and the renovation of the 1950 building.  The 1971 General Assembly allocated $4,240,000 to pay for the addition, along with $185,000 for renovations to the existing Jackson Library.  Additional funds were allocated to relocate the intersection of Walker Avenue and Forest Avenue to accommodate the new building.

Construction on the tower addition began in early February 1972.  At that time, the University had 6,983 students and its collections contained 614,098 items.  These numbers were more than double what had been planned for the original 1950 building.  The library’s director noted that “Jackson Library is a fine building” but that the goals of the University had changed.”  So, the current space was inadequate for instruction, collections, and research programs.  Thompson stated that the library addition would provide 119,000 square feet of floor space.  The addition would also increase the number of student seating as well as increase the number of student carrels from 49 to 271 spaces.   With the combined spaces of the current Jackson Library and the tower addition, Dr. James Thompson declared that there would be enough future growth space to house a total of one million volumes. 

Library Tower Under Construction, c. 1973
The tower project was completed in October 1973.  Starting in November 1973, the library staff moved 500,000 books to the tower addition.  The move would take place over three days.  During the entire move operation, the library remained open to meet the needs of its 7,856 students and 400 faculty.  With the books relocated, the construction project turned to renovating the 1950 portion of the library complex.  Those renovations would be completed in fall 1974.  At the completion of the construction and renovation projects, Dr. Thompson estimated that it would take UNC Greensboro 10 to 15 years to fill up the building with books at its present acquisition rate.  Thompson’s prediction was largely correct.  Over the next decade, the library would need to address advances in library technology, continued increases in student enrollment, space, and the growing costs of acquiring new collections.      

Monday, August 20, 2018

Letters from Abroad: McIver’s Trip to Europe, Part 2

McIver chose the Hamburg-Amerika line for his transatlantic crossing
As the S.S. Blucher started its ten-day voyage across the Atlantic, Charles Duncan McIver and James Joyner explored the ship and began their individual routines. McIver enjoyed daily walks on the deck and was thrilled when he glimpsed “large fish and sea animals” in the waves. His letters to Lula expressed excitement about the trip and the beautiful weather, as well as his relief at not becoming seasick like many of the other passengers. He reported that the food was excellent onboard ship and although he had been given “instructions from home” to watch his diet, it was becoming increasingly hard to do so. The elaborate first class menus included rich German dishes and the sumptuous desserts were difficult to resist. McIver spent the first days of his cruise with little to do but “loaf, tell yarns, [and] eat 5 times a day.” He wrote Lula that he was enjoying more “rest and freedom from care that [he] had in a long time.”

Joyner and McIver on deck of the S. S. Blucher, 1905
As one of the main reasons for the trip was to improve his health, McIver found his way to the gymnasium and made exercise a part of his daily ritual. He was amazed to find that the training equipment ran on electric motors, including a machine that took the speed of either a horse or a camel, and a massage apparatus with a belt that moved from the shoulders to the waist.

Entertainments were also a favorite part of his day, with music on the deck every morning and concerts held for the first class passengers in the evening. McIver was particularly charmed by the sounds of informal accordion music and dancing that wafted up from the lower steerage decks.

Dancing aboard the ship
There was much to tell, and McIver continued to write Lula even though he knew that he would not be able to mail his letters until the ship reached its first stop in Plymouth, England. He pined for his little family and took time each day to look at their photographs and write letters. Joyner missed his family as well and wrote his wife constantly. McIver even suspected he was writing Mrs. Joyner poetry! In a romantic flight of fancy, the two men decided to send their wives “love message[s]” from mid-ocean on the Marconi, a recently invented system of wireless communication using coded signals.

When they arrived in Paris, Joyner had correspondence waiting for him at the Grand Hotel, but there were no letters for McIver. His next note to Lula chided her for not sending mail and newspapers. When he finally received a letter from her, he was “dee-lighted!” He continued to write and chronicle his trip from France, to Germany, down the Rhine River, to Brussels, and finally to England.

During his travels, he received letters from his family, as well as his colleagues at the college. A birthday telegram was delivered from campus physician, Dr. Gove, and professors Gertrude Mendenhall and Viola Boddie, and steady correspondence was received from his administrative assistant, Miss Coit. A letter also arrived from the college’s African American facilities manager, Zeke Robinson, who had worked for McIver in his early years at Peace College and later joined him at State Normal. Zeke wrote “It is useless for me to try to tell you how much I have missed you, for you know that already.”

