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Cabell Library wins “2016 New Landmark Library” award

September 22, 2016

James Branch Cabell Library has been named a 2016 New Landmark Library by Library Journal, widely viewed as the most trusted and respected publication for the library community.

A highly competitive national competition, the New Landmark Library Award considered academic libraries where building projects were completed between 2012 and 2015. Five winners, including Cabell Library, were chosen by a panel of judges with knowledge of both libraries and architecture. The redesigned Cabell Library opened in December 2015.

“The transformation of Cabell Library is a prime example of strategies that can be used to rejuvenate mid-20th century libraries,” said Janette Blackburn, AIA, principal at Shepley Bulfinch, a national architecture firm known for design excellence and innovation. Shepley Bulfinch served as the design architect for the Cabell Library project in association with Richmond-based Moseley Architects.

“We set out to create an academic library that would express the institution VCU has become on the world stage, a distinctive and remarkable structure that captures VCU’s culture and, above all else, helps VCU students be successful,” said VCU University Librarian John E. Ulmschneider.

VCU’s design approach embraced a concept widely known as design thinking or human-centered design, which strives to enrich user experiences in spaces that not only fit people’s needs and wishes today but can anticipate and adapt to meet future needs. VCU also aimed to capture and express the distinctive culture of the university, honor its fine arts heritage, and create innovative spaces and features that bring new capabilities to students for their academic work.

A clear asset to the neighborhood as well as the campus.

Library Journal‘s New Landmark Libraries Award competition honors the best new academic library buildings that offer inspiration and design guidance for the library of today and tomorrow. About VCU and Cabell Library, jurors said:

“Impressed with how they met the challenge of serving a more complex clientele than most academic libraries. A clear asset to the neighborhood as well as the campus.”

“Really striking library, and great integration of old and new structures. I love the light, openness, and —given the high-tech feel — simplicity of the finishes.”

“This carefully considered building enhances the life of the campus in addition to increasing library services.”

This award is evidence that Cabell Library occupies the same stage as other lauded national academic libraries that are embracing building programs designed for 21st century research libraries and their communities, according to Ulmschneider.

“VCU is in very good company,” he said. 

Several libraries among the five New Landmarks winners have received national attention. The other recipients were: James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State University in Raleigh; Odegaard Undergraduate Library at the University of Washington in Seattle; The Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI; and the Charles E. Shain Library at Connecticut College in New London.

“It was a delight to work with such a visionary client,” Blackburn said. “We look forward to seeing the transformative, lasting impact the new library has on the VCU community for many years to come.” 

The Library Journal article

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