Kresge Library celebrates 60th anniversary of dedication


Chris Estrada

An audience of alumni, faculty and supporters of Kresge Library gather outside its main doors as Oakland University Dean of University Libraries Polly Boruff-Jones shares words about the history of Kresge Library. The library celebrated the 60th anniversary of its dedication to the Kresge Foundation last week.

Joe Zerilli, Campus Editor

Kresge Library was recognized and celebrated on May 12 in honor of the 60th anniversary of its dedication to Oakland University. The event featured guest speakers of the past and present telling their stories of Kresge and its history. 

Dean of University Libraries Polly Boruff-Jones kicked off the event, thanking everyone for attending and introducing the first guest speaker: Provost Britt Rios-Ellis.

“Across the nation and across the world, academic libraries are truly the hearts, the living rooms of universities,” Rios-Ellis said. “A 2010 study conducted by the Association of College and Research Libraries identified numerous and very tangible, and measurable ways, in which these organizations advance the mission, vision and goals of the communities they serve.”

Rios-Ellis went on to say libraries help identify and enhance institutional progress in ways such as student enrollment growth, student retention rates and professional success among graduates.

“This is just a short list of the ways libraries and certainly our own Kresge Library have fulfilled their charge as the hearts of this higher education community,” Rios-Ellis said. “The impact of these contributions in whole, while theoretically calculable, is truly difficult for us to wrap our hearts around.” 

Libraries are more than just a place of study, with many classes and groups meeting at Kresge Library. Also acting as a social space, Kresge is at the heart of campus and a large part of the community being as close as it is.

“It’s not difficult to conclude that we are talking about countless millions of visits,” Rios-Ellis said when discussing alumni, faculty and guests visiting Kresge. “We are talking about countless millions of enlightening, inspiring, motivational and empowering touchpoints that this building has become home to.”

Brouff-Jones next talks about some of the history behind Kresge Library, crediting professor Dominique Daniel who provided much of the historical information.

The building was designed by Robert S. Swanson, and was originally 72,500 square feet built to accommodate 200,000 physical volumes and up to 1,200 students at one time. Students assisted in moving books from the old library — inside of North Foundation Hall — to Kresge.

The Saints and Sinners sculpture located in front of Kresge was designed by Marshall Fredericks — who also designed the Spirit of Detroit statue — was dedicated in 1976. In 1987, the $11.5 million expansion was approved and introduced individual and group study meeting rooms and computer labs.

Cynthia Kresge was in attendance for the event and is the great great granddaughter of Sebastian Kresge whose foundation is the reason for the celebration. Cynthia was the first of the guest speakers to come forward. 

“I’m here today because of my involvement with the Kresge Foundation, which is the philanthropic institution that my great grandfather established in Detroit almost 100 years ago,” Cynthia said. “I’m delighted that the Kresge Library has become a leader in library technology while remaining true to its mission of assembling information for new generations of students, faculty and researchers as they seek truth in the natural and human worlds.”

Mary Jo Ahern and Beverly Miller — outstanding members of Oakland University’s Charter Class — were able to share some of their stories of Kresge. The Miller Family presentation practice room is located on the second floor and the Ahern Family room is in the works now to feature enhanced interactive technology.