Library renovations spark curiosity about 50-year-old Lehigh blazer

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Lehigh University library blazer

For as long as any of the LTS “old timers” can remember, the EWFM Library circulation office has housed several old wool men’s blazers, carefully hung in a first floor closet. The blazer fashion and fabric suggests a circa 1960s timeframe, and the jackets are embroidered with the Lehigh seal and the word “Library” (photo adjacent). As plans to move the circulation service and office space got underway this summer, and the blazers were relocated, the significance of the blazers became a subject of discussion -- what are these jackets, and what were they for?

The lore of the blazer

In the oral tradition, the story of the blazer has been conveyed by long-time library staffers. The lore is that students who worked in the library in the 1960s were required to wear these suit jackets when they sat at the service desk. 

Berry Richards, who was the library director from 1977 to 1997, believes that the blazers were probably issued under the direction of James Mack, who had been the director prior to her. 

Another librarian, Sharon Siegler, confirms that the blazers were Mack’s inspiration.“They were worn by the student assistants at the circulation desk in Linderman. I think the idea was to project the image of good students, not slackers.” Siegler, who worked at Lehigh from 1971-2015, recalls, “The practice fell into disuse. It may have been revived in Mart (and maybe Linderman) so that the evening supervisors had an official look.”

Blazers that are the same or similar to the ones now in the closet can be found in the 1971 Epitome photo of the Library staff. Two of three men in the last row of the group library photo (below) appear to be wearing this type of jacket.

Thumbing through the pages of the Epitome, it’s fairly clear that the blazers were not unique to the library. In the late sixties, students wore the blazers for Epitome photos with their fraternity, club, or in some cases at university events. (photos below, 1968 Epitome).

If the jackets were meant for student workers to wear, it seems likely that some of the male staff did too. There were security monitors in that time period whose job it was to encourage proper library decorum and discourage book theft. Possibly those security staff, whether students or employees, wore the blazer as a uniform.