The night was unseasonably warm, so attendees at the tenth Library Gala on January 19 did not have to brave the usual cold. Many of our friends are saying it was the best Gala yet. The featured author-scholar, David Reynolds, spoke engagingly of the impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin on American history and culture. Our guests are saying they are now eager to read his book, Mightier than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America and even (re)read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Professor Reynolds stated that the Q and A session was the best he had experienced in a long time.

The audience walked to Mead Hall along a pathway glowing with luminaria. At the conclusion of the cocktail hour, President Vivian Bull gave greetings, followed by the announcement of the Béla Kornitzer Book Awards. That announcement will long be remembered as unique, for Noémi Neidorff, whose parents established the award, greeted us and named the winners from her home in St. Louis through the magic of video technology.

The outstanding book by an alumnus went to Linda E. Connors C’64 for National Identity in Great Britain and British North America, 1815–1851: The Role of Nineteenth-Century Periodicals (Ashgate, 2011). And the outstanding book by a faculty member was awarded to Edward Baring, assistant professor of Modern European Intellectual and Cultural History, for The Young Derrida and French Philosophy, 1945–1968 (Cambridge University Press, 2011).

The book endowment that the Friends of the Library established under the leadership of Dr. Lynn Heft grows with each Gala. That largesse has enabled the Library to add books to the stacks, and now e-books to the virtual stacks, beyond the purchasing power of the Library budget. At the last Gala, Dean Scrimgeour reported that the endowment had contributed $38,000 to the book budget in 2010–11. This year it is adding $112,000 to the budget. What a difference the growing endowment makes.

Dean Scrimgeour brought the program at the cocktail hour to an end with these words:
In this bleak mid-winter,
darkness stretching longer than day,
lights blaze in the library
where books surrender
to eager hands on the over-sized tables
and scoot up and down and sideways
on the luminous screens of portable
plastic libraries—
places all where authors are at the
beck and call of readers
at any hour, heat wave or hoarfrost.

He continued, “You make it so. May it always be so. Thank you for being part of this tradition. Let’s go down to dinner.”

 This article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Visions, the Library newsletter.