Temple University Libraries and the Tyler School of Art and Architecture hosted “Reflections on a Project Completed,” the fifth and final event in the “Building the 21st Century Library” event series, at the Charles Library on Wednesday. The library opened to the public in September 2019.
The event, attended by more than 100 people, featured a panel of planners, designers and experts who spoke about the process of planning and designing the Charles Library.
“[This event] is the culmination of everything that’s happened,” said Geneva Heffernan, an outreach and communications lead administrative specialist at Temple Libraries. “We’re saying hey look, [the library] is here now.”
The panel, comprised of six people, was moderated by Michael Cotton, a project manager and senior architect at Snøhetta. The panelists discussed the planning, design and budgeting decisions that went into the library and the process of moving books from the Samuel Paley Library to Charles in the summer of 2019.
“This is a kind of reunion for some of the people involved,” Heffernan said.
Before construction, Snøhetta and Temple Libraries led focus groups with student organizations and faculty to determine community needs for the new library and prepare them for the changes Charles would bring, said Joe Lucia, the dean of Temple University Libraries and a panelist at the event.
“The best part was to have a chance to be on a signature project from beginning to end,” said Chad Carpenter, a project manager at Snøhetta. “It is hard to have the timing and opportunity to have your work be continuous and to see the building from beginning to end and be full of life.”
The need for a new library was becoming evident in Paley, a decades-old building that was dark, small and without much floor space, Lucia said.
The planning team focused on keeping all the resources from Paley but reformatting them to serve new purposes while designing the new library, Lucia said. For example, the BookBot retrieval system, a robotic arm that retrieves books on demand, allows the library to hold the same number of books as Paley but decreases the amount of space they occupy from 70 percent to 40, according to a university release, he said.
“We have to be increasingly aspirational, we had to be bold, we had to embrace new technology,” said Greg Rashke, the senior vice provost and director of North Carolina State University Libraries and a panelist at the event. “That’s why these buildings are so exceptional.”
The green roof, one of Pennsylvania’s largest, was also a new concept for Temple. This feature incorporates nature into the library and works with a water retention system underneath the building to manage heavy water intake, according to a Temple press release. This way, Philadelphia’s older, mixed sewage system can handle stormwater without releasing pollution.
The university received a $6.7 million, low-interest water quality grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to help fund the roof, according to the release.
The total budget for the library was $175.8 million, The Temple News reported in September last year.
Other new sustainable technologies were incorporated, such as glass that has a distinctive pattern for birds to prevent fatal collisions, said Margaret Carney, a former architect at Cornell University who was also part of the panel.
“It’s just everything we’ve envisioned,” Carney said. “People see it and understand better [what] Temple is as an institution.”
Editor’s note: Geneva Heffernan previously worked for The Temple News. She played no part in writing this story.