Background on 2023 Old Library Inscription Removal

2017: In the context of the white supremacy protests in Charlottesville, VA, Kim Cassidy announces a moratorium on the use of the name “Thomas Library” in all official representations and the formation of a History Working Group composed of representatives of faculty, staff, students, administrators, and trustees to explore renaming the M. Carey Thomas Library.

2018: On May 3, 2018, the History Working Group recommended that the building be renamed but that the inscription of her name remain on its façade. Their rationale, in part, stated “A college explicitly committed to inclusion should err on the side of creating campus spaces where all students, regardless of background, can learn, dream, achieve, and feel seen, heard and valued. We have learned that the daily use of the Thomas name on our most iconic building does not support that goal.”

The Board deliberated over these recommendations in June and July 2018 and endorsed the History Working Group recommendation. In August, then Board of Trustees chair Ann Logan sent an email announcement about the Board’s decision to refer to the building as “The Old Library” and “The Great Hall… in the daily life of the College” and leave the façade inscription intact. Later that same day, Kim Cassidy announced the College’s affirmation of the decision and summarized new DEIA commitments for the coming 2018-19 academic year.

The Board also formed a DEI working group that developed recommendations for the larger Board on changes to advance equity and inclusion in Board structures and carrying out the Board’s work.  Responsibility for ongoing DEI oversight and education was later moved to the Committee on Trustees.

2019: Bryn Mawr’s Board revised the College’s mission statement, in consultation with administrators, faculty and staff, to recognize equity and inclusion as our engine for excellence and innovation.  In doing so, the Board explicitly committed to building fair, open, and welcoming institutional structures, values and culture. 

The Telling Bryn Mawr Histories Group installed a veil over the National Historic Register plaque honoring M. Carey Thomas inside Old Library and installed an explanation of the building’s renaming.

2020: The Bryn Mawr student strike of November 2020 listed as one of their demands the “removal of M. Carey Thomas’ name inscribed on the Old Library building façade….”

2021: Board of Trustees chair Ann Logan launches effort to tackle the question of what to do with the façade’s M. Carey Thomas inscription.  She establishes a Board Institutional Monuments Advisory Group, known as IMAG, which convened in January. IMAG confronted the fraught legacy of M. Carey Thomas and brought an increasingly shared understanding of the responsibility to confront the damage and hurt caused by this form of honoring her legacy. IMAG researched how other institutions both educational and non-educational have grappled with naming issues, in addition to other topics.

The Board convened two special June sessions to develop a deeper understanding from faculty and staff about the College’s ongoing work to study College histories and other efforts related to advancing DEIA.

The Campus Partnership for Equity and Anti-Racism effort is launched by President Cassidy to help guide and accelerate the progress of equity and anti-racism actions and initiatives at the College. CPEAR’s membership includes two Board members.

2022: The Board convened discussions with faculty and staff to consider further the implications of their decision options. In October, IMAG hosted four listening sessions with members of the Bryn Mawr community (students, faculty, staff, alumnae/i) in leadership positions and/or direct involvement with the College’s histories and DEIA work to hear more about constituency sentiment around the future of the façade inscription.

2023: Following extensive research and deliberation, the Board of Trustees votes to remove the inscription.