April 26, 2018

Planned New Library Shifts Closer to the Heart of Temple Campus

A new library planned for the north side of Temple University’s campus has been postponed as administration officials work to find the new facility a home closer to the center of campus. The planned $190 million budget for the project, which includes a $50 million contribution from the state of Pennsylvania, will remain the same, though ambitions for it to become what one board member described as “a great living room for Philadelphia” may be scaled back under the new plan.

Nixing the Broad Street site does not mean that plans for the new library have been mothballed, Temple University Dean of Libraries Joe Lucia told Library Journal. “The project has not been cancelled,” Lucia said. “It’s just been moved off Broad Street.”

Plans for a new library were first hatched seven years ago, as part of a sweeping master plan called “Temple 2020,” which aimed to make over the historical campus on Philadelphia’s north side through a number of new developments, including a new residence hall, a new building to house the school’s architecture program, and renovations to the university’s rec center and basketball practice facilities. According to Lucia, the new library is the only project from the plan that hasn’t been completed. With the new administration taking suggestions from students, staff, and alumni over where the new library should be located, the time line for its completion is murky, though Lucia said in a statement that the goal is for the new library to be constructed in the next four years.

According to Lucia, while it’s unclear exactly where the new library will make its home, the site is likely to be a more traditional one. “We think the new library is going to be the center of the academic experience, and we’re thinking about positioning it that way,” said Lucia, who also confirmed that the new library would be a new building, not a renovation to Temple’s extant Paley Library. The new library will be designed by Snøhetta, the architecture firm behind North Carolina State University’s award-winning James B. Hunt Library. Lucia and his colleagues in the library envision the library, wherever it ends up, as a modern facility from the ground up, which Lucia envisions hosting amenities like Maker spaces and facilities where students can work with data visualization software. As to what role Paley would play after the building of a new library, there’s no official plan just yet.

While placing the library in a more central location is in line with making the building the center of the university’s academic life, it suggests that aspirations to make the library a center for the community surrounding the campus as well have been, if not abandoned, then at least scaled back, as the project moves forward under a new administration led by President Neil Theobald. “The model for this project was framed a good number of years ago under a different president,” said Lucia. “The thinking that drove that vision is no longer well represented in the Temple administration.” Despite that scaling back, Lucia claimed that wherever it’s placed, Temple’s new library is going to be “a space where the community can come to live its public intellectual life. That idea is still alive in its new vision.”

Though philosophical differences played a role in the decision to scuttle the Broad Street location, practical and safety concerns came into play as well. For a facility that staff hope will be a center for students engagement and scholarship, the Broad Street library would have been rather inaccessible to students, requiring them to cross a busy four-lane street to get to it from the rest of campus, a factor that raised concerns not only over convenience but student safety as well. The site on Broad Street, meanwhile, is still owned by the university, and Lucia told Library Journal that the property is still part of the plan for further developing Temple’s campus.

UPDATE: We now know where the new library will make its home, courtesy of infoDOCKET.

Ian Chant About Ian Chant

Ian Chant is a former editor at LJ and a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Scientific American and Popular Mechanics and on NPR.

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