By: David Mehl  | 

Library Renovations Commence

This past January, as most Yeshiva University students used the winter break to spend some time away from the campus, maintenance work began around the Mendel Gottesman Library Building in preparation for the first major renovations in the library's 55-year history.

The construction project, which will resume after midterm examinations in April, is the result of a study conducted by the University over several months, which involved  consulting with library staff, faculty, and students, as well as experts in the field of library construction and architecture in general. The study's final report, completed in June 2012, pinpointed several areas in need of improvement. Only the Pollak Library has been targeted for the “massive overhaul”; no renovations are planned for the Mendel Gottesman Library of Hebraica/Judaica on the floors directly above.

The primary difference to be enacted will be an adjustment in the library's focus, which Dean of Libraries Pearl S. Berger described as a response to changing times. “Modes of study and learning have changed significantly since [the library first opened],” she said. “Fifty or sixty 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" - houses of study rather than just houses of books. To that end, the renovations will leave the library with more tables and carrels for study, a new information commons area, and more than a dozen rooms available for group study.

Other issues will also be addressed. The irregular and often unsuitably dim lighting will be improved, to the great relief of sore-eyed students around the campus. Larger bathrooms will be installed for both men and women. The infamously difficult to navigate stairwells will be restructured to make the entire library simpler to access. Digital infrastructure will also receive a necessary upgrade.

The library's appearance is set to undergo an even more fundamental makeover. Much of the building's drab brick exterior will be replaced with clear glass windows stretching from floor to ceiling, displaying to Amsterdam Avenue passers-by both the inside of the Pollak Library and the Nagel Commons area on the ground floor. Computer-generated architectural renderings of the planned construction show that portions of the low brick walls that line each of the library's multiple tiers will also be replaced.

"The renovations will make the library appearance something that Yeshiva University students can be proud of," said Etan Neiman, '16SB, Student Life Committee Liaison to Library Services. Though he allowed that some interference with studies would inevitably occur, Neiman pledged that the Student Life Committee would make it a priority to minimize any disruption of studies that the renovations may cause.

The renovations are the result of a donation by David and Ruth Gottesman. David Gottesman, a former chairman of the Yeshiva University Board of Trustees and a member of the Forbes Magazine list of America's four hundred wealthiest people, is a grandson of Mendel Gottesman, for whom the library building is named. All renovations are scheduled to conclude within two years.