50 Years of Excellence & Service
The online version of this exhibition is under construction.
Planning and Construction of Lauinger Library
Georgetown College’s first library was housed in the President’s room in Old South (no longer standing). After the library moved to Old North in 1831, College art instructor James Simpson (1805-1880) decorated its door with a trompe l’oeil depiction of shelves of imaginary books by Georgetown faculty of the time.
From 1891 to 1970, the University Library was housed in Riggs and its various annexes. A rare example of Victorian, cast-iron prefabrication, Riggs Library is 40 feet wide by 60 feet long. When the Library opened, it housed around 50,000 books.
When Riggs Library opened in 1891, seniors (allowed in on Wednesdays and Saturdays only) could not check out books or enter the alcoves to browse. Graduate students, who were at least allowed every day, were subject to the same restrictions. Underclassmen were barred from the Library entirely and had to request books through their professors.
Riggs Library quickly outgrew available space in Healy Hall and plans were formulated for a new library building as early as the 1930s. A number of sites were considered including those on which Reiss Science and Village C were later built. By 1965, the choice had narrowed to the two possibilities on 37th Street. However, changes to the District of Columbia's zoning laws removed the site opposite the main gates from consideration, leaving the library to be situated on the corner of 37th and Prospect Streets.
While ideas about the optimal size and capacity of a new library remained relatively fixed through the 1950s and 1960s, the same was not true of its architectural style. This 1954 rendering did not even hint at the brutalist design to come.
The architectural firm of John Carl Warnecke and Associates was commissioned to design the new library in 1965. Warnecke, known for his design of the gravesite of John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, was chosen because of "his understanding of the needs of the University and the neighborhood, and his ability to harmonize modern design with traditional settings."
". . . The most important exterior aspect of the library is its relationship to the older buildings on campus, especially the Healey [sic] building, which will be its nearest neighbor. Stylistically, the Healey building, is “Flemish Romanesque” while Copley and White-Gravenor are built in a style commonly known as “Collegiate Gothic” . . . The most significant common denominator in all these buildings is the undulating exterior wall surface and the profusion of vertical elements . . . We recognize these aspects in the design of the Library building, which will have an irregular outline and a pronounced vertical emphasis . . ."
Rita D. Schaefer also worked on the interiors of the Colgate University Chapel and the National Girl Scouts Building. She died in September 1970, only five months after Lauinger Library opened.
Joseph Mark Lauinger, a 1967 alumnus and Army first lieutenant from Tulsa, Oklahoma, was killed while commanding a reconnaissance mission in Vietnam on January 8, 1970. Lieutenant Lauinger was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart. These medals are on permanent display in the lobby of the Library.
The move of the main book and periodical collection from Riggs into Lauinger began on March 26, 1970; Lauinger was fully operational by the time students returned from Easter break on April 6. Volunteers from Alpha Phi Omega and the Collegiate Club supplemented the work of an outside moving company.
While both positive and less positive opinions about the external appearance of Lauinger Library have been expressed in the years since the building’s opening, press critiques of the building when it opened were generally favorable. The Evening Star described it as "adding an imposing new shape to the Potomac Palisades setting" and The Washington Post commented that the "architects managed to blend it into the cityscape, if not unobtrusively, [then] successfully." The Library's design was recognized by the American Institute of Architects in 1976.
After prolonged discussions over the proposed site (both the Zoning Committee of the National Capital Planning Commission and the Commission of Fine Arts initially recommended that the new library be built somewhere other than the 37th and Prospect site) and the design (especially the height of the Library’s penthouse and the parapet around the penthouse), ground was broken on June 10, 1967 for the first stand-alone library building in Georgetown’s then 179-year history.
The Evolving Library
In July 1973, the bookstore moved from White-Gravenor to the basement of the Library where it remained until the opening of the Leavey Center in 1988.
The Woodstock Theological Library, one of the oldest and most notable collections of Catholic theological resources in the U.S., came to Georgetown in 1974. Originally the library for Woodstock College (1869-1974), a Jesuit seminary, the collection was gradually formed from smaller collections of books and manuscripts that belonged to some of the earliest houses of Jesuit formation in America. Woodstock houses an incredible trove of rare books and archives which reflect and embody four-hundred years of Jesuit existence.
Just as Maryland Jesuits accommodated their mission-building to political realities, they also modified fundamental religious practices to ensure the success of the emerging tobacco economy. In 1722 Maryland Jesuits proposed rules to ecclesiastical authorities in London that exempted the mission from the requirement that Catholics refrain from manual labor on Sundays and other holy days. After its approval by the Vicar Apostolic, these rules applied mostly to enslaved laborers.
The Booth Family Center for Special Collections has served as the repository of the Archives of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus since 1977, when the Province placed it on deposit at Georgetown University. Students, faculty, and scholars have studied these records to understand the origins of Catholicism in the United States and the ownership of enslaved people by the Province, particularly its decision to sell 272 of them in 1838.
