New Pew Library will serve readers better than ever

An editorial (“Book deprived”) in the Lanthorn on Monday contained a number of inaccuracies that need to be corrected, including the main thesis that the new library will contain fewer books than Zumberge currently holds. The other important error was in the cost of the building. The new library will cost $65 million dollars to build, not $25 million.

Regarding books in the new library, Zumberge holds about 140,000 volumes on open shelves, with another 100,000 or so housed in a remote storage site downtown. The new library will have capacity for 150,000 volumes on open shelves, plus around 600,000 volumes we estimate the library will acquire in coming decades, all of which will live in an Automated Storage Retrieval System . The ASRS will be located in a vault inside the building. The overall capacity of the new library will be 750,000 volumes, which far exceeds that of Zumberge. The new library will, in fact, serve many readers better than they are served now. Getting a book from the storage facility can take a day or two. Getting a book from the ASRS will take a couple of minutes. The ASRS will simplify and speed up the process of finding a book and checking it out.

We know that some faculty and students believe all books should be in open stacks. In an ideal world, that would be an option. But it’s an economic reality that most academic libraries can no longer afford to maintain entire collections in open shelves because of the cost of building the space needed to do so. If we tried to shelve all the volumes the library will own in coming decades on open shelves in the new building, we would have precious little space for students who need places to study, read, collaborate and do research. That’s the reality we have now in Zumberge, and it’s unacceptable to patrons who want to work in the library. By using a combination of open shelves and an ASRS in the new building, we found a reasonable compromise. Lots of books will kept at-hand for browsable access, and others will be shelved densely and safely to free up space for our students, faculty and staff. Since our campus needs additional space of almost every type, including offices and classrooms, Zumberge must be our option for that use, rather than dedicating it to more open library shelving.

I’m glad there is passion for the book among many of our students, as well as many of our faculty and staff. I couldn’t agree more with the case the editorial made for technology and traditional books co-existing in the new building, each with their place and value. That is exactly our intent. Books in the new building will be highly visible on the upper three floors in the east wing. Quiet study space will surround the stacks, creating the kind of traditional library oasis that has nurtured and inspired library patrons for centuries. We believe that those who come to the library for books will not be disappointed.

Lee C. Van Orsdel

Dean of University Libraries