For many years the college had considered construction of a new, separate library building. The arrangement in Main, with books at one end and reading room at the other, was anything but practicable; moreover, space had long run out. The time was right, for Andrew Carnegie was giving money for libraries – numerous institutions and communities nationwide benefited from his generous offer. Wells College received a $40,000 challenge grant, and at the 1909 commencement came the announcement that the necessary matching funds – alumnae donations, for the most part – had been received. A year later ground was broken for the new library, on the site of the old power plant across the circular entrance road and to the south of Main Building. During the breaking ground ceremony Alice E. Sanborn, the college’s librarian since 1901, gave an elaborate speech entitled “The Speech at the Turning of the Sod”. Ground was broken on June 8, 1910.
During the academic year 1910-1911 the library was erected, and Alice Sanborn was given considerable say in planning the interior. In consultation with the architectural firm King & Walker of New York, she worked with scale models she had made herself, moving furniture pieces around until she got each room right. Sanborn’s interest and involvement in building the new library was immense. One of her pamphlets was entitled “Notes and Suggestions one the Wells College Library” (Alice E. Sanborn, Librarian, 1910). This pamphlet contained many of her blueprints and scale models of various rooms and plans. The design, with the capacity of 50,000 volumes, was arranged so the building could accommodate twice that number of books by adding shelves and an extra floor in the basement. This plan served the college well; the 1911 library was in use for more than 55 years, during which time the student body went from 150 to 500.
The final cost of the library and furnishings came to $58,000. After which the college posted a letter to the Carnegie fund to suggest they give us more money to supplement the $18,000 that went over estimate. Alice Sanborn’s correspondence in the collection has a letter from Carnegie’s secretary suggesting that the school charge the difference to them as well. However, this was never done as the difference was made up for by additional alumnae support.
The building was named and dedicated by First Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland at commencement in 1911. During the commencement ceremony Alice E. Sanborn gave another address for the formal dedication of the new Cleveland Library. At its opening the buildings brochure stated Cleveland to be 60 by 111 feet and to possess a fireproof stack room on the first floor along with a built in museum.Following the opening of the Cleveland Library in 1911, in April 1912 a mini history and some floor plans were published in The Library Journal. Cleveland Library was in use for more then 55 years during which the student population roughly quadrupled.
While the number of students increased, so did the collection making it necessary to create departmental libraries across campus in an attempt to alleviate the problem.
A new library building was considered by several administrations but it wasn’t until the 1960’s that plans began to formalize. With the new Louis Jefferson Long Library dedication in 1968, Cleveland was remodeled and became The Cleveland Hall of Languages. Cleveland has ever since been the language building for campus.
From Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History” and from the Cleveland Library Collection in The Wells College Archives
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Summary compiled by Nicole Di Mauro’12