December 18, 2010

Mount Allison University to replace former student centre to make room for new Fine and Performing Arts Centre

While contract negotiations are have been a topic of controversy on campus another issue has created virtually no reaction from current students and little controversy among some of Mount Allison's Alumni is the decision to tear down the old WWI Memorial Library (which was converted into a student centre in 1970 and since the opening of the new student centre in 2008 has been unused just months from covering the original entrance) in order to build a new Fine and Performing Arts Centre. A small group of people have pleaded to Mount Allison to not tear down the building, threatened to stop donating to the school. Fortunately for future Future Mount Allison Art students and the school budget, the decision seems to be final.

Information page about the Memorial Library (1927-1970) from Mount Allison's library history page:
Memorial Library 1927-1970
The Tudor-style Mount Allison Memorial Library was opened on 8 June 19271, and dedicated to those Allisonians who lost their lives in World War One. President George J. Trueman chaired the event. The crowd that assembled were addressed by the Honorable W. F. Todd, Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, and Rev. C. MacKinnon, Principal of Pine Hill Divinity Hall. The occasion concluded with the reading of the names of the war dead. For the first time in Mount Allison’s eighty-four year history there was a building dedicated solely to library purposes. This allowed the consolidation of library holdings that had been scattered in a number of buildings around campus. The new $110,000 building was built to accommodate 60,000 volumes, providing the necessary room for growth. Staff consisted of faculty member Dr. F. W. W. DesBarres a cataloguer and two clerks. By 1940, DesBarres and his staff had increased the collection to 43,000 volumes. The Mary Mellish Archibald Memorial Library (MMAML), formerly in the Ladies’ College, had been assigned its own room, complete with oak furniture and sound equipment for the record collection. In the 1930s it was extended across a complete floor of the stacks. A ‘capacious vault’ was provided to provide a fireproof space for archival material.2
In 1942, Winifred Snider (BA, B.LSc. (Toronto), who had worked as Dr. DesBarres’ Assistant Librarian for nine years, was appointed as chief Librarian, the first professional librarian to hold this position at Mount Allison. When she left the position in 1945, changes were introduced and professor H. P. Gundy, after a summer session in Library Administration at Columbia University, was appointed Director of Library Services. Mary D. Falconer (1945 - 1949) served as Librarian, by which time the holdings had increased to 75,000 volumes. She was followed by Olga Bishop (1949 - 1953), and Laurie Allison (1953 - 1967).
As spacious as the new building had seemed when first occupied, the period of rapid expansion common to all universities after World War Two made an addition to the library necessary. The collection had grown to 120,000 volumes by the mid 1950s, archival material spilled over from the Vault into the Board Room, and staff had increased to ten persons.  A 1950 student guide noted branch libraries – a library in the Science Building, the Carnegie Music Collection of eighty books in the office of the Dean of Music, and a library in the common room of the Academy.
An expansion was critically needed and plans set in motion. The William Morley Tweedie Annex3 opened on 13 August 1960, increasing the stack capacity of the building to 140,000 volumes. It was funded through a bequest from professor W. M. Tweedie and his sister Leora Tweedie and a grant from the Canada Council. The Annex provided only short-term relief and space issues quickly surfaced again because of the continued and accelerated growth of the University in the 1960s. In addition, the library was receiving large gifts of books, such as the collection of Acadiana donated by Winthrop Pickard Bell in 1965.
The compilers of the Mount Allison Faculty Association's 1962 Excellence Report4 had calculated that at the current rate of acquisition, the Memorial Library would be full by 1967. They therefore recommended a further expansion to the building. A subsequent study determined that the site would not accommodate another addition and, besides, would not meet the requirements of a modern library.
In 1966, President Laurie Cragg described the radical conceptual changes in library architecture and services that had occurred since 1927: 
“Gone is the concept of the baronial entrance hall, of the lofty spacious reading rooms, of the separated limited-access stacks; outmoded too is the idea that a library is solely a place to store and consult printed (or written) material. The modern library should make a variety of study materials – books, periodicals, documents, microfilm and micro-cards, maps, records, tapes, prints and reproductions – readily accessible to all its patrons. The books should be in open stacks with reading tables dispersed among them; there should be study carrels, faculty studies (sic), typing rooms, audio visual rooms, rare book rooms, browsing rooms – all the appointments that will make reading and study attractive and convenient”.5
In 1966 preparations began for a new library building. Chief Librarian Eleanor Magee (1967-1979) assisted in its planning and was responsible for supervising the move to new quarters. When the Ralph Pickard Bell Library opened in October 1970, the Memorial Library building underwent significant renovations and became a University Centre for students and alumni.

