Summer is now a full week behind us. While some Rochesterians are still mourning the loss of warm weather as they pack away their flip flops and close their swimming pools, others are celebrating the return of cardigans and apple picking. A similar transition has occurred on the University of Rochester’s River Campus: Hard Hat Summer has given way to Hot Library Fall.
For those who missed it, Hard Hat Summer began in May, shortly after the Commencement 2021 ceremonies. It represented the period during which the River Campus Libraries began the refresh projects for Gleason Library and Carlson Science and Engineering Library’s first floor and construction of Studio X, the University’s new hub for extended reality. Now that all work on these library spaces has been completed, the time to enjoy how great everything looks. Welcome to Hot Library Fall.
Pumpkin spice? More like, "Oh, this is nice!"
Decorative gourds? No. Brand new whiteboards.
Leaf peeping? We’re inside. Peep all the modern furniture.
Spooky season? Only if you’re referring to the disbelief that these are the same spaces. In the case of Gleason Library, anyone who hasn’t been shocked and awed by the new Gleason either never saw or doesn’t remember the old Gleason. (We’re prepared to die on this hill.)
To help make our case, we’re sharing a series of “before and after” photos. We’ll also share some student reactions and some of the reasons Mary Ann Mavrinac, vice provost and the Andrew H. and Janet Dayton Neilly Dean of the University of Rochester Libraries, was “filled with joy” when she saw the completed refresh.
If you’re having trouble remembering what the old meet-up space in Gleason looked like or where it was, it’s because there wasn’t one. The center of the photo below shows the top of the stairwell, where students enter Gleason from the ground floor of Rush Rhees Library. Notice the copier on the left side of the photo. That copier was likely a meet-up point.
From the dean: “It speaks to the user research that our team undertook, including hearing from undergraduate students who indicated their color and seating preferences and the overall vibe of the space.”
Whiteboards and powered high-top seats
Below you will see two photos: one will make you hear dial-up internet. The other will display one of the innovative ways the library incorporated new whiteboards (a hot Gleason commodity) and seating into the space.
“I like the way it’s more sophisticated and calming to work in,” says Stephanie Klovekorn ʼ24. “I love the new light chairs. A lot of the old stuff was kind of broken. The carpet was coming up, and a lot of the chairs were ripped up.”
Klovekorn’s memories make this an excellent time to remind you that the old Gleason saw 13 years of use.
Group study and collaborative study
Frankly, most of the changes speak for themselves. Even first-year students were able to appreciate the new aesthetic. “I like the colors,” says C.J. Derby ʼ25. “Rooms are normally plain.” Derby gave a special shout-out to the half-moon study pods (see, Individual study). And Tiago Davis ʼ25 expressed his gratitude for being able to “plug-in” everywhere in Gleason.
From the dean: “To respond to student requests, we included new features, such as a variety of “micro-climates,” which offer different study experiences throughout the space. We also enhanced our silent study areas.
Perhaps one of the best one-to-one comparisons we can offer. Even with no one in it, the old Gleason’s “Quieter Study Room” seems loud.
In the Before photo, we have to start by acknowledging the elephant, or in this case, the sad, broken chair, in the room. Now that we have confessed our shame, we want to point out how this part of Gleason was largely a lounge area. The After photo shows how we turned it into an individual study space that takes advantage of the large windows (a popular feature of Gleason). Fun side-game: count the colors you see.
From the dean: “The tone and colors, coupled with the various micro-climates, provide a collaborative learning environment that enables our students to do their best work.”
Open lab/workshop space
What you see below can only be described as “penned space.” There’s nothing “open” about it. The left-side of the photos shows a rather cramped version of lab space. (And let’s not forget the late-90s internet café, where the angled whiteboards now live.)
Yung Chieh Hsu ʼ22 typically uses Gleason for the technology it offers, specifically special software such as Stata. “The first word that came to mind when I saw the new Gleason was ‘marvelous,’” Hsu says. “It is so much cleaner and spacious. I’m now more willing to spend time there.”
Gleason’s new stairwell lighting offers one last way to experience time travel.
From the dean: “Through all the changes, we retained the essence of what the Gleason Library is—a collaborative, safe, and secure study space.” ∎
All photos were provided by Adam Fenster, University of Rochester photographer. For any questions on the new Gleason Library, contact Maurini Strub, director of Performance & User Engagement, at firstname.lastname@example.org.