We hit the road! CMLE visits St. John’s University Library

As part of our commitment to ensuring CMLE members have a lot of opportunities to meet each other in person, to chat about libraries, and to admire the libraries of other members, we are visiting CMLE libraries as a group. And this month we visited the newly renovated St John’s University Alcuin Library!

We’ve shared news of this renovation before, and many members have asked us about their progress. So this was a particularly fun visit, as none of us had seen the final product! (There is still more renovation underway; and should be finished before students start the Fall 2017 semester.)

Thank you to Kathy Parker and her wonderful staff for setting this up for us, and for being such gracious hosts!

We immediately felt welcomed to this lovely library with our own room, and a nice sign! Orville, the CMLE Office Bear, immediately relaxed in this environment, and enjoyed some of the snacks provided.

Check out those architectural trees! This building is a renovation of the original, and retains that feel. What could be dark and oppressive is instead open, and full of light. These trees not only help to draw the eye upward, and open up the floor-plan; but they are also actually holding up the roof! There are other supports outside, but these provide support while giving the library an expansive feel without walls to break it up. There are also light boxes around the floor, shining light up to the ceiling to be reflected back down, so it has a softer and more diffuse feel that is very nice!

Are you ready for some football??

The views of the campus are lovely, and this view of the football field will be an exciting place to be this fall when football season get rolling! Students can study, and still keep an eye on the action here – multitasking at its finest.

Behind the trees you can see the work that has gone into making this building feel open. The furniture is comfortable (we tested it!), and the study rooms have glass walls and doors, to keep things bright and open. Directly above the study rooms are those big windows, letting in all kinds of light! The walls are generally white – reflecting light, and with a pop of color added in different locations to show some personality. (The red shows their Saint John’s Johnnies pride!)

We moved a level down, and this is where the bulk of the collection is stored. Look at that compact shelving! This, again, gives the library a more open, spacious feel than if traditional shelving were taking up a lot of space. And it looks stylish – just as you would expect a library filled with fantastic books would look! You can see the wheels on the side, allowing the shelves to be easily moved. (Yes, we tested that out too – it was a very immersive tour!)

The architectural details in this library were so interesting! This is the staircase from the side; and you can see the thought and care that was put into making this not only a useful library (it is!), but also an impressive place for students to work.

In a separate, but connected, building we visited the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library.  This was very exciting, as we got to see some of the treasures of their collection on display, and to hear about the work they are doing to digitally preserve manuscripts from around the world. Their field work has preserved information that might otherwise be lost forever, in places like Syria and Iraq. And it has made all kinds of information more widely available to scholars and other people interested in the material from many countries. “At HMML, we’ve photographed more than 140,000 complete manuscripts from 540 partner libraries worldwide, totaling more than 50,000,000 handwritten pages. By far, HMML holds the world’s largest collection of resources ​for study of manuscript cultures both East and West.”

A few areas where they have worked to preserve information:

  • Malta
  • Timbuktu
  • Egypt
  • Italy
  • Iraq
  • Lebanon
  • Syria
  • Jerusalem
  • India
  • Austria/Germany
  • Ethiopia

We descended yet again to the lower level. Down here the space is reserved for quiet study; and you can see the patrons in their very comfortable-looking study areas are working hard! (We did not test out these seats – no disturbing patrons at work!) We quietly moved over into our final destination: the Archives.

Filled with all kinds of wonderful information, photos, handwritten class transcripts and more – it was very exciting to see college material that had been preserved for more than a hundred years. You can see the compact shelving here again, filled with nice acid-free boxes to keep things safe! For people who love to collect and share information like library people do, visiting an archive is such a treat!!

We were exhausted and happy at this point, so everyone trooped back upstairs to our waiting room. Having this opportunity to talk about renovations, here and in other member libraries, was so interesting! Libraries face a lot of challenges in renovation work – not the least of which is dealing with architects who fail to understand the wonderful things possible in a library. Fortunately, St John’s library is a great example of a library done right!! It was truly inspirational to visit! If you did not get a chance to go today, make a point of stopping by on your own to look around – you will be just as inspired as we were!