The 1980s brought increasing utilization of computers to provide electronic searching and with that, the realization that growing reliance on such resources required proactive reconfiguration of Library spaces and infrastructure.
For a time, the card catalog and the online catalog (unveiled in 1985 and known as GEORGE) coexisted but no new cards were added to the card catalog after May 1987.
The early 1990s saw a number of renovation projects, beginning with work on the lower level and the 5th floor in 1991. The third floor was renovated in 1993, with much of the work concentrated over the summer months to limit disruption to library users. This renovation saw the removal of the card catalog and the creation of the Forsgren Reference Area, named for and funded by John Forsgren, C’1967.
In 1998, a display case located on the 3rd floor between the Reference and Access Services desks was dedicated to the memory of Stephen R. Kerbs, B’1976. The Kerbs Exhibit Area, along with the donor recognition wall in the lobby, was funded by the Stephen Richard Kerbs, B'67 Library Endowment Fund created in 1998 by family and friends of Mr. Kerbs. Income from the fund allows the library to mount ongoing exhibitions.
Oversight of the University Art Collection was transferred from the Provost's Office to Lauinger Library in December 1999 with the retirement of Curator Cliff Chieffo, who also taught for over 30 years in the Art Department. It was a natural fit for art to join the other special collections under the Library's purview, providing wonderful primary source material for teaching. Some of the artworks relate to sibling collections in other units.
This fine, decorated pocket watch belonged to Georgetown’s founder, John Carroll. It has several markings inside including some numbering which may refer to the year of its creation.
In the 2000s, new areas including the Gelardin New Media Center and the Millennium News Room were created in the Library to facilitate access to new technologies and computing resources. The opening of the Gelardin New Media Center greatly expanded access to digital media equipment, software, and services as students and faculty transitioned from being mostly consumers of media to being producers of all forms of digital content and scholarship.
The LiveHelp service, launched in November 2002, was billed as "interactive real-time chat technology to reach out to patrons wherever they are - not only when they are in the library, or near a telephone." LiveHelp hours initially were 2 pm-8:30 pm, Monday-Thursday, and 2 pm-4 pm on Friday.
2014-2015 saw a total renovation of what was then known as the Special Collections Research Center. This work was funded by gifts from Suzanne Deal Booth and David G. Booth, Barbara Ellis Jones C’1974, the Lauinger family, and numerous other Library supporters. The renovation created a state-of-the-art, environmentally controlled storage area, a classroom dedicated to teaching with special collections material, an enhanced reading room named for Georgetown Professor Emeritus and Library Board member Paul F. Betz, and improved exhibition space. In the words of University Librarian Artemis G. Kirk, this positioned the renamed Booth Family Center for Special Collections "not only to protect and preserve rare treasures but also to make them readily available for our scholars and students to conduct their primary source research - for generations to come."
Midnight Mug and Pete and Ann’s Place, established through the generosity of Peter C’1960 and Ann Tanous in collaboration with The Students of Georgetown, Inc. (The Corp), opened on the second floor of Lauinger in January 2003. A few years previously, the idea of a library coffee shop housed in the Pierce Reading Room had been discussed but not pursued.
In addition to serving coffee and snacks, the space creates opportunities for scholarly conversations between faculty and students, thanks to its office hours program.
DigitalGeorgetown was unveiled in the fall of 2004 as the online portal for Georgetown University’s institutional repository and digital collections. With over 200,000 visitors each month and over 500,000 digital objects, DigitalGeorgetown provides access to streaming media, electronic theses and dissertations, and image collections highlighting a wide variety of scholarly and archival materials. From student publications such as The Hoya and Utraque Unum to rare manuscripts and incunabula, these collections are expanding every month.
Hacia una Vida Mejor can be viewed in DigitalGeorgetown.
Inaugurated in October 2016, the MakerHub routinely works with Georgetown Faculty, helping them enhance their curriculum through Maker activities, tours, lectures, and guided conversations on the impact of Makers and Maker Culture on their field of study. It also serves as a collaborative space for Georgetown community members to make things using technology and as a central location for tech and creative groups.
Milestone Acquisitions and Building for the Future
Made at Lauinger Library
The Floors of Lau
Over the last 50 years, each floor of Lau has developed its own special atmosphere, inviting Hoyas to experience and use spaces in unique ways. The first floor is a hub of creativity and innovation; the tools and resources in the Gelardin New Media Center and the Maker Hub provide creatives with all the inspiration they need to express themselves and produce anything imaginable. The second floor’s social atmosphere, the Midnight Mug, and the Writing Center attract individuals and groups looking for a collaborative (and sometimes even fun!) place to work. The main floor of Lau is the central hub for research and support; the fourth floor is a haven for quiet reading, studying, and reflection. In the fifth floor’s Booth Family Center for Special Collections, students have the opportunity to work with curators to explore history through primary materials and art. As a second home to many students on campus, there is a floor of Lau well-suited for everyone at Georgetown.