A library is a sanctuary for thinking, working, reflecting—and increasingly, for collaboration. It’s the nerve centre of a university, especially when it is home to so many written treasures, as is the library of the Dominican University College.
Built in the 70s on a restricted budget, the library is now too small and not suited to the current needs of researchers, students and faculty. It is essential that it be expanded and updated now. Major investments are needed, for these three reasons.
Lack of space
The DUC library is specialized in philosophy and theology, and its five storeys house over 130,000 books and 400 academic journals. But a number of purchases are needed to update the collections available to students, because these areas of study are behind the times in terms of publishing digital content. For the most part, these works are only available in paper format.
In addition, we have a collection of over 3,000 rare works—treasures from the 16th and 17th centuries—and a collection of works on film that were donated by the Office des communications sociales. Both collections are in storage due to lack of space. But we would like to restore, protect and showcase them.
The importance of adapting to users’ needs
Libraries offer very different work areas than they did fifty years ago. While they are still a favoured haven for reading, thinking and writing, they have also become a gathering place for group work.
But the current library is not conducive to this, so we must make adjustments. Some of the upgrades that are needed are creating areas for team work, updating electronic equipment, and facilitating access to a network of more powerful computers.
The need to refit and refresh
The library’s current configuration is no longer in line with the establishment’s goals. The overall design has to be reviewed and updated, and improvements are needed in traffic flow, work spaces, lighting and collection management.
What’s more, the current conservation conditions are not optimal for some of our rare works, so we would clearly like to address this. The library is open to the public, but outside loans are difficult, for logistical and management reasons. It’s unfortunate, because this service is increasingly in demand.
This is therefore another aspect we want to correct, to create value for our collections and make them available to everyone. Thus, an upgrade is needed so we can offer better service to our users and to improve the library’s overall efficiency.We want to reveal and share our treasures, not hide them.
A one-of-a-kind partnership with Carleton University
To move this ambitious project forward, the Dominican University College has been collaborating closely for the past two years with the students and professors of Carleton University’s architecture department.
Together, we are looking at the most logical and realistic options to make the library more functional over the long term. Several proposals have been studied, but so far, none of them have been realistic in terms of feasibility or cost. However, these exercises have been valuable milestones in our thought process, and the work will resume in January with a new cohort of students.
The next steps
We are currently working to clarify the needs of all library users, including the directors and College faculties, to offer better guidance to the students and architects.This exercise will continue until February 2017.
We hope a first complete sketch will be ready in the fall of 2017, and that the models will be developed and presented in the winter of 2018. This is clearly a long-term project. Its achievement depends on support from our friends and partners, and on financing that we estimate at between $5 and $10 million.
MAXIME ALLARD, o.p.,
PRESIDENT OF THE DOMINICAN UNIVERSITY COLLEGE