The New Library, which had been in planning and construction stages for seven years, opened Monday. Its first guests looked around in awe, as light poured in through the large windows of the Georgian-style architecture onto plush seats by cherry wood-stained tables, shining onto spacious book stacks and a multitude of Ethernet connections.
“Unilaterally, every person who walks through that door goes ‘wow,'” Taras Pavlovsky, dean of the library, said during a press tour before the library’s opening last week. He has been working on the project since December 1997.
“There is no other school in New Jersey that has a library like this, except Princeton,” he said.
With one and a half times the amount of floor space in Roscoe L. West Library, the building can house up to 750,000 volumes and other extras not found in the old library.
“The space devoted to people is the difference,” Pavlovsky said. “We didn’t build a barn – we built a library to be used by people.”
The entire building is wheelchair-accessible, with two elevators traveling to all five levels.
Features include a drinking fountain, copy machine and restrooms in the same central location on every floor. Private study rooms, with lights that turn on automatically upon entrance, are scattered throughout the floors. Usage will be first-come, first-served in the beginning, but Pavlovsky expects sign-ups will be necessary next year.
Another extra is the two-level 24-hour section, where security grates lower at night and raise into the ceiling during the day. The name is deceiving, though, as the section, rather than being open at all times, is only open between 7:30 a.m. and 2 a.m.
If popular demand requires later opening, the hours will be revised, Pavlovsky said. Twenty-four hours of heat and air conditioning would be impractical if only two or three students want to stay up all night, he said.
The misnomer has produced mixed opinions among many students who were looking forward to a section they thought would actually be open 24 hours a day, though.
“Maybe it’s not necessary to have it open 24 hours all the time,” Jasmine Charl?n, executive vice-president of the Student Government Association (SGA), said. “But if there are student concerns and they wanted it open 24 hours, SGA will take a role. I think it’s odd – I understand, but don’t call it the 24-hour section.”
Despite the fact that it officially opened Monday, some parts of the New Library still remain under construction. For example, a Sodexho-run caf? is not expected to open until Oct. 1, due to delays with its kitchen equipment. When open, it will feature 78 seats and every Starbucks beverage except frappucinos, all made in Starbucks machines. It will be open Monday to Friday 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday to Sunday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“It’s a great area for people to meet, get together and study,” Kerri Sue Davis, director of retail and catering, said.
A 105-seat auditorium, also still under construction, already has six bookings for the semester and will host one of the Walt Whitman symposium sessions.
Dozens of Ethernet connection ports in floors, walls, tables and carrels are ready to use. However, the wireless network that will service the entire library is not yet ready. And, while data outlets are in the ceilings throughout the entire building for wireless service, metal book stacks and the metal-framed building may make transferring the signal difficult.
“Once the library is inhabited by books and people, a surveyor will come in,” Pavlovsky said.
Each of two computer labs contains 28 personal computers on adjustable-height tables. Bound periodicals are now organized by Library of Congress classification, rather than by title. Compact storage shelves slide back and forth for easy access, and have safety features that prevent people from closing shelves on unsuspecting book browsers.
The hum around campus before the library’s opening was one of excitement for many.
“For someone who rarely studies in the library, the New Library makes me want to study in the library,” Charlon said, explaining that her room is her usual study spot.
Still, due to recent construction delays around campus, there was also a lot of skepticism as to whether the library would actually be ready for the Fall 2005 semester.
“I was a little cynical because of the apartments,” Jessica Paciorek, junior biology major, said. “I wasn’t expecting it to be open for the fall.”
Formal planning for the library began in 1998 and proceeded over five years, with campus input and various planning committees.
“Usually when you dream of buildings you give up something along the way, but I don’t think we did,” Don Lovett, member of the 1999 Building Planning Committee, said.
A committee is still deciding the future use of Roscoe L. West Library. The College is committed to renovating the section built in 1930, one of the original three academic buildings at the Ewing campus of the College.
“I can’t think about anything I’d miss (unless) you want to talk about musty books and old lighting,” Lovett, associate professor of biology, said.
“It was such a horrible place to visit. I can’t imagine being a librarian and having to work there.”
“We outgrew it a long time ago,” Pavlovsky said, recalling the inadequate heating and air conditioning, and the roof leaking in different sections every time it rained, while librarians covered the books with plastic sheets.
The only thing he will miss, he said, is the lion out front.
In planning the New Library, Pavlovsky said the architects wandered around the College buildings for inspiration. As a result, some pieces from other parts of campus can be found in the New Library.
On the lower level, for example, there is an open frame by the stairs where some of the stained glass from the Alumni Chapel, which stood in the New Library’s place just four years ago, will be placed.
Another piece of this stained glass can also be found in the Spiritual Center, which opened December 2004.
Also, the sidewalk at the base of the library is covered by an arched roof with hanging lights similar to those in the corridor of Green Hall.
Perhaps the most meaningful piece of the College for its current students and staff, the Sesquicentennial Time Capsule will be inserted into a hole on the lower-level floor Homecoming Weekend.