East Asia Library seeks move

Oct. 5, 2011, 3:05 a.m.
East Asia Library seeks move
Meyer Library was deemed "seismically unsafe" back in 2007 during a campus retrofit survey. Provost John Etchemendy will present a proposal to the Board of Trustees later this month to move Meyer's contents to the Graduate School of Business South building. (Stanford Daily File Photo)

Provost John Etchemendy will seek approval for a proposal to transfer the contents of Meyer Library to the Graduate School of Business (GSB) South Building at this month’s Board of Trustees meeting, according to library communications director Andrew Herkovic.

Etchemendy’s decision came after the University carried out a cost-benefit analysis, which was completed during the beginning of the summer. The analysis showed that the space was a suitable replacement for Meyer considering technical factors such as the building’s energy costs, seismic issues and suitability to house the library’s various components, Herkovic said.

“[GSB South] was deemed both feasible and within the economic limits that the Provost had in mind,” Herkovic said. He added that while the decision awaits approval from the Board of Trustees, he “imagine[s] that it will happen.”

Under the proposal, all of Meyer’s contents – with the exception of a general books collection in the basement, which is more closely associated with Green Library – will be moved into the new space. This includes the library’s technical staff, academic computing services, classroom space that is used by the registrar and the East Asia Library, which currently has offices on the fourth floor of Meyer and a small portion of its collection in the basement.

Herkovic said that because the GSB South space allows for more shelving room, the move would allow the University to reunite the East Asia Library with some of its works that are currently being held in auxiliary libraries. However, given that the collection is the fastest-growing on campus, he said the new building would only be able to accommodate a certain amount of this projected growth.

The need for a new space arose back in 2007 when Meyer Library was deemed “seismically unsafe” and scheduled for demolition. The Academic Council Committee on Libraries (C-LIB) convened two subsequent subcommittees – one spearheaded by art history professor Michael Marrinan and the other headed by history professor Matthew Sommer – to look into the issue of lost shelving space following Meyer’s demise, as well as the future of printed materials in general at Stanford.

After studying the questions raised by its subcommittees’ reports, C-LIB was on the verge of filing a report, which would have recommended that the University construct a new, freestanding building east of Green Library East. The GSB’s move to Knight Management Center, however, left the old Jackson Business Library, as well as the rest of the South building, vacant. Herkovic said the space became “a solution very late in the game.”

According to Herkovic, the Stanford libraries had “little assurance” that the University would ever authorize the construction of a new building for the East Asia Library because of limitations on growth imposed by Santa Clara County. The libraries had started looking into the possibility of moving the collection into existing spaces within Green Library, but found that this would have been “very disruptive to all the humanistic and social science scholars on campus.”

“[GSB South] feels like a last minute rescue to me,” Herkovic said.

C-LIB chair John Bender said that while GSB South is a “satisfactory alternative,” the faculty committee still recommends that a new building be constructed east of Green East.

“A new building would be designed specifically for the needs of the faculty and students and the staff who would support them,” Bender said. “It would be a fundraising opportunity with regard to the East Asia Library, and it would open the potential for new kinds of spaces that we don’t now have.”

In particular, Bender said that past reports have recommended the creation of “research modules,” where faculty could work for three to four years at a time and keep all of their research materials assembled in one place.

Despite these concerns, he said, “the library committee is prepared to accept this move to GSB South as a satisfactory solution while hoping that we will eventually see a new building.”

When that new building will be a reality remains unclear. At last February’s Faculty Senate meeting, Etchemendy said GSB South had “20 – and maybe even 30 – years of life left in it.”

One benefit of the relocation to GSB South is the potential to turn a space that was originally a business school café into a combination of a food-services operation and a 24-hour study space, according to Bender. Herkovic, however, said that the plan the Provost forwarded to the Board of Trustees excluded this food-service area.

“It is out of the scope of the scheme, which leaves the question of whether there will be food service there or not,” Herkovic said. “The plan is silent on that.”

The University estimates the relocation would cost more than $50 million and hopes to gain the backing of a donor to support the project.

“We are hopeful that for the East Asia Library in particular that there will be some very attractive naming opportunities,” Herkovic said. “We have been talking for years with some very distinguished people within the East Asian community about naming spaces within the East Asia Library, which wasn’t going to happen if we were going to tear it down. So this creates some opportunities for us.”

If the Board of Trustees approves the plan, the University will commission final drawings and start the process of selecting contractors and bidding. Construction would begin in early 2013, and the space would be ready for occupancy in the summer of 2014. At that point, Meyer would be scheduled for demolition.

“I’m just very delighted that this has come this far,” Herkovic said. “It’s sort of a new chapter for the library, which has been losing spaces. We lost the physics library last year, and this is the first real sense of renewal and growth that we’ve had for some years now.”

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