Berry Library project gets official ceremony

by Hank Leukart | 5/6/98 5:00am

Marilyn Berry, the wife of library donor John Berry '44, operated a mechanical back hoe in formal dress yesterday at Berry Library's ceremonial groundbreaking.

"We have one at home," she told The Dartmouth. "I knew how to use it."

Also bestowed with the honor of controlling the equipment were George Berry '66 -- John Berry's son -- and George Baker, son of the man who contributed $1 million in 1923 for the construction of Baker Library.

George Berry, who said he was not taught in advance how to use the back hoe, managed the equipment with surprising proficiency.

"I got in, the guy said 'Do this and don't touch those buttons,'" George Berry said. "I would have liked some rehearsal in advance."

The three also wielded silver shovels in a roped-off area to keep in tradition with previous groundbreaking ceremonies.

My father "gave me and my brothers an interest in education," Berry said. "It is very special for us to be laying the cornerstone for Dartmouth in the 21st century."

John Berry, due to illness, was unable to attend the proceedings.

The ceremony began with speeches in the 1902 Room in Baker Library. Provost and future President James Wright started with a short history of libraries at the College, describing the first book collection -- a 300-tome assortment kept in President James Woodward's house.

Contrasting this tiny collection with the stacks Baker and Berry library will hold, Wright emphasized the progress the College has made since its inception. He also discussed the importance of having a library.

"The library is the intellectual heart of our community," he said. "It will enhance the intellectual character of our community."

Trustee Peter Fahey '68 thanked the Board of Trustees for its support in his speech but also challenged it to continue the changes it helped start.

The Trustees' "task will only begin the nerve center of the campus," he said. "We must keep growing."

President James Freedman also spoke, using a potato-gardening allegory to discuss the construction of the new library.

"One kind of digging sometimes gives over to another kind," he said. "Come and read; dig for oneself in the rich veins that others have unearthed."

College Librarian Margaret Otto and Computing Services Director Lawrence Levine spoke about the need for the new library.

"We're going to have books for a long, long time," Otto said. "Have no fear, we will have books."

Otto and Levine both discussed the need to integrate information technology with the classic services of the original Baker Library.

At the end of the ceremony, George Berry and Baker gave their remarks.

"The ability to predict is virtually nonexistent, except at this moment," Berry said. "By 2050, this will be looked on as one of the greatest gifts in American educational history."