Mansueto Library: Where from here?

At 8 a.m. on May 16, 2011, the Mansueto Library Grand Reading Room officially opened its doors to the University of Chicago community and scholars from around the world. A group of early risers were in position, waiting to claim the first seats under Mansueto’s magnificent dome, and more students streamed in throughout the day and late into the night. As they filled the room, I caught a glimpse of Mansueto’s future, but I also knew our work had just begun.

The process of loading materials into Mansueto started soon thereafter and continued throughout the summer so that nearly 1 million volumes could be loaded into Mansueto by the fall.

The formal dedication of Mansueto will be held on Tuesday, October 11. This highlight will mark the completion of the construction phase and the starting point for the next phase of programmatic developments.

The genius of Mansueto is in its beauty and functionality; its power is in its enabling features. Unless we mine these enabling features, we will have wasted its powerful promise.

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Mansueto is first and foremost about discoverability. Shelf browsing and serendipitous discovery by roaming open shelves is the surest way to stumble upon unexpected information, and Mansueto enables this type of discoverability by freeing the open stacks of materials that cannot or do not need to be browsed. As our collections continue to grow,  we must sustain the careful and continuous process of collections management guided by the principles of discoverability: move to Mansueto what is not to be browsed, keep in the open stacks what is.

Mansueto enables both disciplinary and interdisciplinary collocation. Collections in all disciplines will be housed in the high density facility. At the same time, our automated discovery tools support virtual browsing by disciplinary classification regardless of where the material is physically located. We must sustain and further develop this capability as our collections grow in number and diversity.

Mansueto enables physical accessibility. It supports delivery within minutes of materials that can only be virtually browsed.

Mansueto enables flexibility. The random location of materials in high-density storage is more conducive to collection rearrangement than the classified arrangement of materials in the open stacks. We must continue to rationalize the location of collections as we monitor their use.

Mansueto enables preservation. It functions as a trusted print repository in a high-density storage vault. And it highlights the importance of conservation to ensure that materials can be safely used over time. We must respond with a preservation program that is  commensurate with the needs of our collections and the expectations of our users.

Mansueto enables virtual access through the dissemination of content in digital form. We must build up our local digitization capacity to complement mass digitization efforts  towards a program that will open our collections to users here and around the world.

Mansueto enables education, teaching, and outreach. We must equip all vacated library spaces with state-of-the-art equipment to support study and teaching with library resources and in library environments. And we must maximize the beauty and programmatic capabilities of the new Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery by extending the breadth of our physical exhibition program and complementing it with a rich virtual exhibition program.

Mansueto enables partnership and collaboration. It frees space throughout the library system for shared, collaborative cross-university initiatives. We must invest in cultivating affinities and collaboration with different units on campus that contribute to the information enterprise.

It is imperative that we take full advantage of Mansueto’s enormous potential to enable scholarship and teaching at the University of Chicago. We are eager to meet this important challenge, but we cannot do it alone.

Our friends and advocates have been with us as we built the case for Mansueto, and as we built its walls. Your foresight, generosity and investment have supported our achievements thus far. Together, we have built a magnificent frame and a powerful infrastructure for the forward-looking programs of a great library. I now invite your continued engagement and support in realizing the full potential of Mansueto as we build Library programs that further fuel research, study, and teaching at this greatest of universities.

From the Fall 2011 issue of Libra

This entry was posted in Feature Story, From the Director, Humanities & Social Sciences, Making of Mansueto, Regenstein & Mansueto News and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.
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