The Cornell Science and Engineering Library at Swarthmore College is located on a strategic site at the north edge of campus with stunning views out to Crum Woods. The original building was constructed over thirty years ago when printed material was paramount and study was more of a solitary pursuit. The goal of this project was to transform the main floor of the library into a comfortable, inviting and flexible environment that is responsive to new approaches to learning. The renovation converts the facility from a traditional academic library into an engaging environment that blurs the distinction between group interaction and contemplative study.
The new open floor plan has a diversity of seating types that can accommodate a variety of study activities, including large tables for individual or group work, booths for more social engagement, a tall community table for individuals with laptops, and comfortable lounge seating along the exterior wall with views out to the woods beyond. A wood paneled wall with bookshelves forms a backdrop to the study area and is both functional and symbolic. A new glazed portal at the entry acts as a transition from the adjacent Science Center which houses academic labs and faculty offices. There are also two group study rooms with flat-screen monitors for collaborative work, and a larger seminar room for small classes. The use of natural materials and a complementary color palette reinforces the strong connection to the landscape beyond.
By expanding on the sense of openness, taking advantage of the abundance of natural light and views, and creating inviting spaces for students to interact with each other and library staff, the renovation transforms the current library into a new “Information Commons”. The renovated first floor of Cornell Library serves as an aspirational complement to the adjacent social commons and increases the effectiveness of this unique combination of spaces as a campus place for broad and diverse knowledge exchange.