Library at Gustavus (Part 9 of 10) Posted on May 16th, 2022 by

FOLKE 1 (1948-1972)

The new library opened in September 1948. The majority of library services were provided on the main floor, with plate-glass partitions separating the lobby from the reading rooms. The stacks area adjoined the main reading room with space for 100,000 volumes. Students were admitted to the stacks by applying at the desk for permission. Shortly after the library opened, the collections totaled 34,000 cataloged books and bound periodicals.

The Pioneer Room contained the Almen-Vickner collection, volumes bought for cultural and recreational reading. Furnishings were provided by the Vickner’s and other friends of Gustavus. The Class of 1947 gave equipment that was used to present classical music on records during Tuesday and Thursday evening programs in the late 1940s.

In June 1950, the library was dedicated as the Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library. Count Folke Bernadotte was a Swedish nobleman and diplomat. During World War II he negotiated the release of about 31,000 prisoners from Nazi concentration camps. After the war, he was unanimously chosen to be the United Nations Security Council mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1947-48. He was assassinated in Jerusalem in 1948 by the paramilitary Zionist group Lehi while pursuing his official duties. His wife and son, Countess Estelle and Bertil were present at the dedication ceremony.

Odrun Peterson, professionally trained librarian, and former interim head librarian, was appointed head librarian in 1950. During her tenure the library grew with an increase in professional staff, collection growth, and an increase in circulation. Peterson also oversaw the erection of a new library building in 1972.
In 1967, the collection was reclassified according to the Library of Congress Classification system, the system used by most academic and research libraries.

In the late 1960s to early 1970s the library suffered from an extremely low budget, one of the lowest among the Minnesota liberal arts colleges, which made keeping up with collection development very difficult.

At the end of the library’s residence in this building, it housed over 130,000 volumes with approximately 10,000 new volumes added yearly. The library also housed the Almen-Vickner browsing library, four large study rooms, several smaller conference-seminar rooms, the Almen-Vickner art collection, the museum, and the College Archives. Typewriters, micro-readers, and photocopying equipment were available for student and faculty use.

Don Gregory, Professor of Art, created a large mural in the hallway. “The mural will symbolize a Christ-centered educational system, with Jesus and four disciples occuping [sic] the central position, and the arts, sciences, spiritual motivation, and various other classroom and extra-curricular activities emanating out from them. Quite appropriate for its description of the school’s desired expression is the general theme of the mural: “‘The Truth Shall Make You Free.'” Possibly the basic idea of the painting is to bring out the value and strength in a society of honest thinking men.” (Gustavian Weekly, 1949)

Please send us your library memories:

In celebration of 50 years in the current library building (known as the Folke Bernadotte Memorial Library), we’ll be spending the year looking at the history of the library at Gustavus.


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