Shown are Pipers front and center of the library, Scottish Festival 2012
Lyon College’s library has come a long way since 1872. Just like everything else in the early years of life at tiny Arkansas (now Lyon) College, the library was a small affair in the nineteenth century. For the first twenty years of the college’s existence the official college "library" was maintained in the office of the president, while the literary societies oversaw their own small libraries and the faculty provided a "reading room" of current periodicals inside one of the classrooms. The Isaac J. Long Memorial Building, completed in1893,contained one room devoted to the college's growing library of about two thousand volumes. In 1921, Erwin Gymnasium was remodeled and transformed into a library building, and Irene Ferrill was hired as the college’s first full-time librarian, a job that in previous decades had been occupied by a succession of junior faculty members. (The Erwin Library is now the fellowship hall of the First Presbyterian Church.) Mrs. Ferrill re-classified the library’s holdings according to the duodecimal system and oversaw a growing cadre of students who worked part-time in the library. By 1923, the library’s holdings had grown to 7,500 volumes. By the mid-1920s, Mrs. Ferrill and her students had re-classified the library once again, this time using the new Dewey Decimal system that was becoming the standard for institutions of higher education.<alt="graphic"> Difficult financial times at the college in the latter part of the 1920s and the 1930s hit the library particularly hard. The too-small library became one of the roadblocks to successful accreditation, and one inspector in the late 1930s referred to the library as "deplorable". By World War II, library spending had almost completely dried up. But the college quickened its path toward accreditation and the development of a modern college library after the war, taking an important first step with the hiring of Dorothy Sydenstricker as librarian in 1948.
Mrs. Sydenstricker was the first Arkansas College librarian with university training in library science and would remain at the college for twenty-five years. With the move to the present campus in May 1954, the middle building of the three old Masonic buildings (later named Long Memorial) became the site of the new library, although the building also housed the chapel, post office, and bookstore. The 1950s and 1960s witnessed tremendous growth in the library’s holdings, much of it due to annual grants from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the development of the college’s first interlibrary loan agreement with a group of other independent colleges known as the Arkansas Foundation of Associated Colleges (AFAC).The current library structure, originally called the Mabee Learning Resources Center but renamed The Mabee-Simpson Library after a major renovation in 1994-95, was completed in 1968. At that time the library’s holdings amounted to less than 50,000 volumes. Lyon College’s library has undergone significant changes since the arrival of current director Dean Covington in 1988. In 1990-91, the library made the conversion from a traditional card catalog to a computerized catalog, one whose holdings are now classified according to the Library of Congress system. The renovation of the facilities in the mid-1990s roughly doubled the size of the library, providing more space for bound periodicals, staff offices and work areas, and student study rooms. By the end of the decade the number of holdings was nearing the 150,000-volume goal set by the Strategic Plan. In addition, the vast improvements in interlibrary loaning and the blossoming of on-line databases and services promised to revolutionize library use in the new millennium.
-written by Dr. Brooks Blevins
Professor of History, Missouri State University
Former Associate Professor of History, Lyon College
Students display the 1,000 cranes they made to give to Hiroshima during their trip to Japan.
In a small courtyard in the Mabee-Simpson Library of Lyon College stands an icon sacred to the college. The Tornado Cross is a testament of the toughness of the college in recovering from the worst devastation in its history. The cross was torn off the steeple of Brown Chapel in 1973 during a tornado that completely destroyed two buildings and heavily damaged several others, striking on Maundy Thursday at 10:30 in the morning. Thankfully no one was killed. As people wandered around in shock that day, regrouping and reorganizing, Dr. Fitzhugh Spragins, Brown Professor of Religion, ’57, found the cross and tucked it away in his office where it stayed for 22 years until his retirement in 1995.
