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MARBL to undergo major renovation, operate in interim space until 2015

The floor plan for the new MARBL, expected to open in late summer 2015, shows a completely different look, with dedicated classroom and exhibit space, seminar rooms, a reception area and an enclosed reading room.

Emory's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) will undergo a major transformation over the coming year, creating a dynamic, inviting space with dramatic views throughout its 10th floor home atop the Robert W. Woodruff Library.

The complete redesign and remodel of level 10, pending final University approvals, will result in a new, expanded reading room, a technology-enhanced dedicated classroom, new exhibit spaces, seminar and meeting rooms, and interactive digital media that will provide students, scholars and visitors enhanced access to MARBL collections in innovative ways.

"The project to expand and upgrade MARBL's space and services is the culmination of many people's efforts and dreams over the years," says MARBL director Rosemary Magee. "We're thrilled with the opportunity to further strengthen one of Emory's most distinguished and distinctive resources and to continue to convene important literary, historical and scholarly conversations."

The space will be enlarged by enclosing a portion of the Woodruff balcony, which will be redesigned to provide panoramic views of the Atlanta skyline from inside MARBL via floor-to-ceiling windows. Visitors will be able to step outside to one of two separate terraces for iconic views of the Emory community.

Two balcony events are scheduled during Commencement week this year. On Sunday, May 11, the 10th floor balcony will be open to visitors from 1 to 5 p.m. On Friday, May 16, the library will host a "Woodruff Balcony Walkabout" event with light refreshments from 2 to 4 p.m.

"The new MARBL space will operate as a dynamic and interactive place for students to explore and experience primary source materials firsthand, encouraging discovery, free thinking and fresh insights," says Yolanda Cooper, university librarian. "Students, faculty, curators and the Atlanta community will be able to intersect and engage in spaces not only designed for research and teaching but also social interaction and discourse."

The grand opening for the new MARBL is planned for late summer 2015. The spaces will be accented throughout with marble details that reflect the historical Emory quadrangle architecture, Magee says.

During the approximately 15 months of renovation, MARBL will continue to provide its reading room and instruction services in interim spaces on levels 7 and 8 in the Woodruff Library's stack tower, beginning June 2. MARBL's last day of business in its current space is May 16, and the reading room will be temporarily closed from May 17 through June 1.

More information about the interim space and progress on the level 10 renovation can be found on the MARBL renovation page.

MARBL improvements on tap

Highlights of the renovation include:

  • An expanded and enclosed reading room that will serve more researchers in a quieter and secure space, and an adjoining study room with space and technology to variously accommodate researcher use of oversize materials, group study and research use of collection materials, and digital archives research.
  • New seminar and meeting spaces for group study, instruction and individual consultation that will support research and teaching with MARBL's collections. The Woodruff Room, to be renamed Woodruff Commons, will be reimagined to accommodate meetings, seminars, discussions, events and receptions.
  • New and enhanced exhibit spaces that will showcase the rich contents of MARBL collections, while highlighting the contexts significant for their use as primary evidence and enabling patrons to interact with the physical materials as well as the digital components.
  • A dedicated, technology-enabled classroom with flexible furniture for class use of collection material and for both small-group and large-group discussion. Gabrielle Dudley, a research library fellow in MARBL's research services unit who has led many instructional sessions for Emory classes in existing spaces, notes that "these improvements will make a huge difference." Audio-visual capabilities will allow instructors to share materials such as recorded protests from MARBL's civil rights collections. "It's one thing to read a memoir or other printed accounts, but it's another to hear protesters singing freedom songs or giving speeches," Dudley says.

The new space will also house offices for the administrative and research services staff.

The level 10 changes are a continuation of the MARBL renewal project that began with the level 9 remodeling, during which a floor of the Woodruff Library stack tower was transformed into MARBL staff offices and work space for collections processing, a digital archives lab and rare book collection storage.

Regular services provided in an interim space

In order to serve patrons as efficiently as possible within limited space during the renovation period (June 2014 to summer 2015), research in the interim reading room (Room 775) will be by appointment only. Researchers will be required to register, request materials and schedule an appointment to do research in advance of their visit. Forms and information about scheduling a research visit can be found on the Using MARBL webpage. When visiting MARBL during the renovation period, the first stop for patrons will be the service desk in the interim reference room (Room 784).

One advantage of the interim space is the availability of a technology-enabled classroom on level 8 (Room 874), which will allow MARBL's instruction program to continue uninterrupted.

"Although there will be space constraints and a slightly different process in the interim reading room, we will offer the same quality of service to patrons as part of our efforts to provide access to MARBL's collections and to support the research and teaching mission of the university," says MARBL associate director Jennifer Meehan.

MARBL's hours in the interim space will be Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Check the library's hours page for updated information, including summer and intersession hours.

"We are all looking forward to this remarkable transformation," Magee adds, "as we relocate, renovate and then rediscover the resources for teaching and research that MARBL provides."

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