Planning an interdisciplinary research library at Temple University

Expanding Reach and Relevance

Our goal for the 220,000 square feet Charles Library at Temple University was simple: create a centrally located public place on campus that is responsive to 21st century student academic study behaviors. We partnered with Snøhetta Architects and Stantec and worked closely with Library Dean Joseph Lucia to realize a library that “at its core is still an academic research library, but one that also retains enough public open space for classrooms, public events, and just plain old milling about.” To do this, we developed a detailed space program, adjacency diagram, and user experience design principles to provide unique spaces for self-reflection, learning, and collaboration.


BrightSpot Strategy

“brightspot worked with us to develop a transformational vision for the Charles Library. Together, we shaped an innovative service and support program for our students and faculty. Our library is a catalyst for learning, inspiration, intellectual engagement and community connection.”

– Joe Lucia, Dean of Libraries, Temple University

Providing Unique Spaces for Learning and Collaboration

Charles Library is a point where all of Temple’s various disciplines ‘collide to collectively solve the problems of individuals and the world.’ We shared with Temple our insights into the way contemporary students want to work. Together with Snøhetta, Stantec, and university stakeholders we crafted a space, service, and operational strategy to offer an ‘end-to-end support environment for the kind of learning and expressive work the modern student undertakes.’

Our strategy created space for roughly 1,600 seats in various configurations and 40 meeting and seminar consultation rooms of various sizes and types. All rooms are equipped with display technology and screencasting to make it easy for users to share what’s on their phones or computers.

We also gave a home to the Student Success Center, which provides writing support and tutoring services, and the Special Collections Research Center’s Urban Archives, which document the social, economic, political and physical development of the greater Philadelphia region throughout the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. We clustered together spaces and services to enrich student and faculty scholarship on the third floor. Together with staff and faculty we prioritized The Scholars Studio, Temple University Press, and Student Success Center for this area. The Scholars Studio features high-end computing, visualization and virtual reality studio, collaboration spaces, 3D printing, and media capture capabilities. It is envisioned to be a ‘technology petting zoo’ where the campus community can try out new technologies.

Signaling the Future of Academic Libraries

Led by Dean Joseph Lucia’s vision, Temple chose to house 85% of its collection in a high-density robotic Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS). Lovingly named “Bookbot,” this technology has enabled Charles Library to have 60-70 percent more user-facing space than its predecessor, Paley Library. We guided library staff through a collections strategy to determine which collections would remain browsable. Snøhetta then integrated these collections into the architecture resulting in a seamless experience that enables patrons to remain connected to physical objects and enjoy the feeling of engaging with physical books.

Charles Library opened in Fall 2019 and places the user at the center of the library’s activity. Strategically located at the heart of campus, the Library serves as an academic and social hub for all students and faculty regardless of discipline.

BrightSpot Strategy
BrightSpot Strategy