February 17, 2018

Brooklyn College Opens Library, Largest in CUNY

By LJ Staff

Brooklyn College on October 17 officially opened its new 277,000 square foot
library–the largest library in the City University of New York (CUNY) system.
The $72 million project, designed by Shepley Bulfinch Richardson and Abbott,
houses both physical and digital collections; the college archives; a new media
center, and both academic computing and administrative computing. The new
construction incorporates the original 1937 building, a 1959 addition, and a new
wing. With so many departments together in one building, the library now serves
as the campus technological hub: data flows into the building, then out to the
rest of the college. The facility also has a broad technological “footprint,”
with technology woven throughout the entire structure. Over 40 per cent of the
building’s 2300 seats are equipped with net connections, and the building opened
with 500 computers. The library also includes a digital multimedia distribution
system, teleconferencing, satellite connectivity, and wireless networking.

While its technology is impressive, the building reaffirms the role of
library as place through a wide array of environments, from a formal “great
hall” to intimate study areas. “We recognize that students are whole people, and
should have a variety of study environments” said Barbara Higginbotham, chief
librarian and executive director of academic information technologies. And yes,
there are books, over 800,000. But reflecting the uncertainty of electronic
versus paper publications, the library has budgeted conservatively: most subject
areas have room for only ten to 15 years of acquisitions. At the same time, the
building provides state-of-the-art environmental controls for the print
collection, and significant space for the archives. So well housed is the
archives, in fact, that Harvard Law professor (and Brooklyn College alum) Alan
Dershowitz has been persuaded to give the library his papers, which will start
arriving this week.