by Donald T. Hawkins (Freelance Conference Blogger and Editor)
A large crowd gathered on September 19, 2019 to celebrate the opening of the new Charles Library at Temple University in Philadelphia. Four of the major participants in the building and design of the library gave brief presentations on their roles in the project.
Joseph Lucia, Dean of the Library, said that Temple University is an extraordinary place, and he feels an outpouring of love for it and the library. He considers the library as a vision that has become a reality that was designed especially for students. He acknowledged the following major supporters who made the library possible:
• Stephen Charles, who made a significant donation of $10 million1 to support the building and for whom it is named,
• The library Board of Visitors (advisors to the Dean), many of whom are also donors,
• The architects and construction crews, who turned the vision into reality and did it with outstanding high-quality workmanship,
• The Project Delivery Group who managed the job on a daily basis,
• The library’s professionals who made the challenging transition from the former building to the new one seamless and almost flawless, and
• The university administrative officials, such as the President, Provost, and Board of Trustees.
Lucia closed by committing to making the library the crossroads and intellectual heart of the campus.
JoAnne Epps, Temple University Provost, commented on the large number of people attending the celebration and said that it was a witness of what the library has become to the students. It is truly a dream come true and an exploratory laboratory that will be shared across the entire campus by all disciplines. Even the location of the library in a central place on the campus is significant, not only for the Temple community but also for the Philadelphia community, which is also welcome here. Epps also acknowledged the generosity of Stephen Charles and even suggested that the library should be referred to as “The Charles” instead of “Charles Library”!
Expressing his pleasure at being back at Temple, Charles noted that he was a student that left and was not very successful for about 20 years, but once his company began to prosper, he found his way back. He is now on the Board of Trustees and chairs the Strategic Direction and Long Range Planning committees.
Charles said that today’s students will reach their peak earning years around 2050, and if we consider that computing processing power is doubling every 18 months, our world will be very different in 2050. His hope is that this library can facilitate the intersections between all disciplines in ways that our students will need to know how to think. As we move into artificial intelligence, the ethical, humanitarian, and legal implications are huge, and this library is a place where we can discuss them and think about what we need to be doing next so that we are part of the knowledge economy, which will require different ways of working and scholarship. We need people who will be narrow and deep as well as others who are good at seeing horizontally and making connections — both are necessary and one does not detract from the other, and this is the place that can symbolize that. So although this library is a dream come true, it is also a beginning, and there is much work to do.
Craig Dykers, founding partner of the architectural firm Snøhetta, said that although building of the library was a two-year project, that was only the construction phase; planning began about six years ago. Even before that, other people were thinking about the project, so it is really a legacy.
Snøhetta is celebrating 30 years as a company. Its first project was the revival of the Bibliotecha Alexandrina in Egypt, which is the foundation of much of Western culture. Therefore, it was especially fitting for him to complete 30 years with the designing of the Charles Library. Dykers said that librarians are the most innovative people he works with, and Temple’s library was built around the vision of its librarians. Libraries are important centers of cross-pollination where we can get outside of our usual worlds; they always have energy that we can connect to. Even though the Charles Library is modern in many ways, many classical elements are incorporated into its architecture, such as the overhead oculus which is similar to the one in the Pantheon in Rome, the rotunda, and the colonnades. All these are part of our heritage which we have brought to life again.
Habitat features, such as a roof terrace with plantings, have also been incorporated into the building. They are not only an aesthetic feature but are also a functioning landscape that is giving life not only to the knowledge inside but also to the habitat that surrounds the building. Libraries are all about life. It is easy to get focused on your field of study and academia and forget about life, but you can find life in this building. It is not only your window to the world, but it is the world’s window to you.
Watch for an interview with Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian at Temple University, in a forthcoming issue of ATG.
Donald T. Hawkins is an information industry freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. In addition to blogging and writing about conferences for Against the Grain, he blogs the Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian conferences for Information Today, Inc. (ITI) and maintains the Conference Calendar on the ITI Website (http://www.infotoday.com/calendar.asp). He is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, (Information Today, 2013) and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits (Information Today, 2016). He holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley and has worked in the online information industry for over 45 years.