Officials discuss university’s future library

“Architecture and the Evolution of the 21st Century Cultural Memory Institution” answered questions about the library’s use and functionality.

The first of two discussions about Temple’s state-of-the-art library, scheduled to open in mid to late 2018, took place Wednesday night in the Temple Performing Arts Center.

The event, a panel titled “Architecture and the Evolution of the 21st Century Cultural Memory Institution,” discussed the direction of a 21st century library.

Fon Wang of Ballinger architecture, William Noel of University of Pennsylvania, Bruce Laverty of Athenaeum and Joseph Lucia, dean of university libraries to discuss the construction of Temple’s library and the unknowns of future libraries.

The hour-long panel was mediated by Kate Wingert-Playdon, associate dean of Architecture.

Lucia said one aspect of the new library is that instead of computer labs, Chromebooks and Microsoft Surface devices will be offered for students

There will only be one floor of browsing shelves in the new building. Laverty said browsing was one of the aspects that are specific to libraries and their atmospheres, so it will be a hard shift away from that. To fit all browsing stacks, Lucia said that the library would need an extra 125,000 square feet to fit the building.

Lucia also said that Paley will be repurposed for student activities, but is unsure the exact direction of the project.

Panel members also discussed the idea of a library as a “cultural institution” instead of “place where you get the books.”

“I suppose the biggest problems that library professionals have are that people are going to keep on thinking that libraries are just the place for books,” Noel said. “And it’s a real problem.”

A question was raised during the panel: ‘do we even need libraries?’ It received a resounding ‘yes’ from the panel for different reasons, including the importance of the library as an archivist and as a cultural institution.

Another amenity will be a visualization center for a greater user experience in using programs such as GIS mapping.

“We’re building models that are based on the social dimensions that we see as flowing from those new tools, those new technologies, those new approaches,” Lucia said. “A lot of this right now is provisional and experimental.”

The panel also discussed the idea of libraries as the archivist of information as it evolves to tweeting and other forms of digital storage.

“From the point of view of architecture, we think about [libraries] as special projects,”  Wingert-Playdon said. And [Temple’s library] project in particularly has been thought internationally as special.”

“The institutional operations that the library… There’s this entire tsunami of new things we’re trying to figure out [about the future] even as we carry forward the traditional mission [of libraries],” Lucia said.

Another panel composed of Temple librarians and Snohetta designers will discuss the design of the library at an event titled “Campus, City, Culture” on April 6 in TPAC.

“It’s incredibly bold to be building a library because libraries are undergoing this revolution,” Noel said.

Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.

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