Virginia Commonwealth University

Make it real.

New Building on the Monroe Park Campus

Moving Forward

Bold new library
transforms campus,
gives students the space they need

Help Us Build
Rendering of new building Rendering of new building Rendering of new building Rendering of new building Rendering of new building Rendering of new building Rendering of new building

Academic hub transforms campus center.

Reflective of how students use libraries today, the new Cabell Library is light filled and innovative media rich. Designed for change, to adapt as technology and student needs shift in the future. 90 percent of the new space is for student use, not for storing books or materials. Artwork and natural lighting and views of campus will engage imaginations and will inspire conversation and reflection.

From the moment this building comes into view, feel the vitality of the community it represents. With dramatic openings and expansive glass, inside and outside speak to each other. Passersby will see the activity inside. A big screen facing Shafer Court will serve as a rally point and community beacon.


Through the Doors

1 million a year 2006
2 million a year 2016

This campus grew up around its library.

A university is a group of buildings gathered around a library. Historian Shelby Foote said that, or something like that. Here in Richmond, VCU literally grew up around the library that sits in the center of Monroe Park Campus. When VCU formed in 1968, leaders knew the modern new university needed a library. One of the first new buildings for the emerging educational powerhouse, James Branch Cabell Library opened in 1970. All around the big box at 901 Park Ave., VCU has grown up. After 45 years of physical and intellectual expansion in our vibrant learning community, now's the time for the library to grow.


13,000 students 1970
32,000 students 2016

A Typical Week at Cabell

  • 63,063 through the doors
  • 3,268 in the building midnight to 8 a.m.
  • 4,709 logins to public computers from 2,877 users
  • 1,872 hours study rooms in use
  • 1,208 reservations for study rooms
  • 1,125 laptops checked out
  • 0 empty seats in Starbucks
See Our Stats

Learning is a social act.

We see it every day in one of the busiest libraries in the commonwealth. It defies logic but is certainly true: The more research materials go online, the more people flood our building.

Why is that? We house expertise, materials and equipment in one convenient place--with coffee. Moreover, the act of learning is a social act, a collaborative exchange of ideas and information. To be sure, some work demands solitude. Yet even when a researcher dives deep into a book, the reader is part of a social contract with the author, who unfolds a thesis, makes an argument, seeks understanding and invites intellectual discourse.

Today, much academic effort brings people together to work with others. A faculty mentor and a graduate student hone an idea. A tutor helps a struggling student. Two classmates study side-by-side and share class notes.

Undergraduates fill our space at all hours. They read, think and talk about what they're reading or thinking. Clustered around whiteboards, hunched over laptops or crammed around group-study tables, finishing the others' sentences, they solve problems together, create multimedia presentations and study for tests. Or, they come here to seek advice from expert librarians. For so very many reasons, the library as place is a key component in the busy triad of student life--classroom, home, library.


  • John Ulmschneider
  • President Rao

Give to the new library and every single student at VCU.

The new library — at The Compass on Shafer Court, — offers donors a once-in-a-generation opportunity. Though the building is complete, many needs are unmet. Support is needed to outfit the building with the furnishings and equipment students need. Your gift to VCU Libraries touches every single student on our campus. The $6 million Campaign for VCU Libraries augments funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia. These private funds will enhance technology and student-centered library environments. Your gift is a lasting investment in student academic success. Please make VCU Libraries your philanthropic priority in 2016. Gifts to VCU Libraries are tax deductible as allowed by law. See named spaces and see details and floor maps.

Please note: All checks should be made payable to "VCU Foundation" with the particular fund ("Campaign for VCU Libraries," "Library of the Future Fund," "Friends of the Library," etc.) written on the memo line.

Investment priorities

  • Named Spaces Opportunities are available for any scale or budget and the pledge may be paid over five years.
  • New Building Fund The new library will support the needs of researchers and innovation in scholarship while also providing new space for study and collaboration.
  • Library of the Future Fund Most 1975 furniture in Cabell Library was still in use 35 years later. Students in 2050 won’t have that experience. The Library of the Future Fund anticipates future physical and technology needs.
  • Special Collections and Archives Fund This funding supports the preservation, digitization and purchase of exemplary comic arts, book arts, manuscripts and other rare materials for VCU’s outstanding Special Collections and Archives.


  • The need for a new library was great. James Branch Cabell Library is one of the busiest academic libraries in the commonwealth. It offered students less space per person than at any other university in the commonwealth.
  • The building, constructed in 1970 and expanded to its current five-floors in 1975, was designed to serve 17,000 students. Enrollment today hovers around 32,000.
  • Use has doubled in 10 years. In the physical center of the Monroe Park Campus, Cabell Library has 2 million visitors a year. In 2005, we had 1 million visitors. Preliminary projections for 2015-16 points to a significant increase in patrons, maybe as high as 2.5 million visitors for the academic year.
  • What's 15 times bigger than Rams basketball home game attendance for the entire season? Bigger than Mardi Gras attendance? Visited by more than the Library of Congress? Our Monroe Park Library.
  • While we have 2 million visitors annually, The Library of Congress gets about 1.5 million visitors each year and the New York Public Library in Manhattan, the one with the lions out front, on Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, sees approximately 2.5 visitors annually.
  • In peak study months of October and April, more than a quarter of a million people use the building each month.
  • In the 2014-15 academic year, 135,926 people used the library midnight to 8 a.m.
  • One-on-one service includes some 1,400 research consultations and 1,100 teaching sessions. Overall, librarian interactions with users is up 10 percent. Some of this occurs in the building; some of this work is virtual--online and via text and chat.
  • Our 100-plus public computer workstations are in high demand on the first floor. Many days, students have to wait to get a desk. Laptops are a popular loan item: Students checked them out 22,000 times in 2014-15.
  • Most of the year, Cabell is open Sunday 10 a.m. to Friday 10 p.m., around-the-clock. Many days, before the new building opened in 2015-16, there were not enough seats.
  • Group Study rooms are in high demand and Cabell needs more. More than 160,000 students use these rooms each year. Many days, all 32 rooms are booked and in use around the clock. The new building added 25 study rooms, doubling capacity. It has 274 seats in study room settings.
  • Cabell second floor “commons” debuted in 2010 and students packed its 13,000 square feet of group and individual study areas, café-like booths and open spaces. The new library offers even more of this essential flexible workspace: 90 percent of the new square footage is for study space/student use, not for offices or housing books. Furniture types vary to suit varied study needs. Much of the furniture can move.
  • Research about users' needs repeatedly indicates faculty and graduate students need more quiet spaces to support in-depth work. The new library offers a Graduate Student and Faculty Research Center with inspirational views and quiet ambiance for grad students.
  • VCU Libraries ... Presents annual programs are a crossroads for the Central Virginia community. In 2012-13, 6,800 people attended our free public academic events; in 2013-14, attendance was 7,700; in 2014-15 attendance was more than 8,000. The new building offers a 300-seat Lecture Hall that will host more of these popular scholarly programs.
  • More than 90 percent of the new building will be dedicated to space for students and faculty.