March 15, 2016
John [Ulmschneider], thank you for that introduction and your leadership. We are here today because one of the first things you said to me years ago was that we need a new library, and we started talking about ways to make it happen. You made it happen, and I thank you and congratulate you.
Secretary [of Education Anne] Holton, thank you for joining us. You have truly been a champion for higher education in the commonwealth, and for VCU. We brought this idea to you, and you supported it, and I hope you’ll support it again when I come to you soon and tell you that we already need a bigger library! We’re already out of space!
Today really is a great day that’s about VCU’s future. And as we celebrate our library of the future, I spent some time thinking about the great libraries of the past. They were in places like Alexandria, Ephesus, Thebes, and they were the heartbeat of the ancient world. Libraries were the places where people met to talk about culture, art, engineering, medicine or other deep thoughts. It’s no exaggeration to say that the things that define us as human beings really began in libraries.
In fact, libraries were so important to so many of humanity’s great cultures that the Egyptians etched above the door at the Library in Thebes the words “Medicine for the Soul.” They believed that whatever your soul needed could be found in the library.
Well, libraries are still medicine for the soul. That’s why Cabell Library has such a large a Starbucks, after all! It’s still a place to discover knowledge and to discover oneself. What was true millennia ago, is still true: A library is the center of the academic and moral universe. And it’s the center of our mission as 21st-century research university.
I’m proud we now have a library that matches the amazing research university that we are. As VCU grew into a premier research university — thanks to you — our library didn’t grow with us. This was one of my most important projects as president, to meet the needs of a 21st-century research university that’s relevant to our people. That means we had to have a space that suits the way students prefer to learn to work, and we needed the academic resources to catalyze our teaching and research missions. Our students deserve every asset to help them succeed. And our faculty deserve every tool to help them achieve.
As we proudly cut the ribbon on our new library today, I am reminded that it sits at the center of our mission and is — and always will be — medicine for our soul.
Thank you for being here.