Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of the Faith and John Meem Library, which first opened its doors on November 10th, 1990. Situated at the foot of Monte Sol on the Santa Fe campus of St. John’s College, the third oldest college in the nation, the Meem Library has—in tandem with the Greenfield Library on our sister campus in Annapolis—for three full decades now been at the very heart of our singularly book-centered curriculum.
In ordinary times, this anniversary would call for an on-site celebration. In our current time, alas, our shared circumstances prevent us from gathering together to honor this occasion in person. In lieu, then, of raised glasses, we mark this three-decade milestone with the announcement of our new online project: From the Stacks – Items from the Collection of the Faith and John Meem Library at St. John’s College, Santa Fe.
Running through the very core of our College is a deep and common thread. We are at root a community made up of readers, individuals of a multitude of tastes and origins and creeds who all share a deep affection and respect for books. We know the pleasure and the power of reading books. We know the pleasure and power of conversing about books. And we know, whenever we enter a library or bookstore and have a little time, the paradoxical pleasure and power of browsing books. Paradoxical, because it is through the act of browsing that we are continually reminded of just how many books we still have yet to read. Browsing fosters both humility and desire, and for those of us who love books and the summoning to thought each one offers, there is something on every shelf that beckons. For so many of us, this is the very summons that has brought us to St. John’s.
In the months ahead we will browse our Library’s own collections and in these pages share the fruits of that browsing. While the Program itself will always be our Library’s primary focus and raison d’être, our full collection runs to some 70,000 different items, a good many of these rare or otherwise unusual. Our intention in these pages will be to highlight some of these lesser-known gems.
Some will be books drawn from our Special Collections, books whose lives are too often spent aloofly behind glass. Some will be items selected from our Archives, illuminating the rich and sometimes forgotten history of our College and our campus. Some will be items pulled from our general collection, books our patrons may have walked by a hundred times before and never paused to notice. All, we hope, will serve as reminders that, even in a time marked by the ubiquity of screens and our community’s wide dispersal, the Library quietly carries on its timeless charge: the gathering, cataloging, conserving, and sharing of these remarkable objects of leather and cloth and paper and ink that we call books, the material foundation of everything this College holds dear.
But before we wander off into the stacks, we want first to explicitly recognize this month’s anniversary by devoting a little space in the days ahead to honoring the Library itself, with an overview of its history, its benefactors, its namesakes, and some of the librarians who through the years have steadfastly tended and grown its collections. And so, on this occasion of our 30th, we invite everyone to join us in a spirit of celebration—a celebration of this singular Library, of our sublimely beautiful campus, of our unique Southwestern culture, of the generosity and kindness so many years ago now of Faith and John Meem, and of that deep and abiding passion for books we all, as a community of readers, have in common.