By: Eitan Lipsky  | 

Floors 5 and 5A of Gottesman Library to be Renovated over Upcoming Summer

The wait is almost over for those “fifth-floor studiers” who might have felt short-changed by the recent renovations to floors 2 through 4 of the Wilf Campus library. According to Dr. Paul Glassman, Director of University Libraries, thanks to the generous donation of David and Ruth Gottesman, floors 5 and 5A of the Gottesman library will undergo a major renovation that will begin at the conclusion of the spring semester and is scheduled to be completed before the upcoming academic year.

Construction of the Gottesman Library Building on Amsterdam Avenue, including floors 2 through 5A that make up the Pollack and Gottesman libraries, began in 1968 and concluded in 1969. After many years of the original library serving its function as the academic hub of the Wilf Campus, work began in early 2015 towards modernizing the look of the Pollack Library (floors 2, 2A, 3, and 3A) as well as the lowest floor of the Gottesman Library (floor 4), and turning them into more effective studying spaces. That project was also generously sponsored by David and Ruth Gottesman, and was completed in November 2015. Although at that point only part of the library underwent renovations, the administration knew that they would get back to the remaining library floors soon.

Earlier this year, a project team consisting of Dr. Glassman, Head Librarian of Hebraica-Judaica Leah Adler, Director of Administrative Services Joseph Cook; and architects Ran Oron and James Driscoll of the architecture design firm ROART (the same firm that headed the 2015 renovations) met to begin planning how to go about improving the fifth floor. After several weeks of discussion, the team proposed a diagram of how the layout of the floors will look. This diagram has been altered numerous times since it was originally proposed; as of press time, no conclusion has been reached on exactly what the renovations will look like. The Commentator is in touch with the project team, and hopes to publicize the floor plan for our readers to see as soon as it is finalized.

Part of the reason that coming up with the exact plan for the new design of floors 5 and 5A is taking some time is the nature of the Gottesman Library. “We feel that the Gottesman Library is the Hebraica/Judaica library of record in the Northeast, if not the entire United States,” said Dr. Glassman, “and we believe that it contains a comprehensive account of Jewish scholarship.”  As such, the team commissioned studies from two outside consultants to guide them in how to manage the collections in light of the renovations and how to create the optimal research library. Whereas in the previous renovation project of the library’s lower floors many of the bookshelves were cleared out and many of the books were either removed entirely or relocated to the library’s basement to create more study spaces, this renovation has a different set of goals; to preserve the integrity and prestige of the Gottesman library, most of the collections will not be moved from their current locations. One set of the Gottesman collection that will be relocated is the periodicals, which will be moved up to the 6th floor of the library. While the library’s 6th floor cannot be accessed by elevator, it can be reached by the stairs and will be used as storage space for any books that are moved in order to keep them close to where they might be needed.

While not all of the details of the new-look library are known, some of the planned changes have already been agreed upon. A row of windows much like those on floors 2 and 4 will replace some of the harsh brick wall that currently faces Amsterdam Avenue on floor 5, which will provide additional natural light to the room. New couches will be placed on the floor and the current tables will be refinished and reoriented to give the furniture on the floor a new look, and new carpeting will be added for the whole floor. Additionally, efforts will be made to create more visual communication between floors 5 and 5A. At least two group study rooms as well as one seminar room will appear on the floors. The restrooms will be upgraded and a women’s restroom will be added. Updated LED lighting will bring much brightness to the floor that has a reputation of having a gloomy aura due to its poor lighting. The printer stations will be consolidated and will appear in one designated area on floor 5. New copiers will be added, all integrated with the new Pharos software.

Unfortunately, one problem that exists on these floors that the renovations will not be able to solve is the tendency of the floors to be rather sultry. As Dr. Glassman keenly explained, “Heat rises. If you would like to be cool, go to a lower floor. There is no way for us to get around that problem”.

While the team is committed to working diligently over the summer and to sticking to a strict timetable to have the library ready for the beginning of the fall semester, Dr. Glassman acknowledged that there is always a chance of things getting delayed in the process. “With architectural projects, we have to allow for unforeseen conditions that might alter the timetable of the project,” he said, “especially when we are working on an existing building.” Nevertheless, Dr. Glassman said that he would make sure to keep the student body updated if the completion date of the project were to change.


Photo credit: Shlomo Friedman