1 Designed by Andrew Cobb, Halifax, NS.  Contractor was H. O. Clark, Saint John, NB. The building was faced with red Sackville stone on the body of the building, with the olive stone from the Read quarry at Dorchester for the trim. 
2 Mount Allison Record, Vol. X, Nos. 4-5, May 1927, p. 39
3 William Morley Tweedie  taught English Language and Literature at Mount Allison from 1887 to 1937. The Annex was designed by the architectural firm C. A. Fowler & Co. of Halifax, NS and built by Parsons Construction Limited, Moncton, NB
4 Mount Allison Faculty Association, The Idea of Excellence at Mount Allison, (Sackville: Mount Allison University) 1962
5 The Record, Spring 1966

From the CBC:
Alumni rally to save old Mount A. library
1920s memorial building would cost $5M to repair, university says
Last Updated: Friday, November 19, 2010 | 5:00 PM AT 
CBC News

The old library was built in the 1920s and is now unused. (Mount Allison University)
The old library was built in the 1920s and is now unused. (Mount Allison University)

Some alumni at Mount Allison University are fighting to save a building that has been a part of the Sackville, N.B., campus for more than 80 years.
The red sandstone structure was built in 1927 as a memorial to students who died in the First World War. It was designed by prominent Maritime architect Andrew Cobb.
The building was used as a library until the 1970s. Since then it has been revamped to serve as the student centre and became a campus hub, housing the student union, radio station and pub.
The building is currently unused and the stone entrance is covered over with vines. It is being torn down to make way for a new Fine Arts and Performance Centre.
Bruce Coates graduated from Mount Allison in 1969 and said the old library was the centre of the campus and appeared on brochures and in advertising.
Coates and his wife are writing e-mails to rally other alumni to ask Robert Campbell, the university's president, to reverse the decision to demolish it.
"It's a splendid building that looks to be in exceedingly good condition and it's an important link to the past," Coates said.
"It's a building that all Mount Allison alumni relate to and it just has huge emotion associated with it, having been the library and student centre. It's one of the most important buildings on campus for many generations of students."
$5M bill would go to future students
Mount Allison vice-president David Stewart said the building is not in good condition and that architects found significant structural problems.
He said the administration wanted to keep it, but it needs $5 million in repairs. That would add to the price of the new centre and the cost would have to be passed on to future students.
Stewart said that was a move that could not be justified.
"We had to make a decision. We delayed making that decision for months while we analyzed this process and listened to people, but eventually we had to make our decision," Stewart said.
"We've made that decision and we're moving on with designs for this new centre, which is going to be a fabulous centre for Mount Allison and for Sackville and for New Brunswick."
Stewart said the president has received about 30 e-mails from people who want to save the building.

Saving Memorial Library too costly: officials
Published on October 21st, 2010
Katie Tower

Mount Allison University has decided to tear down the historic Memorial Library building on campus to make way for a new fine and performing arts centre, saying the increased pricetag to save it would be too much to bear
“The cost to the university to maintain the building was excessive,” said David Stewart, Mount A’s vice-president of administration.
Stewart said the estimated cost of the new fine and performing arts facility is set at about $30 million, but would increase to $35 million if it were to renovate the existing building to convert it for use as a modern arts centre. Those additional funds would add an extra burden onto the university’s operating budget, likely resulting in a rise in tuition fees.
“That $5 million would have to come from our students,” he said.
The former Memorial Library building (more recently known as the old student centre) was built in 1927 by renowned architect Andrew Randall Cobb and was dedicated to the Mount Allison alumni who had lost their lives in the First World War. The plaques honouring the victims of WWI are now on display in the new student centre.
The building was used as a library and meeting place for many years until it was replaced by the Ralph Pickard Bell Library in the 1970s. In the ensuing years, it was used as the university's student centre and pub until a new one was opened on the other side of campus.
Stewart said over the summer the university has been doing its “due diligence” before deciding whether to retain or replace the building when it moves forward on plans for its new fine and performing arts centre.
Earlier this month, the board of regents reviewed information and opinion that had been gathered since its meeting in May, when the administration had been asked to review the possibility of saving the Memorial Library.
Stewart said it’s standard procedure for the university to start out each infrastructure project by doing all they can to save an existing building.
“Unfortunately, though, sometimes we just can’t.”
He said the board, after examining the material and asking questions about all dimensions of the project – from technical and design issues to location and financial ones – decided that the university should move forward with the design of a new facility, while incorporating and preserving elements of the existing building.
There are simply too many structural and electrical issues that would cost too much to overcome, said Stewart. He noted there is evidence of fatigue in the main supporting beams, a lack of headroom for the building’s purpose, and the need to completely replace all mechanical and electrical systems.
“We always have to do what’s best for the students and faculty,” said Stewart. “And it’s an expensive proposition to keep that building.”
Stewart said of the $30 million required to fund this project, $20 million will be brought in through fundraising and alumni support. The remaining $10 million will come from the university itself.
Stewart said although he understands the public outcry to preserve the building, sometimes it’s just not fiscally possible to do so.
He said, however, that Mount A is committed to maintaining its campus the best it can and has demonstrated its sensitivity to historically important properties.
Approximately $10 million annually is spent on building and grounds upkeep, including the recent restoration of the Wallace McCain Student Centre building, Colville House, the Benett Building, and Anchorage.
As well, a major restoration is currently underway at the Owens Art Gallery and work on renovating the historic Black House is also being initiated.
Stewart said the design work for the new arts centre is anticipated to get under way within the next six to eight months, and will take about 18 months to two years to complete with construction expected to begin in the fall of 2012.

