Sept. 26-Oct. 9, 2003
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Library now offers inviting ambience for scholarship
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Library now offers inviting ambience for scholarship
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
The Clark Hall Library was originally the heart of the University’s School of Law (below). Built in the 1930s and expanded in the 1950s, the library served generations of law students until 1975, when the school moved to new quarters on the North Grounds. The Clark Hall space then became the Science and Engineering Library. The library remained basically unchanged until now. Renovations make the space a popular study haven for technologically savvy patrons. Source:

By Robert Brickhouse

The University’s renovated Science and Engineering Library in Clark Hall, a $10 million project blending traditional elements with the latest technology, will have a grand opening for the University community, including the Board of Visitors, and the public on Oct. 3. At 2:30 p.m., Joe Palca, senior science correspondent for National Public Radio, will present a public talk in the main room with a reception following. An art exhibition by Art Department faculty will be on display there throughout the academic year. (See related article.)

The state-of-the-art library is designed to meet the needs of technologically savvy users and help them keep abreast of the knowledge explosions in their fields, said Carol R. Hunter, director of the Science and Engineering Libraries system, which includes departmental satellite-libraries. But, “we intend never to lose sight of the fact that a library should be a lively, inviting space,” she said.

Built in the Depression era, the high-windowed library with its entrance hall of grand murals was once the heart of the University’s School of Law. After the Law School moved in 1975, the venerable building took new life as a Science and Engineering Library.

But by the 21st century, as U.Va.’s science programs grew in stature, the old library remained almost unchanged. Students still studied at long oak tables used by their grandparents. To find books and journals, they had to climb down a narrow stairway.

Art exhibit inspired by sciences

By Jane Ford

Themes of nature are a fitting topic for an art display at the Science and Engineering Library’s new reading room. The exhibit will be a highlight of the library’s grand opening in Clark Hall on Oct. 3.

For the library’s director, Carol S. Hunter, inviting the McIntire Department of Art faculty to exhibit their works was a natural.

“It’s a way to bring the scientific and artistic together,” she said. “Exposure to the arts completes the person and the education Jefferson had envisioned.”

The exhibition represents “a blurring of categories,” added studio art faculty member Dean Dass. “A lot of faculty artists are involved in works based on scientific themes.”

Art faculty have long drawn on resources in the Science and Engineering Library for inspiration. Elizabeth Schoyer, who teaches painting, uses texts from the library to create works inspired by explorers and natural history chronicles. Dean Dass, who teaches printmaking and works in many mediums, is creating work inspired by geysers, volcanoes and natural hot springs he researched in the library’s collection.

Sculptor Bill Bennett, chairman of studio art, will exhibit his work “Starcatcher” or “Catch a Falling Star,” which depicts the tools a butterfly collector might use to assemble an astronomical collection. Another sculpture he created for an exhibit on Brown’s Island in Richmond relates to engineering and industry that took place there in the 19th century.

Photographer William Wylie will exhibit his photographs of water that capture the timeless qualities of changing flow patterns and light fluctuations.

Painter Megan Marlatt will exhibit works on paper influenced by 19th-century botany illustrations, which she arranges in what she refers to as her own collection of paintings.

The exhibit will also feature works by Richard Crozier, Tom Doran, Bogdan Achimescu, Seth Hunter and Doug Dertinger.

Hunter considers the exhibit the first of numerous collaborations with artists and groups in the University community.

“The library is a place where you study, reflect and think,” she said. “The exhibit is a way to give art visibility and is a catalyst for communication going back and forth between disciplines.”

Now, with a high skylight in a new addition, an array of glassed-in meeting and study rooms, comfortable chairs and cozy corners, the library emphasizes natural light to the fullest and encourages users to enjoy its open spaces. Every seat and study carrel has complete wireless access.

Although the library looks high-tech with its computers and digital materials, “we made sure we took the best of the past with us,” Hunter said. The old tables have been refinished and repositioned for use by a laptop generation, and there is even a gas fireplace ringed with armchairs in the new reading room. Designed by Ellenzweig Associates Inc. architects, the renovation provides different arrangements for collaborative study.

Students now find a new state-of-the-art ITC computer lab that will allow them to take a project from the research stage to the finished product. A multimedia center offers scanners, digital media workstations and other technology designed to teach students multimedia skills. An expanded electronic classroom will enable librarians to teach students information-literacy skills. The library teaches an ongoing slate of classes in how to find and use digital information, as well as how to create and use it effectively.

As part of the renovation, the library has a new staircase and elevator to provide easy access to the collections of books and journals. The center portion of the main floor includes a combined reference and circulation service-desk, public computers for accessing VIRGO and online databases, comfortable seating and
restroom facilities.

The renovation is designed to assure that the library can offer its users the highest-quality service well into the future, Hunter said. “We’re a key part of the University’s strong emphasis on science, by offering the best possible library.”


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