By Devon Powers

Temple University’s Paley library has books. Lots of books. And students go there to meet, read and study. But Dean of Libraries, Joe Lucia, wants Temple’s Library to be used for so much more.

The university is working towards the construction of a new library that will make people think beyond books and bricks. “[We want] to provide an environment where a much broader range of activities can be supported beyond the traditional things that people use a library for,” says Lucia.

Renderings of what the new space will look like upon completion.

The new library, to be completed in the summer of 2018, will be a great destination building, Lucia says. The building will offer small group study and collaboration rooms, reading spaces, classrooms, and an area devoted to technology. It will also include what Paley lacked, an event space for public programming and a concert hall. Anne Harlow, librarian of dance, music, and theater is understandably excited about the concert hall.  “It will give the students a really beautiful place to perform,” she says. (To see more renderings of what the new space will look like, click here.)

In order to make room for all of those “extras,” a majority of the books will be put in high-density storage, leaving only about 200,000 materials – compared to the current 1.8 million –  remaining on shelves for traditional browsing. Students will be able to request a book and a robot will bring it to a pick up point in about ten minutes. (No, not a walking robot, a robotic retrieval system.) The system is meant to increase the space for students as well as make it easier to find a book, but it will drastically reduce library browsing.

Although there has been some dissent regarding the lack of browsing opportunities, Harlow says a lot of thought is going into what materials are staying on the shelves. For example, all musical scores will remain on the shelves for the students who need to read sheet music before choosing their pieces. But because the collection is so vast, experience shows that students are more likely to browse the online catalogue as opposed to browsing the shelves.

Shelf space isn’t the only thing being downsized in the new library. Currently, each librarian has their own office and private area to work with students. But in the new space, librarian offices will be condensed into one central area in order to maximize space for students. Yet Harlow waves away any notion of concern. “Librarians are, and have always had to be extremely flexible because everything is changing, and that’s fine.”

It has not yet been decided what the old Paley library building will be used for once construction on the new library is complete, but one thing is not changing. Members of the greater Philadelphia community are welcome to continue using Temple’s library system and taking advantage of all the building will have to offer. Remember, it won’t just be a library, it’s going to be a destination.