Renewal of the Georgia Tech Library is underway, and along with that renewal, we are re-imagining and redefining the Library. Our physical spaces and library services are evolving to meet the changing research, teaching, and learning needs of Georgia Tech.
A majority of the Library’s physical collection — the very core of all preconceived notions of what a research library is and how librarians serve — is leaving the Georgia Tech Library space.
Even without these books, we are still a research library.
The Library is still a place that facilitates access to information to produce useful knowledge, just as it always has been. The Library is a space and a network of services that accomplishes this mission, even without the print copy books directly located on site. There have been many gains in the digital access to information in recent years, and the Georgia Tech Library will have space and services to match these digital gains after the renewal is complete.
Beginning with the Carnegie Library in 1907, Georgia Tech’s Research Library has transformed to meet the needs of students and faculty. Throughout the years, what has driven change is use. Thus, the renewal is nothing truly new -- it is a long and proud history of leading the change on campus.
BY THE NUMBERS
The Library is interdisciplinary, neutral, and open to all. No other space or unit on campus is committed to enhancing and promoting the scholarship and learning of all academic disciplines in the same way.
As an academic library, the Georgia Tech Library has a mission that is easy to state and hard to define: provide an essential component of the teaching, research, and learning activities of the Institute.
The Library fulfills its mission through a variety of services and resources that are developed and refined by Library faculty and support staff in collaboration with the Library’s constituency: the students, faculty, and staff of Georgia Tech.
The renewal project is taking the opportunity to show what a library really can be, and what research librarians and archivists really can do, like no other research library in America has yet done.
As a research institute, Georgia Tech needs a research library, and it needs capable Library faculty and staff to operate that research library. When the paper books are housed off-site, the work that a library needs to do remains.
A research library is a resource and a service for students, faculty, and researchers unlike any other on campus, and is aligned with the campus’s goals and mission in the service to its scholarly community.
Georgia Tech’s own strategic plan includes enriching the student experience, developing an innovative environment, sustaining excellence in research and scholarship, and providing a cutting-edge infrastructure to support the faculty’s vision.
The new, re-imagined Georgia Tech Library building will be a space to provide many new physical, informational, and technological resources to do just that.
To use a book metaphor, the renewal process is not the “The End” for the Library.
This is the start of a new chapter.
Like the quad ruled pages of a laboratory notebook or the tight-knit components of an integrated development environment, the Library is a template, a didactic structure, a platform for innovation.
The physical space of the Library brings users together, inviting them to model innovative methods of research and scholarship for each other. The space directs users to the services that are there to support them and even suggests tactics that can help them succeed.
Quiet study carrels and rooms say, “sometimes you will need solitude and silence to focus on your scholarship.” Reconfigurable couches and rolling tables inside a multimedia room say, “other times, you will need to rearrange your environment to support both in-person and virtual collaboration and to examine your research question from a new perspective.”
The Georgia Tech Library and Emory University Libraries operate a state-of-the-art, climate-controlled service facility known as the Library Service Center (LSC). About 95 percent of Georgia Tech’s physical collection is housed in the building, freeing up valuable space in the Price Gilbert Library and Crosland buildings for student and faculty use. Students, Faculty, and Staff from both Emory and Georgia Tech will be able to use the center.
The ultimate goal of this partnership is to create a seamless collection with Emory Library resources available to Georgia Tech students, faculty, staff, and vice versa. Details regarding the LSC are still being developed, but the emphasis will be to provide the best possible service and access to these materials with a focus on user needs.
Over the last three years, the Georgia Tech Library explored the research,
teaching, and learning experiences and needs on campus, and the role of the library on campus.
It included interviews with faculty, post-docs, graduate students, and leadership across 23 schools in all 6 colleges; observations of study spaces on campus; and workshops with faculty, students, and Library faculty and staff.
Additionally, the Library 2020 Plan was shared with the campus administration, and the Library’s Undergraduate, Graduate, and Faculty Advisory Boards, which serve as sounding boards for the Library. Lastly, numerous “behind-the-scenes” tours were conducted over the past three years.
This is what we learned:
Over the past decade, we’ve seen a precipitous decline in Library print book checkouts, while visits to the physical facility and use of the electronic collection have risen substantially.
By merging our collection with Emory’s and relocating a substantial portion of our print collection to the Library Service Center, the Library is able to utilize our spaces for the services and collections required by the teaching, learning, and research of the future.
VISIONING THE FUTURE
The Library’s services demand both lively, collaborative spaces and quiet, contemplative spaces, designed with Georgia Tech’s thinkers in mind — spaces fashioned specifically for faculty, spaces geared to graduate students, spaces customized for undergraduate scholarship.
The Library needs flexible and open room for over 500 annual library-related learning and instruction sessions. And the intricate and frequently invisible work that goes on behind the scenes within the Library to enable complex and vital services requires substantial physical space to further Georgia Tech’s top-tier technical reputation.
Following are archival photographs of Price Gilbert and Crosland spaces juxtaposed against the renderings for the renewed Library. On each photograph you will see how the Research Library of the 21st Century is a space for people, built to accommodate the rich and vibrant future of scholarship at Georgia Tech.
It projects outward, inviting and connecting scholars in new and exciting ways, blending the physical and the digital.
The envelopes of the buildings will be rehabilitated and opened up to daylight wherever possible. The core elements will be upgraded to meet contemporary codes and will provide room for future expansions or modifications.
The systems that heat, cool, move water, and light the buildings will be entirely new and very efficient. Taken together, these strategies will drive energy use dramatically downward even as the user population doubles, so that the energy use intensity per person reduces by a factor of almost five.
With circulation of physical library materials trending downward, knowledge is now recorded, stored, and disseminated by digital means.
The digital cloud of shared knowledge is overwhelmingly vast. The Library of the 21st Century is a place to make sense of it all.
There remains a human desire for the Library to be a physical, tactile, and serendipitous experience that inspires awe. The future Library will do this by taking these digital, invisible resources and manifesting their presence through means that are sometimes pragmatic (as in virtual browsing) and sometimes artistic (as in an abstract installation).
- Courtesy BNIM
The story of the Georgia Tech Library renewal isn’t just about transforming space. It’s about how we’re able to bring cutting-edge learning experiences to students sustainably.
Through the renewal, Georgia Tech will increase seating capacity in the library 100 percent while decreasing overall energy use by 60 percent.