Virginia Commonwealth University’s James Branch Cabell Library is a striking standout on the downtown Richmond campus.
Academic New Landmark Libraries 2016 Walking Tour: James Branch Cabell Library, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond
Through careful programming and design strategies to preserve the essence of the original building, the 2013 renovation of the Odegaard Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington (UW) in Seattle not only meets the demand for active learning environments on campus but further catalyses it. The renovation transformed the interior from dark, decentralized, and difficult to navigate to a light-filled hub of activity and stimulus for pedagogical change.
When the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State University (NCSU) in Raleigh opened in 2013, it aimed to define the research library of the 21st century. In its place on the Centennial campus, sitting at the edge of a grand oval green space, the library connects two sections of campus, improves walkability, and anchors student activity across the represented disciplines.
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.