PASADENA—The California Institute of Technology's newest and most technologically advanced library, the Sherman Fairchild Library of Engineering and Applied Science, will be dedicated on January 14. The festivities will take place on the west side of the building, at 3:45 p.m., with a reception and tours following.
This new building sets a new standard for library services at Caltech. Electronic resources such as the World Wide Web, electronic databases, scanners, and CD-ROMs take an equal place alongside books and bound journals. All of the library tables are wired for full access to the campus computer network system.
"The whole building is networked with high-capacity fiber optic cable to allow for future expansion," says Kimberly Douglas, newly appointed director of the Sherman Fairchild Library and head of technical information services. "The current connections are ten times faster than the ethernet available around campus. There are 23 workstations available for use in various rooms, all of which can be used to access on-line library resources, the Internet, and the World Wide Web."
According to Professor Bradford Sturtevant, who chairs the steering committee for the new library, the building's design presented some challenges for the architectural firm of Moore, Ruble, and Yudell. "We were constrained by the dimensions of the site located between Spalding and Thomas laboratories," says Sturtevant, "but we wanted a classic library structure that is light and airy, with a central staircase lit by a skylight." A measure of how well the planners succeeded is reflected in a colleague's comment to Sturtevant, "The Sherman Fairchild is the most comfortable, warmest library I've ever seen."
In the opinion of many first-time visitors, the most spectacular room of all is the third-floor reading room, which contains an arched ceiling paneled in cherry wood, an alcove with reading bench, and Arts and Crafts-style library tables and chairs. "Both Buzz (Yudell, the architect) and I attended Yale in the 1950s," says Sturtevant. "There is a reading room there, the Linonia and Brothers Room, that we both agreed could serve as the perfect model for the character of the third-floor reading room."
"The Sherman Fairchild Library provides Caltech with the facility to make the transition from a traditional library to a library of the future," says Anne Buck, university librarian. "It will be an intellectual meeting place for members of the Caltech community. This is a tremendous statement on Caltech's commitment to quality." Buck concludes, "The Sherman Fairchild Library is a tremendous asset for the entire Caltech community. It can provide technical services that few if any other college libraries can supply, but it has a human scale and a human warmth."
The library was made possible by a $9.6 million-dollar grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation. At Caltech, the foundation has sponsored the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholars Program and Sherman Fairchild Postdoctoral Scholars in Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy. A pioneer in the fields of photography, aviation, and sound engineering, Sherman Fairchild founded Fairchild Camera & Instrument Corporation and the Fairchild Engine & Airplane Corporation.