Paperless libraries? Welcome to the 21st century, where one of the last bastions of traditional education is getting a facelift. In an era where books are being fast digitalized and replaced by e-readers, and the expense of running a normal library has forced many institutions to make cutbacks, paperless libraries are a burgeoning idea in the educational sphere.
First stop, the Netherlands, where a noteworthy example of this trend can be seen at the University of Amsterdam’s recent retrofit of its 27,000 square foot library. Designed by Studio Roelof Mulder and Bureau Ira Koers, and a recipient of the 2010 Dutch Design Award, the paperless library is essentially a giant study hall with a series of high design workspaces. Now, the 1,500-2000 students who visit daily don’t have to fight tooth and nail for a table during finals. In place of traditional library stacks, the university’s physical collection is kept in closed repositories and book depots. Students can also go to “the red room” to pick up bins containing books they have ordered online, saving time for those who want to avoid searching through library labyrinths.
Our next stop: the Richard J. Klarchek Information Commons at Loyola University Chicago. Flooded with natural light and offering spectacular lakeshore vistas, this library is entirely devoid of books, instead relying solely upon electronic resources. Ironically, from the exterior the building resembles two limestone bookends supporting a row of glass books.
The library does more than save paper, however. Employing numerous innovative technologies, the LEED Silver building, designed by the Chicago-based architecture firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz, also saves energy. The library features a hybrid system for heating and cooling that utilizes a dual temperature radiant ceiling and glass curtain walls with automatic shades to help minimize heat gain. These dramatic windows also help with natural ventilation by capturing breezes coming off the lake.
The Commons incorporates many recycled materials and water-saving plumbing fixtures, and is surrounded by a high-efficiency irrigation system that works in tandem with a green roof to help collect and direct rain water for reuse—features that have helped to earn the building a nomination for Chicago’s Annual Greenworks Awards. M