Dwight Peck's nostalgia gallery

The Library of the American College of Switzerland
in better days

A disappointingly small proportion of former ACS students and faculty looking back fondly to the past will also wish to see some pix of the ACS Library.  A somewhat larger proportion were probably unaware that there was a library.  But here it is.


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The original library in Les FrÍnes expanded through more and more rooms of the former clinic, starting from this marble-columned former lobby or whatever it was, and eventually filling eleven rooms right the way down to the laundry rooms.

The watchful head librarian

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Here's the Librarian in the late '70s and early '80s, Cathy Carey (now Spozio) busily processing new books.

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And the head librarian at that time, trying as usual to hide his confusion

Prof Berman seeking bibliographic advice from the Head Librarian

Les Avants

In summer 1980, whilst the Head Librarian was luxuriating at a conference for Academic Deans in the Berkshires, USA, Librarian Catherine Carey Spozio responded to the College's eviction from its premises in Leysin by supervising the removal of the entire ACS Library (including books, microfilms, journals, tables and chairs, bookshelves, and big bulky card catalogues) to its new premises in Les Avants, Switzerland.

The ACS Library book selection committee in Les Avants (Profs Peter von Bawey and Charles Berman) with ACS Library staff Catherine Carey, Alison Wills, and Laura Young, 1981.

Still in Les Avants, librarians Catherine Carey and Alison Wills smile beguilingly whilst Prof. Patrick Duddy studies poetry unashamedly.

Now, it's time to move the lot of this (books, card catalogues, etc.) back to

Leysin again.

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La Pyrole was the name of the ACS Library building, the former "Doctor's Villa" for the old Grand Hotel ca. 1900 -- 14 rooms absolutely chock-a-block with 50,000 volumes by the end of the 1980s, and when the last axe fell in 1991 we were still trying to convince the financial officers to let us build gardening sheds out the back to hold the overflow of books.

Here are some interior pix of La Pyrole way back when it was a real library.

The main reading room, with an impressive portrait of the famous caretaker Mr Conus, painted by then-student Maggie Peterson.

Another reading room, with snowy forests beckoning just outside the window, and ashtrays still on the tables.

Librarian Catherine Spozio (1977-1986), her typewriter (remember those?), the library's "shelf list" on the right, and beneath that, a few of the US Library of Congress cataloging schedules, none of them cheap.

No photos presently available of Assistant Librarian Ariane Giobellina (right) working hard in the Library, but seen here skiing in the nighttime with C. Berman and J. Wilson way above Leysin, February 1984.

The head librarian, with a huge cataloging backlog (left) and a pretty early generation computer, about 1984 -- data goes in the right floppy, the programme goes in the left one.

Assistant Librarian Anne ("Nanou") De Saule Foster of Leysin, circa 1985.

Farewell Party 1986: Former Assistant Librarian Laura Young (at that time assistant accountant in another part of the college administration, presently in Canada), Honoured Departee Librarian Catherine Carey Spozio, and a bemused passerby.

Librarian Wendy Scott (1986-87) from Syracuse, USA, seen here with ACS Prof. Erik Knudsen

The reference room

Librarian keeps a cautious eye on Dean Pirri

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No pictures immediately available of Candice (Henry) Greedy [right] in the Library during her tenure as Librarian, but this was taken in Leysin on the day of her interview for the position, 1987.

Denise Blaud-Miller, Assistant Librarian in the last years of the ACS Library's active life.

Say what you will about the ACS college management in the 1980s, and many people can say plenty!!, but however much money they threw away on strange sports ventures and plushy deals for the cronies, the ACS Library budget was always a very good one, for a school of that size. Certain top administrators, who won't be named here and are no longer on this planet anyway, whatever their other failings, valued college libraries and did their semi-best to pay for them. That is an uncommon virtue amongst private schools in the Alps.

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No worries about overflow these days, apparently -- by reliable accounts, no new books have gone into the Library since 1991, not counting old highlightered textbooks left behind in the dorm rooms. After the 50,000-volume ACS Library was purchased by the successor institution, that 12-campus institution's promotional brochure was amended to sing the praises of its inter-campus library loan programme featuring the whole system's entire 60,000-volumes. It almost makes you want to cry.

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La Pyrole again, and a lot of snow. The Head Librarian, fearing for students' lives or mounting liability insurance, used to stand out on that porch roof at daybreak and shovel snow off lest it collapse upon earnest seekers after knowledge when the midday sun hit the snowpack.

Like this (below).

Update 2012

But following the demise of the old college in 2009, the Grand Hotel college buildings have been bought up and renovated, and the library collection is being hauled out of storage, weeded judiciously, and put back into circulation for the LAS International Baccalaureate programme. Here is the ACS Library "La Pyrole" in its present incarnation:

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 10 January 1999, revised 26 November 2012, meddled with 15 January 2022. Photographs by Catherine Carey Spozio and D. C. Peck.

American College of Switzerland

Leysin village

Leysin scenery