A ribbon cutting for the newly renovated Preston Library took place last week on November 11, also Founders Day at the Institute. Eighty-one years earlier, the first dedication of Preston Library was the main event of the centennial celebration of VMI’s founding.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt accepted an invitation to speak at VMI’s centennial celebration and Preston Library’s dedication, but the rapidly changing war in Europe prevented him from attending. Although Roosevelt was not able to address the crowd of approximately 15,000 in person, he delivered remarks from the White House by telephone a few minutes before the dedication of the library. Governor of Virginia James H. Price gave the centennial address and presided over the dedication, which occurred at 11:01 AM following a moment of silence to honor those who died during World War I.
The new library’s name honored John Thomas Lewis Preston, who played a significant role in founding the Institute and then served as a professor on the faculty for 41 years. Inside the spacious library, cadets, faculty and other library patrons found more than just VMI’s vast and growing book collection and new study areas. The building also served as the new location of the VMI Museum as well as a 440-seat auditorium with a balcony and a dedicated music room.
Speaking at the dedication, VMI’s Librarian Margaret Jones remarked “The policy long in force of trying to make the Library the most attractive spot on the Post will be continued, so that the young men who go through V.M.I. will develop a friendly feeling for libraries which will stand them in good stead all their lives. To fill all basic needs,… to make the Library easy and pleasant to use,… these are the aims of the entire staff, and it is their hope… that V.M.I. will have a beautiful and useful Library which will rank with the best in the state.”
Ms. Jones’ comments seem equally fitting for the newly renovated Preston Library, which provides cadets, faculty, and the VMI community with the resources, services, and study spaces they need to achieve academic success.