April 7, 2004
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass.-The Amherst College Library will celebrate the addition of the millionth volume to its collections with ceremonies and a symposium on the poet James Merrill '47 on Friday, April 23, and Saturday, April 24. All events are free and open to the public.

The "millionth volume" in the library actually comprises several acquisitions, according to Willis E. Bridegam, Librarian of the College, including printed books, music CDs, film DVDs, databases of electronic images, a periodical index and a rare collection of important letters that will be announced at the ceremony. Bridegam, who is retiring after 29 years at Amherst, says, "Celebrating the library's millionth volume is a very special occasion. It gives us an opportunity to reflect on the importance of the printed word to a liberal arts college and to consider how electronic access to information is supplementing and changing the way we provide information to our users."

A reception for students, featuring music by "AJ junior's fantastical jazz machine," will take place on Friday, April 23, at 2 p.m. in the Friendly Periodical Reading Room at Robert Frost Library. At 3:45 p.m., bell music will be offered from the Stearns Steeple Carillon.

At 4 p.m. Richard Wilbur '42, former Poet Laureate of the U.S. and Robert Frost Library Fellow, who was also present at the dedication of the RobertFrost Library in 1963, will read a poem. Samuel B. Ellenport '65, the Chairman of the Friends of the Amherst College Library, will present the principal millionth acquisition to Bridegam, who will also describe the other acquisitions. William H. Pritchard '53, the Henry Clay Folger Professor of English at Amherst, will also speak. Guests can explore the library's electronic resources in the Barbara and Frederick S. Lane '36 Room (Level A). An exhibition and reception in the Archives and Special Collections will follow.

On Saturday, April 24, at 2 p.m. in Pruyne Lecture Hall (Fayerweather 115), writers and scholars will commemorate the life and work of James Merrill, the poet who graduated from Amherst in 1947. Merrill's nephew, poet and writer Robin Magowan, will speak about the year Merrill taught at Amherst (1955-56) and his novel The Seraglio (1957). Richard Wilbur will recall his friendship with Merrill and life at Amherst College in the 1940s. Jack Hagstrom, Merrill's bibliographer, will speak about the poet's early publications. Merrill's biographer Langdon Hammer will discuss Merrill's life at Amherst. Writer and poet Stephen Yenser, Merrill's literary executor and editor of a forthcoming collection of the poet's letters, will consider Merrill's youthful work, written while he was an undergraduate at Amherst from 1943 to 1947.

Daniel Hall, writer in residence at Amherst and the poet who was the first Merrill Fellow to live and write in the Merrill apartment in Stonington, Conn., will moderate the discussion. Members of the audience, especially those who knew Merrill or know his work, will be encouraged to participate in the discussion.

Saturday's symposium will be followed by a reception in Archives and Special Collections in the Robert Frost Library, where Merrill's books, letters, manuscripts and memorabilia and the works of symposium participants will be on display.