September 24, 2001

Contact: Sarah Ray
Posted: September 24, 2001

MIDDLEBURY, VT - Middlebury College is determined to respect the past and embrace the future as it prepares to begin building a new $40-million library on the site of the College’s old science center. That may be a difficult challenge though. How should a modern library accommodate the traditional printed book while incorporating the latest technology?

Middlebury College Dean of Library and Information Services Barbara Doyle-Wilch said, "Our goal is to ensure that almost any activity related to study, research or collaborative work can take place at the library, at any time of the day and into the night. Students working together, for example, on a project involving film, still photography, and recorded music might view films together in a media viewing room and use the resources in the media development suite to integrate these different media into their presentations."

In the spring of 2002, construction will begin on the new library, which is scheduled for completion during the summer of 2004 and will open to users in the fall of that year.

Construction will start only after an ambitious process to recycle 98 percent of the old science center is finished. The majority of the old science center - approximately 80 percent - consists of concrete. Workers will load the concrete pieces of the building into a "crusher" that grinds the concrete at the construction site, later using much of the material as project fill for the new library.

A three-story, 135,000-square-foot structure along Storrs Avenue designed by architectural firm Gwathmey Siegel & Associates of New York City, the new building is expected to accommodate the library’s collections for up to 50 years, according to Glenn Andres, Middlebury College professor of history of art and architecture and chair of the library planning committee. Once the new library is operating, the current facility - Starr Library - will be renovated and used for several purposes, including classrooms and offices.

Lack of space is one of the main reasons for the new library, which will provide sufficient room to house the College’s expanding collection of print materials and ample seating to accommodate the planned growth in the student body. The new facility will also protect the collection from deterioration with appropriate storage. Over the years, the absence of a climate-controlled environment in Starr Library has made it difficult to maintain and use the collection properly. Moist surroundings have contributed to the growth of mold in portions of the collection, threatening its condition.

According to architect Bob Siegel of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates, the new library will also address an increasing need for interactive, collaborative learning in liberal arts. "As we conceptualized the design, we kept in mind that libraries have become social gathering centers on campus. They draw students out of their rooms and into a place where they can study and learn together, as well as on their own."

Middlebury College President John M. McCardell, Jr. stated that the new facility will respond to the changing information needs of students and faculty.

"Many colleges and universities are holding off on the decision to build a new library because they are not sure what the library of the 21st century should offer. After seven years of planning and considering our library needs, we are betting that books will be central to the academic enterprise well into the 21st century," said McCardell.

But McCardell also stressed that Middlebury’s new library will house and support the technological tools of learning as well. "By combining in a single facility access to books and the opportunity to apply the very latest technological approaches to learning and teaching, Middlebury will meet the needs of its faculty and students," said McCardell.

The new facility will include open stacks for hundreds of thousands of books and periodicals; reference material collected over decades; electronic access to information; media products; and technological tools for manipulating and presenting ideas and research.

According to Nan Jenks-Jay, Middlebury College director of environmental affairs, College administrators and architects are working together to ensure that environmental considerations and energy efficiency are incorporated into the design and construction of the new library. Such features will include an environmentally sound choice of materials, the use of triple-glazed windows, and light-control blinds to minimize light pollution to the outside and to reduce radiational heat transfer.

Siegel said, "We are confident that the building will achieve a silver and perhaps even a gold rating with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), a new national standard for sustainable design created by the United States Green Building Council."

Many of Middlebury’s resource services - reference, interlibrary loan, information technology services, the media resources center, the writing center - will be located in the new facility, creating a focal point that fully integrates print and electronic information and media.

Visitors to the new library will enter at mid-level through a rotunda that will open to the heart of the building and provide clear views of the floors above and below. Major public services will be located on the entry level, and collection and quiet study zones will be above and below.

The entry- and third-level floors will provide access to mezzanines equipped with suites of study carrels in distinct groupings. These groupings will be particularly useful for the Middlebury College Language Schools, which are in session each summer, allowing students of specific schools to study together and practice their language skills without disturbing others.

Among the services located on the entry level will be the reference and help desks, circulation and media desks, writing center, 24-hour study area, government documents and reference collection, microforms, media-viewing and development rooms, and Web-conference room.

Middlebury’s First Library

During Middlebury’s first century, the library relocated to successively larger quarters and was housed in several buildings. The first dedicated library building, Starr Library, was built in 1900. Within two and a half decades, this facility was overcrowded. Enlargements to Starr Library have occurred at roughly 25-year intervals to accommodate increased use and growing collections in all fields of study.


Starr Library opened


East and west wings added


Major expansion and renovation


Meredith Wing dedicated

















For more information about the new library project, visit the College’s Web site at The site includes a live Web camera that offers a view of the deconstruction of the old science center.



Features of the new library
  • 730 seats, expanding seating to accommodate 38 percent of an enlarged student body of 2,350
  • Fixed shelving, providing open stacks and maximum accessibility
  • Stack areas, allowing up to 50 additional years of collection growth
  • Climate control for human comfort and collection conservation
  • Distinct climate-controlled area for special collections and other sensitive material
  • Power and data connections at each seat
  • An electronic classroom and a 30-seat "smart" lecture hall, which is wired for connection to the campus computer network and the Internet. It also offers Web casting capability.
  • Computer helpdesk
  • Web-conference seminar room
  • A wide range of quiet study areas
  • Traditional reading rooms, east and west
  • Small group study rooms and carrel suites
  • Assisted-learning software and hardware
  • Copier and printer stations
  • Media development lab
  • Writing center
  • Faculty study rooms
  • 24-hour study area, with beverages and snacks
  • Maximum access to natural light and views