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Letter to the Editor: A $25 million potential

As a longtime friend and supporter of the Silicon Valley Archive, since an initial mid-1980s research visit to interview its founder, innovative librarian Henry Lowood, as part of an NSF-sponsored study of the entrepreneurial university with Stanford as a strategic research site, I would like to push back against violating the “quasi-sacred space” of Green Library’s east wing, a “…calm refuge” for reflection. 

If the late urbanist Jane Jacobs had ended her depiction of the vibrant street life of mid-20th century Greenwich Village without a call to struggle against its destruction, we would have a roadway bisecting Washington Square Park and a nonexistent rather than gentrified village. Not that all university buildings should be preserved unaltered – times and needs change. It is doubtful that even the most ardent preservationist mourns the passing of the Meyer undergraduate library. Its construction was apparently a cover for a massive mainframe computer intended to run the university, at least according to the thesis of a British architect panelist at an event at Cardiff University in Wales a few years ago. Everyone seems pleased by the angled design of Stanford’s yard, which creates a mid-campus forum. Nevertheless, the demise of Meyer leaves Green East wing as the primary indoor open library commons. 

Stacks have been removed from the Business School Library to be repurposed for worthy uses like a lactation room.  A home and public exhibition space for the history of a unique regional innovation environment should be complemented with a research and policy center for the study of Silicon Valley both in parallel and in apposition to the Hoover Institute’s mission. Such an entity, possibly also including the Martin Luther King Center now housed in an out-of-the-way Quonset hut, deserves a better home for its mission. The generous Hohlbach $25 million is an excellent start.  Several matching donors should be sought to realize a larger vision, making the archive a centerpiece of a “living lab” focused on creating a future Silicon Valley reconfigured according to principles of equality and social justice as well as innovation and entrepreneurship.  It is usually advisable to improve, rather than rest on laurels, but keeping the East Wing basically as it is with a light touch update is surely worth a petition drive!

Henry Etzkowitz, International Triple Helix Institute.

Contact Henry Etzkowitz at henry.etzkowitz ‘at’ triplehelix.net.

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