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The Campaign for VCU Libraries

July 18, 2013

The most-used academic library in the Commonwealth of Virginia, James Branch Cabell Library sits in the center of academic life on the Monroe Park Campus. Two million people use it annually and the space is too small to meet their needs.

VCU is on a fast track to build a new library adjacent to Cabell Library. The project will create a striking new facility on Shafer Court that will connect with the existing Cabell Library, while also renovating parts of Cabell in order to integrate old and new. 

In addition, The Campaign for VCU Libraries will raise funds to support a range of vital library services. 

About the New Library

VCU Libraries embarked on the process of designing a new library building in April 2012 with the University's issuance of a Request for Proposal for an architect/engineering firm. The RFP was awarded to the team of Shepley Bullfinch and Moseley Architects, and work began in earnest in August 2012. Funding and planning is underway and the groundbreaking is scheduled for spring semester, 2014. The new building will be open for use during the 2015-16 academic year.

  • Most of the new building will be dedicated to space for students and faculty. Staff and collections space will be minimal.
  • There will be a significant increase in the quantity and variety of study seats to accommodate collaborative and individual work in active and quiet settings. This will include signature reading rooms and reconfigurable labs and group work areas.
  • Enhanced, dedicated research space will accommodate faculty and graduate students.
  • Media creation space will provide access to current and experimental audio and video content, visual and graphic design and production tools, and other advanced media resources to support academic projects, including high-end computers for video manipulation.
  • A significantly expanded Starbucks café will provide more space for study breaks.
  • A large, flexible, media-rich presentation and event space for gatherings of the VCU academic community may also include outdoor space.
  • Incorporation of artwork, exhibit and event space will showcase VCU's arts programs.
  • Teaching spaces that incorporate robust technology and flexible furnishings will support a variety of teaching and learning activities.
  • Special Collections and Archives department will have more capacity for collection growth.
  • The interior will blend memorable destinations within the library and flexible, efficient spaces that will meet needs for many years to come.
  • The balance of collections and readers will evolve over time. As the efficiency of library collection storage is increased through the installation of compact shelving, more space can be freed up for student seating.

Impact on Campus

Many members of the greater Richmond and campus community, who know Cabell Library well, have many questions. Answers to common ones include:

  • The new building will be in the location of the existing loading dock on Shafer Court.
  • Green space east of the library will be preserved.
  • Glass facades will reveal interior activity, creating a welcoming beacon that draws the VCU community into the library.
  • The street levels of the library will provide pedestrian-scaled facades that welcome the campus into the building and engage with adjacent outdoor space.
  • Pedestrian flow will be a primary consideration: The building design will minimize obstacles to foot traffic from the new classroom building north to the Compass area, and from the Compass area west and south. The east walking path from Monroe Park should not be affected.
  • Options are being explored for additional expansion space along the east side of Cabell, as well as improvements to all facades. The various approaches will be evaluated in context of the budget and all project priorities.
  • The building design is targeting LEED Silver certification at a minimum.
  • A screened service area for deliveries and trash/recycling pick up will be accessed from Linden Street.
  • The university will explore whether it's possible to close Linden Street, possibly before the new library building opens in 2015.

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VCU Libraries

James Branch Cabell Library Monroe Park Campus
901 Park Ave., Box 842033
Richmond, VA 23284-2033
Toll-free: (844) 352-7399
(804) 828-1111
All Libraries
Tompkins-McCaw Library MCV Campus
509 N. 12th St., Box 980582
Richmond, VA 23298-0582
Toll-free: (844) 352-7399
(804) 828-0636

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