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A 21st Century Library Transforms a Campus:

Inside Temple University’s New Charles Library  (Part 2)

by Beckie Dashiell


VR Lab in the Duckworth Scholars Studio, photo by Dustin Fenstermacher

Under one (green) roof


The new library offered the opportunity to bring Temple University Press, an important part of our library enterprise, to Main Campus for the first time ever. Now located in Charles, the Press is known for publishing award-winning titles in the social sciences and the humanities, as well as regional titles, and is also involved in a variety of open access initiatives. Its new central location at Charles offers more occasions for connection and collaboration and signals the Libraries’ and Press’ shared commitment to advancing scholarship.


Charles Library is also the new home of the Student Success Center (SSC), Temple University’s comprehensive, "one-stop-shop" academic support center serving graduate and undergraduate students. The center offers a wide range of services, including academic coaching, STEM and writing tutoring, as well as help for students who are developing a knowledge of English or other languages. The new SSC location makes it easier for students to access multiple services in one spot.


Another important space in Charles Library is the Special Collections Research Center (SCRC). The SCRC is the principal repository for and steward of the Libraries’ rare books, manuscripts, archives, and University records, and its upgraded facilities in Charles Library include the Albert M. Greenfield Special Collections Research Center Reading Room, a dedicated instruction room, a conservation lab, a rare book vault, and compact shelving.



Albert M. Greenfield Special Collections Research Center Reading Room, photo by Michael Grimm


Guided by sustainability


Sustainability is truly at the heart of Charles Library. Perhaps most noticeable is the massive green roof, which covers approximately 70% of the building’s roof surface and is one of the largest in Pennsylvania. Visible from many vantage points on the fourth floor, this meadow-like landscape is filled with ornamental grasses, perennials, groundcovers, bulbs, and sedums that are all native or naturalized to the region and provide a rich urban habitat for pollinators. The green roof also collects and stores most precipitation, which along with underground basins, mitigates the impact on the City’s stormwater system.


Charles was also designed to use less heating and cooling energy, and large glass windows reduce the need for artificial lighting during daylight hours. All the wood inside the building has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, while all the toilets and sinks in Charles meet low water usage requirements.



Green roof, photo by Michael Grimm


Serving the community


Charles Library’s main service point is the One Stop Assistance desk. Located on the first floor, this bustling spot is now the main point of contact for library users on Main Campus. There, we help users find and check out materials, connect with a subject librarian, or point people in the right direction.


For the first time, our Main Campus library has a 24/7 space that provides an accessible option for Temple affiliates even when the main Charles Library is closed. 


Charles Library is open to all and offers a computer lab specifically for members of the community and alumni. We also host a wide range of free public programs, events, and exhibitions throughout the year.


Our most recent exhibition was a preview of the forthcoming graphic novel Black Lives Always Mattered!: Hidden African American Philadelphians in the Twentieth Century. The graphic novel is a project of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection and is supported by the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.


Public art


Temple University’s newest contemporary art collection can be found on the walls of Charles Library. This growing collection is the gift of artist and philanthropist Dennis Alter, EDU ’66, and is curated by Susanna Gold, a former faculty member at the Tyler School of Art and Architecture and specialist in contemporary American art. On view throughout the building, these diverse pieces complement Charles Library’s stunning architecture and contemporary feel.



24/7 Space with art installation in the background, photo by Ryan S. Brandenberg for Temple University


Notable awards and accolades


In its first year, Charles Library received numerous accolades, including the American Library Association (ALA)/International Interior Design Association (IIDA) 2020 Library Interior Design Award—Best in Competition, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) 2020 Education Facility Design Award, and Interior Design Magazine’s Best of the Year Award.


Charles Library was also featured in American Libraries magazine’s design showcase issue, published in September 2020, and captured the attention of construction industry professionals with a story in Civil Engineering magazine’s October 2020 issue. In addition, Charles was profiled in the Wall Street Journal, Architectural Digest, and the Philadelphia Inquirer.



Cut-out window on the third floor looking out over the atrium, photo by Michael Grimm


A COVID-19 postscript


In March 2020, the university moved classes fully online in an effort to keep the Temple community safe and to slow the spread of COVID-19. Charles Library, along with all our other library locations, was closed to the public until August of this year.


As of this writing, Charles Library is open once more. We have enacted a variety of measures to ensure the safety of our visitors and staff at Charles and all our libraries, and we will continue to adapt and persevere in the coming months.



Safety precautions at the One Stop Assistance desk, photo by Joseph V. Labolito for Temple University



Outside Charles Library, photo by Joseph V. Labolito for Temple University


About Temple University Libraries


Temple University Libraries serves the Temple community and beyond, including more than 39,000 students; over 2,000 full-time faculty; and researchers and visitors on Main, Center City, and Health Sciences Center campuses in Philadelphia and on our Ambler and Harrisburg campuses. We are committed to providing research and learning services, offering open access to our facilities and information resources, and fostering innovation and experimentation. Our collections total more than four million physical and digital titles, over 275,000 print and electronic journal subscriptions, and more than 700 research databases. We also collect, preserve, and provide access to a broad universe of special collections, including rare books, manuscripts, archives, photographs, and more. As part of our library enterprise, the award-winning Temple University Press supports our mission to advance learning and scholarship.


Copyright 2020 by Beckie Dashiell.


About the author: Beckie Dashiell is editor for Temple University Libraries’ Outreach and Communications department.