At that time, on October 21, 1995, the cross was placed in the courtyard and dedicated by President John Griffith. Lou Ann Hance ’52 gave the granite pedestal on which it stands. The courtyard consisted of grass, beautiful Japanese maple trees, benches for meditation, and shrubs. The courtyard was enjoyed and stood quietly for many years until 2010.
In 2010, supporters of the library wanted to improve the courtyard. Larry Coleman, a master gardener in Batesville was consulted and he created a plan for a Japanese Meditation Garden, inspired by the existing Japanese maples. Bids came from several landscape companies. A carpenter, George Simon was consulted about costs for outdoor furniture. The project was finalized and then the request went out for gifts. Mrs. Hope Spragins led the charge. Friends and relatives of Dr. Spragins, and “Friends of the Library” completed the project. “Mitchell’s Landscaping” was hired and the project was completed in October of 2010. Now the “Tornado Cross Garden” includes two gurgling fountains, boulders covered with moss, huge flagstones leading to the cross, wooden furniture for relaxing, and landscaping that includes exotic plants, trees, and shrubs. The Mabee-Simpson Library is proud of the Memorial Garden, and thankful to all those who contributed to it. It is a beautiful addition to Lyon College and will give everyone many years of peace, tranquility, and harmony. The cross stands strong as does Lyon College, a tribute to the faith of the Lyon people to believe and to persevere.
-Written by Camille Beary, class of 1980
Assistant Director of the Mabee-Simpson Library of Lyon College
There is a tradition at Lyon that before finals or a big test, students touch the cross and say "Ebenezer" three times for a blessing.
Chapel Sermon for 9/18/2014 spoken in The Tornado Cross Garden
The Reverend William Branch
“God’s Ebenezer” I Corinthians 1:18-31
Last week, the Rev. Leslie Roper told us about the Ebenezer stone raised by Samuel (I Sam. 7:12) as a sign and remembrance that “the Lord has helped us.” She reminded us that Ebenezer meant “Stone of Help,” and she invited us to place stones together in our own Ebenezer with the names of those who had been of help to us. We thus have the Ebenezer that we have made on the Communion table in the Small Chapel. It is there as a remembrance of those people, groups, places and things that have helped us. This is our Ebenezer.
Today I want to talk about another Ebenezer; not one of our making, but one that God has made for this campus. On April 19, 1973, a tornado struck this campus. The cross that had shown forth to all the world the message that the chapel of this college was a place for the worship of God was blown from the top of the steeple.
Fortunately there was no loss of life here at the college, but there was significant destruction. The professor of religion here at Lyon in those days was a seminary class-mate of mine, Dr. Fitzhugh Spraggins. Fitz found the cross that was blown from the steeple, and he saved it in his office and gave it to the college at the time of his retirement.
Behind me here in the Tornado Cross Garden is that very cross. It is bent and its base is mangled, but it still stands as a symbol of God’s love for the world that seems to many to be nothing more than divine foolishness.
I am a member of the Presbyterian Church’s Disaster Response Team, and I have gone throughout the United States to share God’s presence and love with those who have suffered loss and heartache. I have seen people survive, recover, and by the grace of God start a new chapter in their lives after tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and floods. I know that with God’s help and love people can begin again even after death and destruction. God is a God of resurrection and new life. It has happened on this campus, and it can happen in your life. After a workshop that I helped to lead for FEMA workers after they had spent many weeks helping people who had lost loved ones and homes to a vicious mud slide, one of the FEMA workers came to me and said, “Thank you. I was so depressed that I didn’t know how I was going to face life, but you and your team have helped me to see that God still loves me and loves this community.”
Things may happen in your life: it may be your class work or a relationship; it may be something with your family; it may be something that is within you and is very private; but let this cross be an Ebenezer, a stone of remembrance, that God loves you and God is the God of resurrection and new life. God’s grace and goodness can shine a light in the darkest night. God’s love can bring you forgiveness, joy and new life even when it seems that there is no hope…there is always hope in Christ. It is not foolishness. It is life. It is God’s Ebenezer.
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