For Today and Tomorrow

Twelve years. That’s the time that it took administrators and staff at California’s Santa Clara University (SCU) to turn their vision for a new library into reality. And it’s not just a library. The new, privately funded Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orrade Library is an architecturally significant addition to the campus and an engaging and technologically advanced learning environment. Great thought, careful planning, and adhering to the original vision have resulted in a facility that brings together the information, technology, and media resources and services that enable teaching, learning, and scholarship and will both provide and reap rewards for years to come. It is an exciting facility that provides cutting-edge technology and flexible learning spaces to fit the wide-ranging needs of the academic community it serves.

The Development Process
“It took us 12 years to get from our initial planning start to opening the facility” said Ron Danielson, vice provost for information services and chief information officer at SCU. “During that time, we kept our vision for the facility intact.”

The combining of three University departments — library, information technology, and media services — into the information systems group was an important collaborative step. Danielson says that combining the departments brought together different cultures, backgrounds, and expectations into one entity that would shape the facility’s future and on-going operations. To guide development of the initial program, members from this group worked with other faculty, staff, and students on a campus-wide advisory panel to gather input regarding preferred features and to research library design and technology trends.

In 1999, the initial bids for the project came in at $120M, which was not feasible given the mandate by SCU’s Trustees that all funding had to be secured before construction could begin. The team went back and looked at two price points, $50M and $75M, and the program features that they could keep with both scenarios. Ultimately, and due in large part to increased material costs, SCU ended up investing $95M in the project.

A critical part of the planning stage involved sending out six teams of three individuals — one representative from each of the three departments now comprising information services — to make site visits to 19 other libraries around the country. “As we refined our program, the ability to see what others were doing was immensely valuable,” Danielson said. “We could evaluate what was feasible, see trends put into practice, and benefit from the lessons learned by others. Based on this research, which I would encourage others designing a new facility to emulate, we revisited our interior design, the layout and size of our spaces, and service points to enhance our success.”

The Design
The Harrington Learning Commons, Sobrato Technology Center, and Orrade Library was designed by Pheiffer Partners’ Los Angeles office (formerly Hardy Holzman Pheiffer) and provides the new destination space they were charged with creating.

The 194,000-sq.-ft. structure is two-and-a-half times larger than the next largest campus building, which presented several challenges. To visually reduce the building’s mass, the facility was divided into three components: an 8,000-sq.-ft., three-story structure for the automated retrieval system, a wing to house the information services staff, and the building’s public and learning areas. The two legs of the structure match the mission style architecture of other campus buildings while the center component is a modern structure with French limestone, glass, and a saw-tooth roof. North-facing clerestory windows on the main building and south-facing windows on all three buildings allow natural light to penetrate the building and provide each staff person with at least one window view.

Sustainability was a key design focus. The University opted not to pursue the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, but the building was designed to LEED standards. Sustainable features include reusing the clay tiles from the original Orrade Library, 70 percent recycled content in the concrete slab, energy-efficient lighting, waterless urinals and flush toilets, raised flooring to reduce HVAC costs, and 34 creeping figs on the “green wall” in the light well.

Technology for Today and Tomorrow

The construction budget included $12M for technology, and evidence of the investment is everywhere. “Our technology plan called for creating a space with technology resources not available elsewhere on campus backed by the required staff resources,” said Nancy Cutler, director of media services. “The systems and components were selected both for their appropriateness for today’s learning environment as well as their ability to adapt to technology changes in the future.”

The automated retrieval system currently accommodates 550,000 volumes and has a total capacity of 1.1M volumes. The system saved millions in construction costs compared to an open-shelf system with the same capacity.

“We have already rolled out two technologies used in our building to another facility,” Cutler said. “Digital signage was used throughout our building, which was a pilot for its eventual integration with all campus buildings, the first being the business school. The Accordent Capture System, which records and synchronizes audio, video, and data output from any presentation device, including notebook PCs, document cameras, and smart boards, is now also used in the business school and will be found in a number of our other campus buildings in the near future.”

Cutler notes that the group collaborative workrooms, multi-media labs, and video viewing and taping rooms all feature the latest technology. In fact, technology components were not ordered until the last possible moment to ensure that SCU was purchasing the most current technology available when the building opened.

In particular, the Information Commons’ Saint Clare room includes a state-of-the-art digital light processor (DLP) projector with sources for connecting Blu-ray players, computers, and even linking other classrooms. Four full-sized equipment racks with monitoring capabilities contain the AV that gives the room the ability to host presentations, lectures, and panel discussions without bringing in additional equipment. An AMX touch screen mounted at the lectern allows the presenter to control everything from the lighting presets to the PTZ camera.

All of the presentation rooms in the facility have Web-streaming capabilities, allowing students to view classes, lectures, and presentations in real time online, exemplifying the system's high-tech focus.

Officials at SCU are convinced that during the next five years that digital video will become a critical component of how students document their educational experience. Based on this belief, all collaborative spaces are equipped to handle digital video even though its use is only emerging at this time.

And there is much more. Instead of searching for a room, users can book a space using an online room-reservation system. Faculty may secure one of three educational experiment rooms that are dedicated to their use for one academic term or year. And the list goes on.

It took some time from when the idea for a new library was birthed to when construction was completed, but the wait was worth it. Other colleges and universities building a new library or renovating an existing structure would do well to visit the SCU campus. The doors are open.