Everyone in the Geneva College community knows McCartney Library as a beautiful building, valuable resource center and convenient place to study. But there is much more to this historic location than collegiate Gothic architecture, books and quiet.
One of the library’s most recognizable features of the library is the bell carrilon. Geneva graduates often report missing the quarter-hourly sound of bells ringing across campus. A less familiar characteristic of the bells, however, is that each one bears two inscriptions, one from the Psalms and the other from "Ring out, Wild Bells," a part of Tennyson's poem In Memoriam. The 14-bell set, ranging from 350 to 3,000 pounds, was fashioned in 1930 by Baltimore’s McShane Bell Foundry, and they would be nearly impossible for Geneva to afford in today's market.
Many visitors to the McCartney Library are inspired by the visually stunning stained-glass windows, designed by sculptor Henry Lee Willet. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is depicted through the windows in the Reference Room and Milton’s Paradise Lost in the West Reading Room. Willet, a friend of evangelical minister Dr. Clarence McCartney for whom the library is named, was commissioned to create the windows by the Deal sisters. The sisters, E.J., S.J., and S.M. Deal, are the benefactors who donated Mum Deodorant stock to the trustees of Geneva College in order to build the library. Some of Willet's other renowned works are on display in the U.S. Military Academy Chapel and the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.
Those who expect to be shushed by severe librarians as they search dusty tomes in complete silence are in for quite a surprise. McCartney Library is an active learning environment, described on the institution’s webpage as a place “where students, faculty and scholars can encounter and discuss great ideas of the past and present as they seek wisdom in becoming servant-leaders for Christ’s kingdom.” Professors, students and others can work, read, study and talk in comfort while sipping coffee or tea. And group and individual study areas are equipped with wired and wireless Internet connections.
Journeying deeper into the library’s basement, one finds the archives in a room adjacent to the Media Center. “The archives are a great treasure in the library,” says College Librarian Dr. John Doncevic. Important documents about the history of the college are stored in the climate-controlled area. Each artifact is stored in special-made Mylar encasement to prevent exposure to UV light and other foreign factors. One such document is a one-of-a-kind letter written in the 1800s by abolitionist John Brown to a Reformed Presbyterian pastor.
Two features of the library that students often find mysterious are located in the building’s top levels: The Cages and the McCartney Room.
The Cages are vaults containing the Covenanter Collection, comprised of original materials about the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America and its origins in Scotland. They are kept locked because there may be only one or two copies of each item in the world.
The McCartney Room, located directly beneath the bell tower and accessed by a winding staircase attached to the lobby, was once used as McCartney's private study. Today, the room serves as a place for small meetings and Ph.D. students interested in Clarence McCartney's massive collection of books. “Every year a handful of researchers, who are either graduate or Ph.D. students, come to visit the McCartney Room,” says Dr. Doncevic.
But even with all of these unique attributes, by far the most valuable feature of the library is its staff, which aims to provide visitors the best service possible. Comparing information to a mighty river that can be treacherous to navigate, Dr. Doncevic says, “Our goal is to teach the campus community how to safely navigate the river—to teach them how to find the proper information, evaluate it, present it and take it to their career and calling.”
Director of Circulation Sharon Glover and Cataloging Librarian and Reference-Instruction Librarian Kyle Breneman are perhaps the staff members most recognized by students, but Dr. Doncevic noted that there are also over 40-45 student workers employed at the library each school year who often go unnoticed. “We herald our student workers,” says Dr. Doncevic. “They are often the ones here late at night, cleaning up and they are much appreciated.”
-Benjamin S. Butler '14
Geneva is one of only 118 colleges in the U.S. to be approved for membership in the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), and is a founding member.