The 21st Century Library
As we begin the fall term, I am delighted to welcome you back with news of progress at virtually every corner of our academic community. The completion of several important projects has brought further vigor to our great University: the new Penn Bookstore; Civic House, our community service and living-learning collaborative; the Ellen and Howard C. Katz Fitness Center in Gimbel Gym; a fun, late-night diner called Eat at Joe's; and, of course, our innovative College House system.
Collectively, these campus additions will enhance Penn's intellectual and social fabric. So, too, will yet another exciting and forward-thinking initiative: the renovation of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center.
The renaissance of this intellectual campus core is a vital part of our Agenda for Excellence. Renovations have created research and study areas that are inviting to students and faculty, with a bright new ambiance; advanced, user-friendly technology; and comfortable spaces for academic work.
In its multi-phase renovation, the rejuvenation of the Library reaches perhaps its most critical and most impressive point with the completion of Phase IV. On the first floor, the main study and research areas--in many ways the heart and soul of the Library--have been transformed. Creating a "gateway to knowledge," five key public services--information, reference, circulation, microforms, and periodicals--have been integrated and centrally located.
The genius of the Library's re-design is its use of existing space. Walls literally came down, revealing the beauty of College Green and the vibrancy of Walnut Street through the Library's floor-to-ceiling windows. The Library now basks in a circle of natural light. Students and faculty no longer conduct research in the shadow of walls and darkened desks. Rather, sunlit study lounges ring the perimeter of the Library. Glass, wood, and chrome brighten carrels and computer research areas. Open staircases and improved lighting complete the picture.
It is also greatly enhanced technologically. Central to these improvements are many generous alumni, and we are grateful to them. Their investments in excellence have led to the creation of the Goldstein Electronic Classroom, the Glossberg and Vitale multi-media seminar rooms, the Class of 1937 Computer Lab, the Class of 1964 Look-Up Center, the Class of 1955 multi-media conference room, the Class of 1956 Computer Center, the Center for Electronic Text and Imaging, the Class of 1963 Microtext Center, and the Snyder and Moelis Electronic Research Areas.
We will lead our peers in the integration of technology with teaching, research, and our library resources. We are already seeing results. Earlier in the renovations, one student wrote: "This is the most comfortable computing environment I have ever had the pleasure to use. Totally ergonomic. I love the swing-out keyboards which keep you the proper distance from the monitors, and the wrist-rests really ease typing strain. Keep up the good work."
And we will. There is more to do, and it will be done.
We all know that the world has changed greatly since 1962, when the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center opened. While we use advanced technology to serve a changing order of academic information needs, we believe there is a place at the heart of a great university for a physical library space. Scholars--especially in the humanities and liberal arts--will continue to need books and other print materials for teaching and research. The Library will continue building the strongest possible print collections to address those needs.
Under the direction of Paul Mosher, a new Library is rising from the foundation of the old. Revitalized to be a welcoming place, it will be a haven for study, research, and reflection. I hope to see you at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on September 11. The Library's renewal is cause for celebration--and a wonderful moment to look ahead to the new academic year with a great sense of anticipation and accomplishment.
Photographs: (Above, left) The first floor elevator lobby and the Class of 1942 Information Desk are just steps away from the Library's main entrancewhich will now be known as the Class of 1960 Gateway. (Further above, right) The Class of 1969 Periodicals Center occupies the space that had been the reference center. The Class of 1968 Reference Center is now located north of the Information Desk, and within clear view of the entrance. For more on the Library's changes see www.library.upenn.edu.
[Photos by Candace diCarlo]
Almanac, Vol. 45, No. 2, September 8, 1998