Berkeley’s first 24/7 library space in the works

While the grand opening isn’t until fall 2016, work already has begun to revitalize outdated Moffitt Undergraduate Library and create UC Berkeley’s first 24-hour library space. When it’s done, Moffitt won’t be your mother’s library, or even your big sister’s, for that matter, says Elizabeth Dupuis, associate university librarian.

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Moffit Library’s fourth floor will feature collaborative space with transparent, movable walls. The architectural firm for the Moffitt project is Gensler, which designed Facebook’s headquarters and San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 3. (UC Berkeley image by Gensler)

“A library for undergraduates is no longer just about studying quietly with your textbooks,” she says, “but a bridge between class and one’s future career. Today’s student also wants 24/7 access, the option of sitting or standing at a computer, places to meditate and nap, both solitary and collaborative work spaces, and coffee and solid fuel close at hand.”

Plans are underway to improve the Moffitt East Terrace, currently a neglected, inactive area adjacent to, but disconnected from, the activities in Moffitt Library. A year from now, that terrace, across from Memorial Glade, will be a primary entrance to a new library learning space on Moffitt’s top two floors, its fourth and fifth, which are being modernized thanks to $14.4 million in private giving.

Buzz on fourth, hush on fifth

Dupuis describes the future fourth floor as a “hyper-collaborative, loud, co-working space” with movable walls that students don’t need permission to reconfigure to section off places for study groups or other teamwork. The walls will be colorful, transparent and awaiting students’ sketches and calculations. Two meeting rooms for up to 12 people are being designed for Web conferencing and video capture so students can prepare for class presentations or interviews.

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Moffitt East Terrace, currently a neglected, inactive area, will become the primary entrance to new learning space on Moffitt’s fourth and fifth floors. (UC Berkeley image by Gensler)

A 30-seat library learning lab will be the hotspot for free workshops on a wide range of topics, including a digital literacy program pilot that the library is planning with students and other campus partners. Lockers on the fourth floor will be available for short-term use, and vending machines for basic food and supplies will make it easier to stay productive all day and night.

On the fifth floor, solitary study space to focus and think will be predominant, from individual carrels to modern reading room-style tables to meet what Dupuis says is a desire by students to “study together alone.” A room for stretching, meditation, quiet prayer and power naps — all of which are meant to promote student well-being and healthful ways to manage stress — also is on this floor.

Both the fourth and fifth floors will have meeting rooms for up to six people, which  students can reserve online for group projects or discussions. Moffitt will offer laptops, portable projectors and other digital devices, as well as secure containers for students who wish to leave materials for large projects at the library rather than tote them back and forth each day.

The “people space” on both floors will have panoramic views and be 30 percent larger than what currently exists, says Dupuis, since the book collections from those floors have been integrated into the Gardner (Main) Stacks nearby. “The top floors will feel like decks,” she adds, “with views to the west across Strawberry Creek and the Eucalyptus Grove and to the east to classic Doe Library and Memorial Glade.”

Improvements from bottom to rooftop

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A view from above of the Moffitt Library East Terrace project. (UC Berkeley image by EHDD)

On the ground floor of the library’s east side, a new primary entrance into Moffitt’s fourth floor will be built. Contemporary, brighter and more efficient lighting will be installed from the terrace to the main sidewalk that leads north to the C.V. Starr East Asian Library and south toward Sather Gate. Drought-resistant landscaping will be added, and an outpost of the nearby Free Speech Movement Café will operate on the terrace’s north side, with the library receiving a percentage of the sales.

Moffitt also will get deferred maintenance — a new roof with solar capacity and upgrades to elevators, heating and ventilation, and power supplied for lighting and for the students’ own digital devices, lowering the building’s carbon footprint. Further improvements to modernize Moffitt’s first, second and third floors are expected to take place in the future.

Throughout this construction project, the fourth and fifth floors will be closed, but all other services in Moffitt Library will remain open.

“The library is working to extend Doe Library hours during RRR (Reading, Review and Recitation) Week and finals week, since we know Cal students are especially desperate for quality, quiet spaces in the last weeks of the semester,” says Dupuis.

As early as the 1930s, serious thinking took place on campus about creating a separate library for undergraduates. In 1970, the James K. Moffitt Undergraduate Library opened as a response to the challenge of providing quality library services to undergraduates at a large, research-oriented library.

Moffitt Library is part of the University Library, which also includes Doe Library, the Gardner (Main) Stacks, Bancroft Library, C.V. Starr East Asian Library and 24 subject specialty libraries. In October, retiring and longtime University Librarian Tom Leonard will be succeeded by scholar and University of Michigan School of Information Dean Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, who is outspoken about the importance of a modern library in today’s world of information abundance.