Even though the new Paul Barret Jr. Library is built in the same Gothic style as other buildings at Rhodes College, university officials hope the library will become the focal point for modernizing the campus.
"This library will no longer have just a reference desk. That will now be combined with our information technology department," says Bill Short, the library's coordinator of public services. "Behind all the Gothic columns there are extra-wide cable trays with hi-fi capabilities. This building is hiding a lot of modern technology."
Rhodes celebrated the grand opening of the Paul Barret Jr. Library last week. The project, which at a total cost of $42 million was the largest construction project in the college's history, began in 2001 after Rhodes announced a $35 million gift from the Paul Barret Jr. Testamentary Trust.
At completion, the library is a massive building, replete with arches, towers, and stained glass. University president William Troutt called it "a splendid example of collegiate Gothic architecture." Kakky Tanner, an alumni representative from the class of 1957 and one of the ribbon cutters at the dedication said that the library was "overwhelming, but magnificent."
The building also boasts a ceiling in the recessed, vaulted style often found in churches. The ceiling is painted to represent the arrangement of stars on the first day of Rhodes' first year, when the Lynx constellation was prominent.
"This really is a remarkable space," says Troutt. "This building will re-center the campus, becoming its intellectual and emotional heart."
The Gothic touches may be nice, but the library also boasts a 24-hour café which might prove even more inspiring for students struggling to finish a paper on time.
"I'm planning on spending a lot of time here," says Justin Hugon, class of '09. "I'm lucky to be a freshman, so I get to break this place in."