By Kurt Chirbas
Initial plans to demolish Meyer Library by 2012 may be postponed for up to three more years. The University is exploring the possibility of moving the contents of the library into the Graduate School of Business (GSB) South Building in the meantime.
This announcement came during a joint presentation given by John Bender, chair of the Committee on Libraries (C-LIB), and University Librarian Michael Keller at last Thursday’s Faculty Senate meeting.
In the fall of 2007, Meyer was deemed “seismically unsafe” in a campus-wide seismic retrofit study. The study found that the library would most likely be an unsafe environment in the case of an earthquake.
According to Andrew Herkovic, director of communications and development at the University Librarian’s Office, seismic concerns about Meyer Library were inherent in its shape and design. The University faced the choice of either razing or retrofitting the building. After completing a cost calculation, officials quickly ruled out the latter option.
“It was considered and rejected on the basis that it would cost more than it was worth,” Herkovic said.
With Meyer’s demolition now scheduled for 2015, the University began to consider what ought to happen to the library’s contents. Meyer currently houses academic computing services, library internal technical services and the East Asia Library.
Preliminary plans were drafted in 2007 to construct another library slightly south of the current site, close to the Law School. However, the planned library was smaller in scale and only had the capacity to house the academic computer service function of Meyer. It did not make room for the East Asia Library, whose books were to be stored at the Stanford Auxiliary Library III (SAL3), an off-campus library in Livermore, under this plan.
Bender said the East Asia collection, which is the fastest growing collection at Stanford, works in Meyer, and includes many manuscripts that are “not easily digitalized.”
“There have been very strong feelings from our faculty in those areas,” Bender said.
“It was important to keep these manuscripts on campus to those who study “languages in non-Roman characters,” he added.
This sentiment made SAL3 storage a less attractive option. As a result, the Academic Council Committee on Libraries convened a subcommittee, headed by Michael Marrinan, professor of art and art history, in January of 2008 to look into what effect that Meyer’s demolition would have on the accessibility of printed materials.
A second subcommittee, chaired by Matthew Sommer, professor of history, was formed shortly after the Marrinan subcommittee presented its report to Faculty Senate in 2009. The Sommer subcommittee, as it was henceforth called, was tasked with investigating the libraries issue more deeply.
Bender said two main findings came from these committees. First and foremost, it was concluded that there should be a “new building centered on the East Asia Library.” Secondly, it was agreed that approximately the same number of books should remain on campus.
A new possibility emerged when the Business School announced its move to the new Knight Management Building, thereby leaving GSB South vacated.
Bender said that GSB South would be a “great fit for the East Asia Library.”
“The old Jackson Library is a beautiful piece of work space,” Bender said. “It’s something we might even imagine a donor being attracted to.”
“You might not love it from the outside,” he added, “but it’s actually a very nice space inside. It has a lot of character and a lot of interesting spaces that could be used in good ways by the libraries.”
But the University must address several complications before GSB South can become the new home to the East Asia Library.
According to a C-LIB report, some of these challenges include GSB South’s “distance from the central traffic corridor used by students,” its limited number of elevators and its lack of a loading dock. Another critical factor is the anticipated loss of central campus stack space resulting from the move.
The C-LIB report also enumerated possible benefits. For instance, the Registrar could utilize some of the “existing classroom space on the site” and the University could open “a food service operation, to better serve students who will use the new facilities 24/7.”
Herkovic said the University remains hopeful that the move will be successful.
“We are optimistic that GSB South would be a great home for these operations,” Herkovic said. “We really want this to happen and we really don’t know of an alternative. We are putting a lot of energy into making sure that this is a success if the money and the approval all work out.”
Last year, an outside consultant was hired to study the fit of the GSB South Building. The study examined whether the building could accommodate operations currently held at Meyer Library.
Now, the University is conducting a cost-benefit study. Herkovic estimated that the cost study would be completed by early summer.
“It won’t be a simple figure,” Herkovic said. “It will be some complex menu of options to retrofitting the building.”
Herkovic said the University would make a final recommendation concerning the project and then seek approval from the Board of Trustees. If approved, GSB South wouldn’t be ready for occupancy until 2013. It would take another two years to finalize the transfer of materials and personnel from Meyer to the GSB South.
Etchemendy said that $1 million has been spent to study the move so far. He estimated that the move from Meyer to GSB South would cost approximately $50 million.
“We want to make sure we find the right location for the East Asia Library,” he said.