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Memories of Powell
What Price Glory?

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Spring 1997
Memories of Powell

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I remember one night, I was studying in the stacks and didn't realize what time it was. All of a sudden the lights were turned off and I was completely in the dark. I could see only a very dim light in the distance. Believe me, I packed up quickly and crawled toward that light. -- Gladys Emerson Thomas '65, M.A. '68

When the Rindge Art Collection was given to the university in the mid-'30s, there was a great banquet in the Main Reading Room. Those of us on the planning committee brought candelabra from home for the tables. It was a stunning spectacle, to look down that great, vast room and see those candelabra glimmering. It was pouring rain outside, and as far as I know, it was the only occasion in the history of the university where cars drove right up to the steps of the library. Boys were on hand with umbrellas to take us inside. Dr. Sproul was there, and a great many of the university bigwigs. It was a fabulous occasion. -- Ann Sumner '26

Even as an undergraduate, I appreciated the beauty of Powell. It is a marvelous example of Italian Romanesque architectural style, reminiscent, I was told, of churches in Verona, Bologna and Milan (see sidebar). As an English major, I sought refuge in Powell quite often -- and not only when I needed a nap. Especially after fighting the crush of humanity in survey classes of 500-plus students, I welcomed the expanses the library offered in which I could lose myself. It was a sanctuary, tranquil and serene.

Sometime in the late '80s, Powell, one of the busiest buildings on campus, with thousands of students passing through its doors each day, was identified as requiring major structural reinforcement. So in 1992, the library closed for seismic retrofitting -- and didn't reopen until four years later. Just think: An entire class of students came and went and never saw the inside of this glorious building!

Powell was one of the first four structures built on campus (the others are Haines Hall, Kinsey Hall and Royce Hall). "The Library," as it was generally referred to in the early days, was later named for UCLA's second university librarian, Lawrence Clark Powell, a prolific author and bookman who served the university from 1944 to 1960 and recently celebrated his 90th birthday.

Because of the intimacy of the campus in its first configurations (the University Research Library was not built until 1964), Powell, and especially its Main Reading Room, was for decades the very heart of the university.

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