No. 27 – Book Brigade

When Oswego’s library moved from its early quarters in Old Main to the new Penfield Library (now Rich Hall) in April 1961, legendary librarian Helen Hagger had a unique method for transporting the college’s collection of 80,000 books.

The library moved from Sheldon Hall to then-Penfield Library (now Rich Hall) by a “bucket brigade” of books in April 1961. President Foster Brown (fourth from left) even stopped by to lend a hand.

An ex-military officer, the “strong, forceful” Hagger, dubbed “the sergeant in charge” by Philomena Camesano Mark ’61, required every student, faculty and staff member to take part in a “book brigade,” passing books hand to hand across the short distance between the two buildings. Once they arrived in the new library, volumes were shelved in exactly the same order in which they came off the bookcases in Sheldon Hall.

“When we walked in the next day, it was as if it had never moved,” said Judy Driscoll Skillen ’61, who took part in the landmark shift.

The 1961 building, designed by famed architect Lorimer Rich, who drew plans for the Tomb of the Unknown soldier as well as Oswego’s lakeside buildings, included seating for 800 students. More than 150,000 books could fit on its shelves and other amenities included a music listening room and microfilm viewing booths.

The library collections would move one more time, into the newly constructed Penfield across from Hewitt Union in 1967, but the 1961 odyssey would forever become a memory for the students lucky enough to take part in the unique form of transport.

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