Planning process under way for conversion of Mount A’s historic Memorial Library
Published on July 22nd, 2010
Carly Levy

The fate of a historic building on the Mount Allison campus is still up in the air as university administrators decide how to convert the facility into a brand new Fine and Performing Arts Centre.
David Stewart, Mount A’s vice-president of administration, says the university is currently in the “information-gathering stage” of a project that will decide the future of the former Memorial Library building (or more recently known as the old student centre).
The building was originally built in 1927 as a library and was dedicated to Mount Allison alumni who had lost their lives in the First World War – the plaques honouring the victims of WWI are now on display in the Wallace McCain Student Centre outside of Tweedie Hall. The left side of the building, including the back entrance, encompasses what is called Tweedie Wing, which was added around 1958.
The new proposed facility is part of a four-stage project that has spanned several years, said Stewart. The first part of the project was replacing Trueman house with a new residence, Campbell Hall, followed by the refurbishment of Trueman into what is now the Wallace McCain Student Centre.
Currently underway is stage three of the project – converting the Memorial Library/former student centre into a Fine and Performing Arts Centre.
The first step in the process was laying out the logistics for what exactly the building was going to be used for and the specific requirements for what was going to be housed in the facility, explained Stewart.
An assessment was conducted on the building, after which it was revealed that there are problems with the Memorial Library section meeting code. The building is suffering from structural fatigue and certain sections lack the ‘head-room’ required for the Fine and Performing Arts Department, said Stewart, who pointed out that these restraints limit what can go into the current building.
Stewart stressed, however, that no final decisions have been made regarding the fate of the Memorial Library building. The ability to use the current building is still being questioned and Stewart says “we would do that with any project.”
At the moment, the university is gathering as much information as they can on the issues with the building so they can make a decision over the next couple of months.
The option is there to take the building down and, according to vice-president Stewart, nothing has been designed yet. It is still in the concept stages and it is too early to say what type of design the building will have.
“The university has been open to many different possibilities,” Stewart said last Thursday “(but) at the end of the day, we have to do what’s best for the students and faculty who use it because that’s what its all about.”
A review is currently under way into how much it would cost to use the current building and, as it stands right now, it will cost up to 10 per cent more to integrate the Memorial Library into the new design – approximately $3 million more expensive.
And he also pointed out that the building wouldn’t be able to be used very efficiently in terms of energy and operating costs.
This is important to consider, he said, because ultimately after all the fundraising is finished, “it’s the students that will have to pay for it.”
A lot of information has gone to the board of regents to get the process moving but the university is still gathering as much as they can about the current structure.
“There are lots of different questions we need to explore, like what can we do to get better use out of the building,” said Stewart.
Taking into account the public’s opinions and input, sorting through the complex information about the building, figuring out what it means and putting it all together is the number one priority right now, he insisted. Then the next big decision will be to determine whether or not the Memorial Library will be a part of the new design.


  1. The building is not unused - at least the Drama Department doesn't seem to think so. There is a theatre, a costume shop, a set building shop, several offices, rehearsal rooms and a very active theatre. There have been a half-dozen plays there this year already. I guess you have never been to a play during your years at the University?

  2. If you have a problem with the term "unused" which is referenced from an article, you can feel free to contact the CBC and correct them. It's a relative term. The Old STUDENT CENTRE no longer houses any of the offices for Student Services, or the pub, any the other functions it was redesigned to do, and for ALMOST all intents and purposes doesn't serve the functions for which it was renovated. By building a Fine Arts Building in its place the school is saving $5 million and providing a much better venue for performances.

    I don't know about the author, but I've been to a few performances at the small theatre at Mount Allison and each time have noticed how small the theater is, how much better Live Bait Theatre is, and how unfortunate it is that Mount Allison hasn't renovated or replaced Windsor Theatre.

    But I really don't see how splitting hairs about the how nominally used the theatre is in its current state. Are you trying to say it is only 80% unused so it shouldn't be torn down? What's the point of your comment? Are you just anonymously trolling for the fun of it or do you actually believe the school should waste $5 million to rebuild a deteriorating building like the...OH WAIT less than seventy people out of 10,000 the complainers hope to sign a petition to save the "library"?

    I'm going to have to assume the later...because otherwise your comment is not worth writing. There's a place and time for complaining but that place was Dr. Campbell's office SEVEN MONTHS AGO in July when the administration was in its planning stages and looking for input just like your's.

    I think if those 67 petitioners came up with the $5 million extra that would be needed to fix the building they would have a better case.