Perceptions of Two New Academic Libraries
By Fred Batt, Library Administration

I had the opportunity to tour two brand new academic libraries over recent weeks. COLD met at CSU - San Marcos; the CARL Board of Directors meeting was at Chapman University. (I did send a short e-mail to Reference about the San Marcos experience.) Overall, both buildings were attractive and comfortable. Chapman was "designed to be functional while making a distinct architectural statement." San Marcos was designed to be "a place for knowledge, a place for technology, a place for you." This included a "fireplace in an inspiring reading room."

I found it quite instructive to see both libraries while they were still not completely settled; both were dealing with some things that didn't quite work out as planned. This was a similar experience to the opportunity I had when I was Library Commissioner for the City of Folsom and visited about a dozen new public libraries in California over the period of a year. The things that they wished they hadn’t done in these libraries could have filled a book --- in fact, I should have written it!

The Kellogg Library at San Marcos is a 5 level building, of which three levels are above ground. The cost for the library was about 45 million dollars. The Leatherby Library at Chapman is about 100,000 square feet at a cost of about 25 million dollars. Both offer wireless access throughout. Both provide wonderful views. San Marcos signage is wonderful. Some of Chapman's signage is still a work in progress. Both have marvelous up-to-date and "smart" library instruction rooms. The San Marcos Library's video section provides open access: just pick up your video, DVD, tape and go for it --- no service desk required. Chapman offers a Reference Desk, Reference Collection and Electronic Information Commons on their entry floor. San Marcos calls their Reference area "Research Help” and "Circulation" is simply called "Check Out." They also have a "Research Consultation" area, but it isn't used much for that purpose. San Marcos Library has 12 tenants. Their overwhelming, large information kiosk dominates the entry area; it doesn't work visually, blocks out views and doesn't function as intended. My guess is that it will be removed. An Art Gallery area is also on this primary floor. Some of the furniture holding electronic catalogs looks like a service point. We saw people walking up to students using these machines and asking for help. Shelving painting was deficient and had to be touched up (unfortunately some books were touched up too). Security cameras were installed but have not been used. And finally, given a building with 11 sides, the placement of the stacks was not intuitive. They have had to move every book at least twice since opening.

Both libraries offer food options. San Marcos has Kellogg Café Starbucks. Chapman provides a Café/vending machine area on the first floor of the Rotunda, with food service open in the evenings and the machines supplementing the Café's hours. If you follow the Rotunda (the building's architectural icon that culminates in a skylight 62 feet above the first level) you move to a reading room overlooking the campus on the 2nd floor. One flight up is another reading room with its own striking view of the campus. The 4th and top floor offers an impressive view down the rotunda. Unfortunately, they have found that the noise from the first floor food area and commons reverberates up to the top floor and impacts the reading rooms.

Another concern at Chapman was the location of the new Sala and Aron Samueli Holocaust Library "with gray zinc-clad exterior walls evoking the harsh reality of the Holocaust while the stones surrounding these walls ... testify to enduring memory and the power of witness." Unfortunately, this Library is located on the 4th floor near the Special Collections and Archives and down the hall from Administration. What they have found is that the Library hours do not correlate with the needs of the Holocaust Library to hold some of their special events. (Do I hear Library Gallery?)

Still another potentially controversial approach at Chapman is the division of this relatively small library into nine distinct collections: social sciences, arts and humanities, business and economics, education, children's literature, science and technology, film and television, music, and Holocaust Library. Librarians are concerned about this organization from the perspective that it may be difficult for students to find materials as well as from the perspective of library instruction. However what this does offer is a fantastic opportunity for fund raising. Each of these 9 collections and each of the 9 libraries are named (with a hefty donation to go with it). In fact, everything in this library is named. There is the Lewis Family Lounge, the Walther Periodical Reading Room, the Doy and Dee Henley Library of the Social Sciences, the Thurmond and Athalie Clarke Gallery, the Carl A. Raymond Family Reading Alcove, the Malloy Performance Portico, the Marge Stegemeier Rotunda Reading Room, the Lawrence and Jean Shaffer Library Instruction Room, the Preston Listening Area and dozens more. The signage noting the named areas is very attractive. What a great fund raising opportunity!