Fondren Circulation Desk, 1949

I’m back from vacation and, as I suspected, I’m going to have to scramble a bit to get caught up. One of the more interesting things I had in my inbox was a question from FE&P about the original lighting in the walkways in front of Fondren and the connecting walks to Anderson and Rayzor. In the end I couldn’t find the exact picture they wanted, but I did get to spend some time going through some old photos of the library that I’d never really examined before. Here’s a picture of the circulation area that was taken in May 1949, before the building’s official opening in November of the same year:

Very sleek, very modern, very different from the earlier campus buildings. But I do have one question. Click on the picture to enlarge it, then click again to zoom in. Notice the numbers up over the circulation desk? What’s that all about?

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8 Responses to Fondren Circulation Desk, 1949

  1. Pat Campbell says:

    Those were the call numbers – Fondren was initially set up to be closed stacks much like the Library of Congress rather than having the stacks freely accessible. The intent was to call for a book at the desk and they would retrieve it and notify you using the numbers – at least that was the story they told us in 1965.

  2. Seems like those numbers were still there in 1979?

  3. David M. Bynog says:

    I had been told that those were numbers for the order of service (I think I always assumed they were for reference questions), and I think I have seen the object that held the numbers that patrons would have picked up to “get in the queue.” The booklet that was produced prior to the building of Fondren calls this the Delivery Desk in the Circulation Area, but the booklet also mentions that Fondren would have an open stacks (which I have always been told to be the case), so I don’t know what might have been delivered here. You can check out the booklet (which has an architectural rendering of that room on page 14, complete with the numbers) here: http://fonlibweb.rice.edu/60th/files/Fondren-booklet.pdf

  4. Kathy says:

    This area definitely still looked like this in 1971, when I graduated, and in 1975, when I stopped working in the Library to go to library school myself. I’m pretty sure the numbers were still there and I wondered about them. But if anyone ever told me what they were for I don’t remember.

  5. Jerry Outlaw says:

    I think one of the original ideas was that Fondren might not be an “open stack” library, and those numbers represent the various runners sent to get materials. When the runner brought your book, your number lit up. I worked in the libarry 1965-67 and it looked exactly like this picture. I miss the old place.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      I know what you mean. I never saw it like this, but I’ve been inside this library for about twenty years now. Even after all the remodeling, there are still some spots that escaped the sledgehammer. Not to get all nostalgic on you, but it always makes me kind of sad when I find myself in one of those places.

  6. Bob says:

    I miss card catalogs. 🙁

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