top of page
  • Julia Mellinger

A Brief History of Burrage Library

A brief tour of one of Olivet's Historic Buildings. Filming, editing, and voice over all by Julia Mellinger.


Julia Mellinger: Welcome to the Burrage Library on Olivet College's campus

The furniture out front used to be in the bottom level where there used to be a coffee shop. Judy Fales, the current librarian, put the furniture outside when the bottom floor layout changed. The outdoor furniture now gets used quite often.

Judy Fales told me that, long ago, a student named Al Peterson, music major, would climb the tower and play the carillon as people walked to lunch and dinner. That was his student employment. Alums often speak of how wonderful this was and created an atmosphere of peace.

As you walk up the steps to each of the different levels, you get a beautiful view of the neighboring church.

The library began being built in 1889 and construction finished very quickly, and was open to the public as easy as 1890. said the library contains just short of 72,000 books, and roughly 1,500 to 2000 books are circulated every year, meaning there are always new books to look for.

This door you see being opened was one of the old, original doors. They needed to replace the old doors at the entrance for safety measures, so Judy Fales came up with the idea to keep it inside.

Judy Fales: The front door of the library used to face main street to emphasize this and to kind of illustrate that it was open to everyone. That’s one of the tenets of congregationalism. Being open to everyone. Being accepted and accepting of everyone. So, you can still see the marks in the uprights here where the hinges held these big, solid, wooden doors.

Julia: You’ll also notice a picture of what the original library looked like before all of the modern renovations we see today.

On Jan. 17, 1991, Olivet College was in the process of beginning to renovate the library when a freshman heard a cracking noise, just before one of the library’s walls collapsed. You can see on the left is the newest addition built almost 30 years ago, and the right is a part of the original library built about 130 years ago.

Coming into the bottom floor, you can find students studying in quiet space, getting ready for tests, doing their homework, or getting help from ITS.

Olivet College has modernized this lower level of the library in recent years. You’ll find many students studying down here for tests or doing their homework. However, there are many students who work in the library as well.

Audrey Helfrich: "My name is Audrey Helfrich. I am a senior here and I’ve been working at the library since my sophomore year. It’s probably my favorite job. I just get to sit here at the desk and do homework, and I love it because it’s super quiet. It’s just easy to focus."


bottom of page