Library goes high tech


The makeshift, ground floor entrance into the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center has been shut, replaced by the newly renovated entrance into a spectacular, information-age library. At 3 p.m. Sept. 11, President Judith Rodin cut the first of a series of ribbons to inaugurate the new spaces inside.

The library that "used to resemble a bus terminal" has been transformed into a welcoming space for learning and studying, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries Paul Mosher said. "The reaction from our users is one of real delight. You can read it in their faces."

The renovation was completed and the new spaces unofficially were opened for use during the summer.

One new user, Brad Johnston (C'00), said: "This isn't the same library I used last fall. All I can say is, Wow."

Rodin also said, Wow, at the ribbon cutting ceremony. "Despite all that I knew about the plans ... nothing really prepared me for the drama of this space.

"But the transformation of the Library goes far beyond what we see in front of us right now.

"Beyond the beauty and symbolism ... are technological changes that improve access to information."

The celebration included performances throughout the building by at least nine student music groups from the highbrow string quartet to Chord on Blues to Mask and Wig.

The library rehab, which encompassed nearly 70,000 square feet, was far more than an aesthetic makeover; it responded to the need for convenience, new seating and increased computer access to the digital library.

Of the 364 new seats, more than two-thirds have computers or hook-ups for laptops.

The rehab also incorporated electronic classrooms and a large conference facility into the building, the conference facility a part of the Lippincott Library of the Wharton School on the second floor.

The concrete of the original structure, which was built in a style called New Brutalism, has been tempered by plaster and wood, terrazzo and carpeting. Windows formerly blocked off were opened to public spaces, and the harsh, inadequate fluorescent lights were replaced.

The renovation completes the fourth and final phase of a $7.5 million makeover begun three years earlier.

Front page for this issue | Pennsylvania Current home page

Originally published on September 17, 1998