The Mansueto Library

I’m often curious to gauge the consensus feeling when something significant happens or, in this case, where a facility of consequence is erected. If you haven’t read about it, the University of Chicago has opened The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library, with its colossal automated retrieval system. On first glance, it’s an impressive system, to say the least. (In fact, I think it’s pretty awesome.) Yet given the growth of digital materials collections and perceived print exodus, I would imagine the development of this system has sparked interest and criticism among people in and out of the library field.

I’m particularly curious to read others’ evaluations of the library’s creation–what people think about the establishment of the library and its retrieval system and the incredible investment that facilitated the project. Certainly, while many will praise the University of Chicago for its implementation, many others will deem the system a glorious waste of resources–an ultramodern warehouse for print materials.

The University of Chicago is among the country’s foremost academic research institutions. Is the Mansueto Library and its retrieval system a state-of-the-art testament to UC’s enduring commitment to libraries and academic excellence? Perhaps you feel differently? Please share.


About Steven V. Kaszynski
librarian, editor, contributor

3 Responses to The Mansueto Library

  1. Dan says:

    Too bad none of us can visit it.

  2. diesellibrarian says:

    The technology is impressive, as is the building – but my concern is that this system effectively eliminates any possibility of the serendipitous discovery that often occurs while browsing in open stacks. Further – it naïvely places a great deal of faith in our fallible and simplistic classification systems – not to mention the OPAC systems used for search and discovery. For that reason, it’s hard to see this as much more than a beautiful but ill-conceived novelty.

  3. I know what you mean by the loss of discovery, and that certainly won’t sit well with those people who love to get lost in the stacks. The structure itself is thoroughly impressive and goes a long way toward satisfying the criteria we tend to set for library spaces. Check out Blair Kamin’s article: To think that, as Kamin suggests, there were initial plans to install “reading rooms” beneath the retrieval system and its 3.5 million volumes is unconscionable contrasted with the open space they’ve created.

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