Jewel in the Crown
The Architectural Gem of the BC Libraries
By Laurie Mayville
When students and visitors first tour Bapst Library, designed by the architectural firm of Maginnis and Walsh in the English Collegiate Gothic style, they often stop at our Information Desk in the entryway lobby to ask, "Was this building ever a church?" Though Mass was once held in the auditorium (now the renovated Kresge Reading Room) the building was actually built as a library. Dedicated in 1928, Bapst Library served as the main library for Boston College until 1984, when the Thomas P. O'Neill, Jr. Library opened to accommodate our growing collection of books and technological resources. From 1984 until 1987, Bapst Library underwent extensive renovation, with the addition of the mezzanine and a newly created circulation area. A separate library, the John J. Burns Library of Archives and Special Collections, was created in one wing of the building. Bapst Library became known as "the quiet place to study" and has maintained this reputation ever since.
In 1993, the art books and art periodicals were moved from O'Neill Library to Bapst Library. The main part of the collection--books on painting, architecture, sculpture, drawing, print media, and the decorative arts (call numbers N through NX)--can be found in the Art Stacks. To enter the Art Stacks, just walk past the Information Desk and into the Kresge Reading Room, where you will see a twin staircase leading down to the second floor. (When you enter the building, at the Information Desk, you are on the third floor.) There are large, oak study tables in the Art Stacks where you can spread out your books and papers, and also individual carrels for more secluded studying.
Walking up the stairs and re-entering the Kresge Reading Room, you will find the art periodicals and reference books. There are also ten computers where you can search Quest for books owned by the eight separate libraries on the Boston College campus and where you will have access to online databases and journals. In the Kresge Reading Room are more individual study carrels, and a twin staircase leads up to the mezzanine, another quiet study area with carrels. When you are studying in the Kresge Reading Room, be sure to look up at the hand-painted beam ceiling, with its colorful geometric and floral motifs.
Returning to the lobby at the Information Desk, you will see the Irish Music Center to your left. The Irish Music Center, part of the Burns Library of Archives and Special Collections, documents Irish music in America and works with the Center for Irish Programs to sponsor Irish music events on the Boston College campus. To learn more about the Irish Music Center, see the Irish Music Research Guide and the holdings for Irish music, located on their homepage, and stop by to introduce yourself to the staff there.
Also in the lobby, you will see a twin staircase leading up to Gargan Hall, on the fourth floor. When you reach the landing where the staircases join to a single flight of steps, note the Shakespeare windows, which depict scenes from his plays. Also to be appreciated are the wrought-iron balustrades, with a floral design, which lead to the Gargan Hall foyer.
To the left, is the office of the Chancellor, Rev. J. Donald Monan, S.J., who served as President of Boston College from 1972 until 1996. In the office to the right is the Lonergan Center, which houses writings by and about Bernard Lonergan, noted theologian, philosopher, and Boston College professor. Not to be missed in the foyer itself is the replica of the Cathedral Ulm in Germany, as well as the interior window between the foyer and Gargan Hall, which describes the Genesis of the Book in many ancient writing styles.
Gargan Hall, considered one of the most beautiful rooms on campus, is renowned for its stained-glass windows which illustrate the curriculum of studies in Jesuit Colleges and Universities. The windows were created in the studio of Boston artist Earl Sanborn, and descriptions of the stained-glass are posted near every window. For example, the window for Theology, in the third alcove on the right, includes panels showing the Holy Trinity, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas. The Fine Arts window, the last alcove to the left, includes panels of Beethoven, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michelangelo. As a whole, each window is comprised of a title panel and a subject panel in the center of the top row, and surrounding panels with the people, symbols, and events related to the subject. For further information on the stained-glass please see the book entitled The Bapst Library, which you can find through our Quest catalog, and for information and pictures of stained-glass in Bapst Library along with other buildings on campus, see Transforming Light: The Stained-Glass Windows of Boston College, also found through Quest.
While the main collection of art books is located on the second floor, in the Art Stacks, photography books (call number TR) and books on Museum Studies (call number AM) are shelved in Gargan Hall. There are large oak study tables in Gargan Hall, and oak chairs decorated with linen-fold relief carving. This room is open twenty-four hours, five days a week, beginning Sundays at 11:00 a.m. and ending Fridays at 5:00 p.m. On Saturdays Gargan Hall is open from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Please check for complete hours on the Libraries' homepage. During the final exam period, Bapst Library and O'Neill Library both have extended hours.
Returning to the Information Desk on the third floor, be sure to visit the Student Art Gallery, located in two rooms downstairs on either side of the entryway foyer. The Gallery was founded in 2004, and is run by the Student Art Club, the Fine Arts Department and Bapst Library. Exhibits are held there throughout the academic year. The Fall Student Show will run from November 2 until December 1.
Bapst Library, with its grand architecture and fine detail, extensive collection of art books and periodicals, wireless connectivity, and large areas of study space, is considered one of the most beautiful buildings on campus. Indeed, in 2010, the college news website CampusGrotto.com voted Bapst Library first on its list of "Most Beautiful College Libraries". Students often refer to it as the "Harry Potter" building and have reported they "feel smarter" studying here. Bapst Library, the quiet library, is truly a gem on the Boston College campus.
Laurie Mayville, Evening Supervisor/Reference Assistant, Bapst Library
Bapst photos by Kevin Tringale