Library will be a marvel

October 23, 2009 

— The hyper-modern architecture and the robotic book storage and retrieval system will likely get the most attention, but it's the way the interior space is crafted for people that could put N.C. State's new library at the front of an evolutionary leap.

The university is to break ground today on the 200,000-square-foot James B. Hunt Jr. Library, which was designed as much with technological and social trends in mind as books.

With knowledge ever more likely to be stored and retrieved electronically, those who plan new libraries are making big changes.

"It's more about creating a cultural, social and intellectual space on campus now than it is about building a book repository," said Steven J. Bell, an associate university librarian at Temple University who writes the blog "Designing Better Libraries" and an online column for Library Journal. "The library re-imagined is a place of community."

Nearly 60 study rooms are planned, some with digital video capabilities, along three "commons" areas for graduate students, undergraduates and faculty researchers.

Space will be dedicated to digital gaming. There will be a glass-walled classroom to work on teaching techniques, a room similar to an Apple store, with new gadgets to handle and even check out, and a "genius desk" for those who need help with their own gadgetry. A cafe is also planned.

A crucial issue is money, said Susan Nutter, vice provost in charge of libraries. The library barely obtained funding before the state budget collapsed at the beginning of the recession, and the legislature later trimmed $11 million.

Inevitably that will mean less spending on the interior since the basic shape of the building was already set.

The building will also house the Institute for Emerging Issues, a think tank started by Hunt, a former governor, and a interactive policy gallery to highlight visionary leadership in the state.

Staff writer Jay Price

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