New Design Will Create Updated Student-Focused Research and Study Center
The Mendel Gottesman Library, research center and student hub at Yeshiva University’s Wilf campus, will soon undergo a major renovation. Thanks to a generous donation from David S. Gottesman, former chairman of the YU Board of Trustees, and his wife, Ruth, the library is receiving a complete overhaul that will see the ground level through the fourth floor revamped. Mr. Gottesman, a grandson of Mendel Gottesman, also participated in the planning and design of the library.
“The library was completed in 1969 and has really terrific features, but modes of study and learning have changed significantly since then,” said Dean of YU’s Libraries Pearl Berger. “Fifty or 60 years ago, the primary function of library buildings was to house collections. While library collections retain great significance, today’s university libraries are student-centered and are designed to support the variety of learning activities in which students engage. The planned renovation is focused upon our students, with the aim of creating library environments that support student needs.”
“Times have changed, but the facility has essentially remained the same,” said Vice President for Administrative Services Jeffrey Rosengarten, who is spearheading the project. “We knew that as a leading academic research institution, we needed to focus on updating the library to meet 21st century demands.”
Months of preparation and research went into the planning of the renovation. Focus groups of students, faculty and staff were charged with the task of making recommendations for changes that would meet the evolving needs of the library’s users—both from a physical perspective in the actual design of the building as well as technological considerations. Visits were made to other university libraries and consultations were held with Aaron Cohen Associates, who are library experts, as well as with leading designers and architects to evaluate different models. These efforts culminated in June 2012 with a summary report and master plan that proposed major changes in the look, feel and orientation of the library.
“There was a clear, demonstrated need for more quiet space and for various types of seating,” said Berger. “College libraries are busy, active places that must also provide ample space for silent study and for relaxed reading. Students spend many hours in the library and need to be comfortable, whether working individually or in collaboration with others.”
The report also found that there wasn’t adequate space for group study and that the overall atmosphere could be enhanced.
“This library was built in a different era where buildings were very fortress-like, so there isn’t enough natural light and the layout can be hard to navigate,” said Rosengarten. “Students who want to study and learn together often inadvertently disturb others, and for people who want to study alone, the existing footprint with open balconies makes the spaces noisy, providing an impediment to serious learning.”
The architectural firm ROART developed the designs in coordination with Robert Salpeter, the University’s director of planning, design and construction. The designs were then vetted by the library professionals and University leadership. In October, R&S Construction firm was chosen to complete the project.
The renovations are scheduled to begin in January and are expected to take up to two years. Although significant changes will be made, the building and most of its facilities will remain accessible during this period.
Highlights of the renovation will include the creation of an information commons area with over a dozen group study and project rooms of varying sizes where students and faculty can collaborate. Large windows will be installed to allow more natural light in, as well as a number of different seating areas, additional carrels and workspaces to accommodate larger numbers of students. The digital infrastructure will be upgraded to ensure a high-speed pathway for current and future technology. Additionally, there will be new bathrooms for men and women, with handicapped-accessible features. The new design will also ensure that the library staff will be more accessible to students in areas where more service is required.
“When the planned renovations are complete, the library will become an even more highly desirable place for students and faculty to meet, conduct research and study,” said Dr. Selma Botman, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Just as a Beit Midrash is the centerpiece to Torah study, a library is the centerpiece to academic study. Libraries deserve to be at the center of universities, and the Gottesman Library will certainly secure its rightful place as a focal point of the campus.”