The renovation of the Charles E. Shain Library at Connecticut College in New London builds on a strong foundation of the past to nurture a new generation of students. Through judicious deselection, the use of compact shelving, and shifting and customizing the footprint of the stacks, the library was able to produce more study and collaborative spaces and keep the collection on-site. Thoughtful repurposing and creative reorganization epitomizes this project.
The updated James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), designed by Shepley Bulfinch, took inspiration from the original midcentury modern design and used it to transform the library into a campus jewel, embracing the school’s strengths in the arts. As one judge noted, the design was “executed with a very skillful hand.” Seeking to balance historic preservation with modern needs and heighten the library’s placement in a dense urban area, the firm reinterpreted many elements of the old building.
Human-centered design, a highly creative approach to problem solving, is gaining popularity in libraries as they plan for what lies ahead. Also known as design thinking, it focuses on defining and then resolving concerns by paying attention to the needs, aspirations, and wishes of people—in the case of libraries, not only a library’s patrons but its staff, administration, and members of the community who may not be library customers…yet.
The 2016 New Landmark Libraries highlight academic libraries that are setting the standard for both new construction and renovations. These five winners and three honorable mentions inspire by illustrating the creativity, innovation, and imagination that can spring from even the most modest budget. The trends, ideas, and methods provide inspiration for other projects and efforts, large or small.
When the library at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI, was built in the late 1960s, the student population was 5,000. Today that number is closer to 25,000 and the university has embraced a collaborative culture that fosters innovation. The Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons gives students control over their environment to a degree rarely seen.
Community engagement is at the heart of Dokk1, the main branch of the Aarhus Public Libraries, Denmark. The system received a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Libraries division to “pioneer an innovative library model” with the help of IDEO, a global design company. Its efforts were rewarded with IFLA’s 2016 Public Library of the Year award.
The recent flooding in southern Louisiana has been deemed the worst natural disaster to hit the United States since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, according to the American Red Cross. Some 7.1 trillion gallons of rain—three times the rainfall recorded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005—fell on the areas surrounding the state’s capital, Baton Rouge, and its fourth largest city, Lafayette, between August 8 and 14. In many areas, rainfall exceeded 20 inches. The flooding began on August 12 and continued for the next two days as local rivers swelled to record levels.
At “Taking Our Seat at the Table: How Academic Librarians Can Help Shape the Future of Higher Education,” sponsored by the Association of College and Research Libraries University Libraries Section (ACRL ULS), library administrators spoke up on how their institutions are looking ahead—both within and outside of the library.
With so many Americans sitting for hours at work, and so many studies showing that inactivity is problematic to health outcomes, incorporating furniture and fixtures that encourage fitness and physical activity into the library is a way to help patrons in the here and now and let them try out options for future home use.