May 25, 2018

ASU President Michael Crow and Librarian Jim O'Donnell take a sledgehammer — literally — to old ideas about what a university library should be

The Arizona State University community celebrated the progressing transformation of its largest library at a groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning.

Speaking at the ceremony, ASU President Michael Crow said the redesign of Hayden Library is one step in many to ensure that the library remains at the center of the ASU knowledge enterprise.

“There will always be at the heart of every great learning organization a library,” said Crow. “In the core of the core of the core of this enterprise is the library — the place of mediated, articulated, verifiable and quantifiable knowledge, not random dither. You cannot have a core of a learning enterprise without that.”

Currently under comprehensive renovation with completion scheduled for January 2020, Hayden Library’s five-story tower will feature new classrooms, state-of-the-art learning labs, engaging print collections, and study space to accommodate more than 2,000 students.  

The remodel advances a new vision for academic libraries at a time when demand for student space on campus continues to grow and knowledge is being created, accessed and shared with an ever-expanding set of tools.

“The library will take many forms: physical, digital and philosophical,” Crow said. “Who knows how libraries will end up in the next hundreds of years, but they’re not going away.”

Michael crow
President Michael Crow, along with University Librarian Jim O’Donnell (left) spoke about the vital importance of libraries to the university's mission at the "groundbreaking" of the renovation of Hayden Library. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Rethinking libraries

ASU joins other universities across the country that are rethinking their libraries.

“Libraries are books, and much, much more beside,” University Librarian Jim O’Donnell said. “Libraries are central to the educational enterprise — the critical link connecting students to the university and to the world of knowledge.” 

Features of the Hayden Library "reinvention" include:

  • an above-ground entrance with multiple points of access
  • six classrooms and more than 1,000 additional seats for students to study, collaborate and learn
  • actively curated and community-led print collections on every floor
  • rotating exhibits that showcase the university’s innovations and scholarly work
  • main-floor access to ASU Library’s distinctive and special collections, especially rich in documenting and illustrating the history and cultures of Arizona and all its peoples
  • a suite of learning and research spaces specializing in data analysis, creativity and maker culture, technology learning, research support and geographic information systems
  • student support services integrated on every floor

O’Donnell said ASU Library is well positioned to serve as a showcase for the university and as a central hub for its commitment to inclusion, transdisciplinary exploration and student success. Traditional services retain great value in serving those goals, but new kinds of services will be particularly supported by the reinvented Hayden.

“Everybody knows what a library is — or thinks they do,” O’Donnell said. “At ASU our library transforms old collections and services with new kinds of information, new ways of finding information, and new ways to use what we have.”

Hayden redesign exterior
The Hayden Library reinvention will include an above-ground entrance with multiple points of access.

The new spaces that are coming to Hayden will be accented by new services and initiatives, some of which have already launched through grant funding awarded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Last fall, ASU Library was awarded a Mellon grant to reinvent open-stack print collections by making them more strategic, inclusive and engaging with the aim of energizing readers, scholars and learners through a more accurate and broader reflection of their experiences.

About 325,000 print volumes will return to Hayden in 2020, as a highly curated collection. 

“The print volumes that will live at Hayden will be powerful and necessary tools that give visibility and definition to the past and present artifacts of culture,” said O’Donnell, the principal investigator on the grant. 

Another Mellon grant is helping drive the library’s commitment to social embeddedness.

Library archivist Nancy Godoy was awarded a $450,000 grant last year to lead the development of community-driven archival collections in an effort to more accurately represent Arizona’s population and the contributions of minority communities to state and local history.

“Our archival work really demonstrates the inclusive values of ASU, and is helping to empower historically marginalized communities in Arizona,” O’Donnell said. 

Hayden Library redesign exterior
In addition to rotating exhibits and community-led print collections on every floor, Hayden Library will offer main-floor access to ASU Library’s distinctive and special collections.

‘We’re still open’

With Hayden tower closed and the renovation in full swing, O’Donnell has an important message for ASU students and faculty: “We’re still open for business — the business of learning.”

The Hayden Library lower concourse and lower level will remain open throughout the entire renovation, and will maintain its 24-hour service during the fall and spring semesters. 

To make up for the temporary shortage of space in Hayden Library, 150 seats have been added to Noble Library, which began operating 24 hours a day, five days a week, during the spring 2018 semester. Additional study space for students in Armstrong Hall also opened this month. 

“We anticipate few disruptions to service and are doing everything we can to ensure that students and faculty get what they need,” O’Donnell said. “It’s an exciting time, and 2020 will be here before we know it.”

Learn more about the Hayden Library renovation.

Top photo: University Librarian Jim O'Donnell punches through the old drywall at the "groundbreaking" of the renovation of Hayden Library on Friday, May 25, 2018. Though it will remain open during the great reinvention, the library is set to have a grand reopening in 2020 and will include above-ground entrances, classrooms, student collaboration spaces, student support services, collections, exhibits and much more. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now