Academics and Research / News

Move under way at Penrose Library

DU’s plan to have a whole new look and feel for Penrose Library to support the needs of patrons in the 21st century is under way. In preparation for construction work on the Academic Commons, movers last week transported almost 20,000 linear feet of material to a DU-owned off-site location called the Hampden Center.  

“The needs of students and faculty are changing,” says Nancy Allen, dean of Penrose Library. “We have a wonderful opportunity to anticipate the way library patrons of the future will interact with information, materials, books, and each other.”

Two things have guided the architecture and design of the interior spaces: the need for more seating and work space for students and faculty members and the need to make the interior spaces of the building as flexible as possible.

During the renovation, all materials will be housed at DU’s Hampden Center in Lakewood, Colo. Discussions are ongoing about the percentage of materials that will return.

Dean Saitta, professor of anthropology and president of DU’s Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, says he entered the conversation when there was a shift from keeping 80 percent of the books at Penrose to 20 percent.

“I thought since it was a significant change that there should have been a period of consultation,” Saitta says. “This is a university, and the library is the centerpiece that symbolizes our dedication to the dissemination of knowledge.”

Collection loan data for Penrose confirms a known fact among libraries that 20 percent of any collection is the basis for 80 percent of the lending, Allen says. It’s this information along with the long-term needs of the facility, that led University administrators to conclude recently that 20 percent of the paper volumes should be retained in the building and 80 percent should remain at the Hampden Center.

“This is a trend in libraries,” Allen says. “Many research libraries use high density storage facilities to house parts of their collections. Harvard developed a type of high-density facility that many other campuses have copied, including the University of Colorado.”

Stanford University, Yale University, Duke University, Johns Hopkins University, Cornell University and Ohio State University store significant portions of their collections. So the concept of finding all books in once place during a browsing process is in many cases a thing of the past, Allen says.

In a letter to faculty this month, Provost Gregg Kvistad wrote that the 80-20 decision is not final and he will convene a group of deans to study the issue.  

“Faculty input on this question is very important, and I am confident that we can all move forward together,” he wrote.

Kvistad wrote that the 20 percent figure can change if a fact-based argument is made.

Saitta says he’s glad the administration is opening the conversation but he hopes it doesn’t boil down to only keeping books that have been produced in the past 10 years or that have frequent use.

“I go into stacks and always come out with things I didn’t know existed and more importantly that I didn’t find through virtual browsing,” Saitta says. “There’s nothing like the experience of going into the stacks.”

While Penrose is under construction, the Driscoll Ballroom and Gallery space will be used to replicate the main floor of the library as closely as possible. It will be the location where all materials are picked up and returned and where visitors can access academic services such as University Technology Services, the Writing Center, the Research Center and the Math Center.

While dates could change, the target date for opening the new library is December 2012.

For ongoing news and updates about the Academic Commons at Penrose Library building project, visit the Academic Commons website.


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