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A Library — Reborn For the 21st Century

Library - Commons
Rendering of the new information commons, which will include boomerang-shaped tables; the reference center (rear), inspired by the 'Genius Bar' at the Apple stores; and a 'zipper' of moving headlines around the space near the ceiling.
In 2006, President Jennifer Raab formed a task force to confront a common student complaint: the state of Hunter's main library.

"Whenever I met with students to discuss ways to improve the College, they inevitably said they wished they had a more modern and welcoming library," said President Raab. "I realized that at a commuter school like Hunter, where students can't just go to their dorm rooms to study or to meet friends between classes, the library is truly the hub of the campus. Hunter students deserve more than a library they have to go to. They deserve one they want to go to."

Charged with envisioning a Hunter library for the 21st century, the 40-plus-member task force - chaired by Urban Public Health Professor Barbara Berney and consisting of students, faculty, librarians, and staff - developed an extensive report with recommendations on improving library facilities, holdings, and programs.

The first and most prominent change will be the conversion of much of the library's main floor into an "information commons," to be named in honor of its donor, Richard Gilder, and his sister, Assistant Provost Peggy Tirschwell. The commons will include wide and welcoming gathering spots for students and an interactive reference and information desk inspired by the "Genius Bar" in Apple stores (complete with a scrolling LED "zipper" display). There will also be a new main reading room with backlit glass walls that serve as whiteboards, as well as the Barbara Lang Study Center, a gift from Eugene Lang in honor of his sister, a 1957 Hunter graduate.

Because the library's entrance is on one end of the third-floor bridge, the conception is to "re-engage the library with the rest of the campus and blur the distinction between the library and everything else," said chief architect Calvert Wright of Calvert Wright Architecture/Spatial Discipline. "We saw this as an extraordinary way to have library spaces be less static and more active."

Wright has a number of other exciting plans for the third floor, which he calls "the beating heart" of the library. For example, boomerang-shaped tables will encourage and enable both individual and collaborative work.

The newly renovated library will also be home to a Macaulay Honors Study Center, thanks to a gift from Hunter alumna Dorothy Kryger, and a science learning center, made possible by a $350,000 gift from the Skirball Foundation.

Through the efforts of Board of Trustees donors, the library's fleet of loaner laptops is being expanded to meet student demand. Sixteen laptops will be added, bringing the total to 86.

Turning the library into an active and thriving intellectual center for Hunter students and faculty is the goal, said Chief Librarian Dan Cherubin. "I'm a big proponent of collaboration, and this plan will ensure not only that we have these wonderful spaces, but also that people can come and use them together," he said. "The library faculty and staff have been very good at using what resources and space we have, and we are going to work hard to make the entire facility even better."

To help people find their way around the library, the floors will be covered with a custom carpet printed with signs, and wayfinding kiosks will be installed throughout. Transparent and translucent ceiling panels will give a sense of airiness and clarity and visitors will now be able to view the street from the library's windows.

Hunter's library will forgo the strict rules and somber setting of traditional libraries in favor of a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. Food will be allowed in various parts of the main floor. "We are doing nothing less than creating a library of the future," said President Raab.

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