A letter to Lula dated September 28, 1905

By early October, the traveling companions began the last leg of their European trip. McIver had enjoyed France, Germany, and Brussels, but he really seemed to hit his stride in England. He marveled at the country’s history and monuments, and he attempted to see all the sites of London, including the British Museum and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Then they traveled throughout the English countryside, visiting Kent, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford. McIver and Joyner also took every opportunity to see plays and productions, ranging from variety shows to more serious plays such as Louis XI starring Henry Irving (a week before his death). McIver wrote Lula, “I was impressed more than ever by the tremendous greatness of the English people and the civilization for which they are responsible.”

McIver especially loved the Lake District. Yet it was at this “ideal spot” that he lost a treasured personal possession. In a letter dated October 6, he told Lula of his heartbreak at losing his locket which contained her picture. While he knew he could purchase another when he returned to North Carolina, he grieved the loss of such a sentimental object.

The travelers’ final stop was Scotland where the beauty of the scenery and tales of Culloden and Mary Queen of Scots did not fail to impress them. McIver also tracked down several of his Scottish relatives and paid them a visit. Although the men had a wonderful time in Scotland, as they made their way south to catch the ship to America, McIver’s letters reflect his desire to “start straight home … and fly all the way.” The fall semester at the State Normal was underway and he missed his family – he was ready to go home. As he boarded the ship at Dover, he summed up his adventures to Lula, “This has been a good trip, full of interest, instruction, and pleasure, but this is the happiest day I have spent abroad because I’m starting toward you and our dear children.”

The McIver home on the State Normal Campus

By all accounts, McIver had enjoyed himself immensely, yet what was planned as a relaxing excursion, had quickly transformed into an extensive and grueling tour. He admitted to his wife, “Our trip has been more strenuous than I expected it to be.” It certainly did not give him the much-needed rest he required and once he returned home, his schedule remained as hectic as before he left.

In subsequent months, McIver’s fast-paced, stressful life began to catch up with him. Less than a year after his grand European trip, Charles Duncan McIver was dead. He suffered a stroke ten days before his forty-sixth birthday. Lula saved his letters from Europe, as well as much of their other personal correspondence, which can now be found in the archives of UNC Greensboro.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Letters from Abroad: McIver’s Trip to Europe, Part 1

Charles Duncan McIver had not been well. Although he was only 45, the years of hard travel, an indulgent diet, and the responsibilities of his role as founder and president of the State Normal and Industrial School had taken its toll. Those close to him were concerned about his health and suggested that a sea cruise might provide the rest and relaxation he would need to restore his strength.

Charles and Lula McIver and their "quartet" of children
 In the summer of 1905, McIver began to finalize his plans for a trip to Europe. Accompanying him would be his friend, James Y. Joyner, a fellow University of North Carolina alumni. McIver and Joyner were part of a group that championed teachers’ education in North Carolina, holding training institutes across the state. In 1891, when the North Carolina legislature finally agreed to establish the State Normal and Industrial School, a state sponsored college for women, McIver took the helm as president and Joyner served as a professor, then head of the English Department. In the years after the school was established, Joyner left to pursue other endeavors, but McIver remained president with the constant pressures and responsibilities that came with the position.

James Joyner and Charles Duncan McIver
McIver’s wife, Lula encouraged her husband’s trip with his college friend and agreed to spare him for what would be an eight week adventure, while she remained home caring for their four children. Lula was an educated woman in her own right and matched her husband’s intellect and energy. A Salem College graduate, Lula had studied medicine and was a committed supporter of women’s rights. They were a very devoted couple, conferring about all matters and writing copious letters during their many separations, as McIver often traveled for business. Yet, this trip would be different – it was longer and communication would be more tenuous. Overseas correspondence could take weeks to deliver and telegrams and telephone calls were costly. As his departure time drew near, the couple devised a code that could be telegraphed inexpensively (the charge was per word), serving as a short-hand to convey how they were doing. For example, “Alog” meant “We are well. How are you?” or “Comem” meant “Come home, Annie is sick,” etc. Promising to write every day, McIver set out on the first leg of his trip, a train from Greensboro to New York, the first week of September.

With a gregarious and engaging personality, McIver encountered many interesting acquaintances as he made his way north. He wrote to Lula the evening of September 4 (on Park Avenue Hotel stationery), telling her of meeting a Captain E. J. Parish of Durham, who suggested that he go into business for the American Tobacco Company. He was obviously flattered and intrigued by the thought of a career change. When he arrived in New York, he met with Mr. Mebane, who tried to persuade McIver to postpone his European trip and instead, stay in New York to discuss taking a job there. It is apparent by his letter that McIver was seriously pondering this offer, but it would have to wait until he returned. While he was in New York, McIver also had the opportunity to meet “Dr. Booker Washington,” likely referring to Booker T. Washington, the African American educator and orator, with whom he had a relationship through the Southern Educational Board.

