At 52, the Roux Library Ages Gracefully

Dec 21, 2020

by FSC Staff
Originally appeared in Southern News Magazine

In the age of Google, when information is instantly available, it is an open question what a library ought to be. The Roux Library at FSC has undergone its share of changes since it was dedicated on March 24, 1968. As it marks its 52nd anniversary this year, rows of computer terminals have replaced the typing rooms, the collection is now mostly in digital form, and much of the first floor is occupied by Tutu’s Cyber Café.

The current building is the library’s fourth location since the College moved to Lakeland in 1922. According to a 1950 article in The Southern, only 25 to 50 books survived the fire that destroyed the College’s buildings when it was located in Southerland. The first meager library in Lakeland was a leaky little building on the current site of Allan Spivey Residence Hall.

The library moved to Edge Hall in 1927, and then-President Ludd Spivey augmented the collection by donating his own books and organizing “book showers” among donors.

Dr. Spivey’s vision for a modern campus, designed by the renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, included the College’s first true library building. The E.T. Roux Library — now the Buckner Building — was completed in 1945, named for a College Trustee and prominent banker and agricultural magnate. Wright’s open-concept design was unconventional for a library, although it is difficult to see now because of alterations, and oddly, it included a chapel on the first floor. According to a 1945 article in the Bulletin of the South Atlantic Modern Language Association, the library had 50,000 volumes in its collection.

The library would exist in Wright’s building for only 23 years because rapid growth of the College rendered it inadequate. In the mid-1960s, President Charles Thrift began making plans for a much larger building, to be designed by a student of Wright, Nils Schweizer, who also designed Branscomb Auditorium. When it was built, the new library had 36,841 square feet, accommodated 450 people, and cost about $1.28 million — just a little more than the library’s current annual budget. Mr. Roux had passed away, but his widow substantially supported the project, and the new facility was officially named the Roux Family Library.

As the dedication approached, the problem of transferring all the books 150 yards to the new library was solved by recruiting students to form a human conveyor belt. A photo in The Southern showed the line of students handing the volumes to each other a few at a time. Lynn Mason Dennis ’71, executive assistant to President Anne Kerr, participated in the effort as a freshman and recalls that classes were cancelled for the day.

“All the fraternities and sororities were there. We worked in the morning till lunch, and there was a picnic. We went on till mid-afternoon. We didn’t move all the books, but we did get a large portion,” she says.

Today the Roux Library is busier than ever. Director of the Library Randall MacDonald says when he arrived in 1986 as a reference librarian, it was open about 82 hours per week; now, on an average week, the figure is more than 103 hours. Including auxiliary libraries at the Roberts Academy and the Polk Museum of Art, its print collection is almost 169,000 volumes — but through the wonders of digital technology, it counts 736,280 titles in its collection.

Most importantly, the library remains a place of research and study, says Mr. MacDonald. “I think it has aged rather gracefully,” he says.