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The Gottesman Libraries: The Library for the Future

Standing in front of hundreds of members of the TC Community—some dressed in hardhats, others gathered around balloon-decorated poles—Joseph Brosnan, Vice President for Development and External Affairs, captured the essence of the “groundbreaking” of the Gottesman Libraries.
Standing in front of hundreds of members of the TC Community-some dressed in hardhats, others gathered around balloon-decorated poles-Joseph Brosnan, Vice President for Development and External Affairs, captured the essence of the "groundbreaking" of the Gottesman Libraries.

After the music from the three-piece brass band faded out, Brosnan stood in front of the plans for the new libraries. "We are here today to celebrate the start of the renovation of the Gottesman Libraries," he said, "and to thank a wonderful couple whose vision is transforming this space into a library for the future."

When President Arthur Levine approached the microphone in front of the open space of the demolished first floor of the Library he said, "This is an incredible day for Teachers College." He thanked Ruth Gottesman and her husband David "Sandy" Gottesman for their generosity and vision. "This is a gift that has provided the college with a real opportunity to transform the nature and the scope of not just our library, of all libraries," he added.

Levine said, "The Milbank Library has been an integral part of the life of this College since its beginnings more than a century ago. It contains the world's largest and richest collection of materials on the education professions-many of the collections are not available anywhere but here. They represent the balance, the breadth, the depth, and an archive of American, even international, intellectual and social history. It is an academic, intellectual jewel."

But, he added, "Academic libraries, and libraries in general, can't afford to be repositories or holding places for knowledge any longer. We have an opportunity through the Gottesmans' generosity to create an entirely new research library. It's a library that is going to serve the needs of scholars inside and outside of this College. The Gottesman's gift is going to help us as the impetus for a special fundraising campaign for this library. It is going to help us achieve a library that is going to serve as an intellectual dynamo for this campus. Once upon a time libraries were institutions at the periphery of the campus where people came to sit and look at materials or to borrow books and other materials. What libraries are going to do in the future is power campuses."

"This library," he emphasized, "is going to become a major intellectual center-a place where students and faculty can come together to make history, not just study it. It will be a center for learning, not just a library that houses what we've learned. The library will be a major global resource designed to improve education at all levels-a center for outreach for the entire world. It is going to serve not only as a repository of scholarship that shapes our field, but also as a major center for the production of that scholarship. This renovated library building is going to be a hub for collegial learning that is going to include innovations."

Levine concluded by saying "through the years supporters of the library have contributed to the extraordinary growth of the collections of the library. What I'm going to ask you to do now is join me in a peek at the future-a kind of ‘walk-through' of this stage of the library's future."

He then introduced Ruth Gottesman, who earned her master's degree in Developmental Education and a Ph.D. in Human Cognition and Learning in the area of Educational Psychology at Teachers College. Levine called her, a member of the TC Board of Trustees since 1990, "the kind of member of a board, the kind of intellectual leader that we've been enormously lucky to have." Levine called both Gottesmans "visionaries and philanthropists" and asked the audience to "please join me in thanking them for a leadership gift that is going to change the way we produce knowledge, change this College, and provide a model for the world."

Ruth Gottesman, her face beaming and flanked by her husband, children and grandchildren, said "I have been connected to Teachers College for almost 50 years-which is a long time, probably longer than most anybody here. Today, I stand here as an enthusiastic member of the Board of Trustees for 14 years."

"It is a rewarding and often exciting experience to see how TC works and how faculty, administration, and trustees work together to make and keep TC a strong and vital and relevant institution."

"I am very grateful to TC, beyond words. My education paved the way to a career that has been totally satisfying. My connection to TC has enhanced and enriched my life."

"So what does this all have to do with today? I wanted to give back to TC, and my husband has made it possible for both of us to do so. We both loved the chance to support and participate in the library renovation. As the Civil War writer Shelby Foote noted, ‘a University is just a group of buildings gathered around a library.' We're thrilled that the renovation has begun. We hope to see you all here in just about a year from now when it is all finished."

Published Monday, Oct. 6, 2003