Since the 1960s, Haas Library (now Haas College Center), constructed in the 1920s, had been viewed as outdated, undersized, and inaccessible, with overflowing shelves, inadequate mechanical systems, and no spaces for individual or small group study. In 1980, the College launched a $25-million capital campaign, with a new library being a central component.
Muhlenberg’s new $12.1 million library was designed by Robert Geddes, former dean of the Princeton School of Architecture, of the firm Geddes Brecher Qualls Cunningham of Princeton, NJ. Construction was overseen by Alvin H. Butz, Inc. of Allentown. The addition of the Center for the Arts in the previous decade had helped free the College from the collegiate Gothic style that marked its development in the first half of the twentieth century. The choice of where to build the new library was a challenging one, and eight possible sites were considered. Ultimately, Geddes helped make the final decision. The library was built on Hagen Field, which served the field hockey team.
The formal groundbreaking ceremony was held on March 14, 1987 and included the release of over 400 cardinal and gray balloons, held by students who stood on the perimeter of the future building. The event also served to kick off the Campaign for Muhlenberg: Portal to the 21st Century, a $35-million fund-raising effort to extend into the 1990s.
The library, a 70,000 sq. ft. structure of brick, limestone, and granite with a copper roof, was constructed to hold 300,000 print volumes. The furniture was crafted by Thomas Moser, Cabinetmaker of solid cherry; Muhlenberg’s was the first library in the nation to be fully furnished by Moser. On the wall under the portico, one can view the “Tree of Knowledge” sculpture by William Conrad Severson carved in relief. Carved in the lintel over Trexler’s red doors one sees the Hebrew, Greek, and Egyptian hieroglyph representations of the word “book.”
The new library was to be named in honor of General Harry C. Trexler (1854-1933), the local industrialist and landowner whose foundation, the Trexler Trust, provided a grant towards the construction of the building.
The weekend of September 30 to October 1, 1998 marked the dedication of the Harry C. Trexler Library. Activities included a laser show, an outdoor festival celebrating books and book crafts, a film celebrating the life of General Trexler, and a ceremonial book-passing along a “human chain” from Haas Library to Trexler. In fact, 200,000 volumes and 500,000 government documents had been moved over twelve days in July and August of 1988 by library moving specialist William R. Meyer, Inc., of Connecticut.
Since 1988, Trexler Library has continued to grow and adapt as information creation and dissemination has changed. With classrooms, individual and group study spaces, state-of-the-art technology, and print and online resources, it continues to serve as the intellectual heart of the campus.