Correspondence from New York
Lula responded to her husband’s letters with relief and reports of the home front. These mostly included everyday household news of the children, visitors, and her attempts at campus maintenance. Many of her letters reflect her deep worry for his health. She writes, “Sweetheart, please please take care of yourself. It makes me so anxious to see you so sick and tired. I cannot rest.” She also begs him to watch his diet. McIver loved rich food and it was perhaps impractical to suppose that he would curtail his eating habits on a European cruise. She signed her letters affectionately with “lots of kisses from your loving wife.”

While in New York he met his friend, James Joyner, and finalized their travel plans. After considering several different ocean liner companies (including the White Star Line, which would later launch Titanic), they decided on the S. S. Blucher, of the Hamburg-Amerika Line. The friends booked first class passage and also purchased tickets for their return trip October 20, departing from Boulogne, France, and arriving in New York on October 28.

As the ship departed from New York, McIver took the time to quickly write a note to Lula “to say another goodbye,” assuring her that he was well and that his he liked his ship’s quarters very much. He signed the letter, “I love you Sweetheart, I tell you I do. Love to the dear quartet (his children Annie, Charlie, Verlinda, and Lula Martin). Affy (affectionately) your husband, Charles Duncan McIver.” And with this note, written at 11am, he began his European adventure.

The S. S. Blucher
Next week: McIver’s shipboard experience and his “Grand Tour” through Europe!

 *Courtesy of GG Archives

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Liberty Ship, S.S. Charles D. McIver

On May 23, 1943, the North Carolina Ship Building Company, located in Wilmington, North Carolina, launched its 100th Liberty Ship, the S.S. Charles D. McIver. As founder and first president of the State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro), and a fierce advocate of public education for women, McIver was a natural choice for a commemorative Liberty Ship. He was one of several North Carolina educators to have this honor. Initially named after notable deceased Americans, the ships names’ eventually included men and women, of all ranks, who were lost in the war. Naming opportunities came to those who raised two million dollars in war bonds.

The S.S. Charles D. McIver, 1943*

On the day that the S.S. Charles D. McIver was launched, high-ranking representatives of the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, along with local dignitaries, gathered for the festivities in Wilmington, which was broadcasted on the radio. The shipyard band played as the newly christened ship slipped into the water. For glamor, Hollywood actress Constance Bennett was in attendance to present the shipyard with an award for its exceptional purchases of war bonds. Launching its first Liberty Ship only hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Wilmington shipyard was considered one of the best producers of these types of ships in the United States. The yard boasted over 20,000 employees and the ability to deliver up to ten ships per month.

Actress Constance Bennett (polka dot dress) attends the launching ceremony at the Wilmington Shipyard, May 25, 1943**

Based on a British design, Liberty Ships were basic cargo vessels built by the United States Maritime Commission during World War II. The first of these “Emergency Cargo” ships was launched on September 27, 1941, with President Franklin Roosevelt in attendance. Named the S.S. Patrick Henry, who is well remembered for his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, the president expected these ships to bring liberty to Europe and they were dubbed accordingly. Liberty Ships were meant to be quickly and economically mass-produced, with parts manufactured throughout the country and then assembled at shipyards on the east and west coasts, as well as the Gulf of Mexico.

The launching of the S.S. Charles D. McIver**

Eighteen shipyards built over 2700 ships during the years between 1941 and 1945. Considered the “ugly ducklings” of the naval fleet, the Liberty Ships averaged 441 feet long with a crew of forty-four, holding almost 10,000 tons of cargo in addition to tanks, planes, and ammunition. Built to last only through the war, many of these ships survived, with over 800 incorporated into the United States cargo fleet, and others sold to Italy and Greece. Several ships continued to serve into the 1970s, and currently, two are used as museums. Sadly, the S.S. Charles D. McIver did not fare as well. On March 22, 1945, it sank after striking a mine as it left Antwerp, Belgium. A full rescue was made by a British motor minesweeper and a motor torpedo boat, which rescued the Merchant Marine crew and the armed guard also on board. The S.S. Charles D. McIver was later written off as a total loss.

*Image from the Charles D. McIver (Liberty Ship) subject file
** Image courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library, North Carolina Room