Library Architecture Class

During the spring 2024 semester, I’ve had the privilege to visit and work with the students in Professor Kathryn O’Rourke’s ARTH 3391 class on library architecture. The primary focus of the students’ attention has been the Coates Library, including a semester-long project focused on its renovation.  Over the last several months of meeting with and hearing about the work of the class, I was regularly inspired by their commitment, their creativity, and their energy.

Dean Harris and architecture class pose for a group photo.

On May 7th, as the work of their class ended, students presented their semester’s efforts.  The audience was packed with library staff, faculty and other students, and representatives of the university administration including the Provost who will be involved and impacted by the renovation project. Each student group focused on a specific area and its benefits and problems, talked about the research and inspiration involved in proposing solutions, and offered imaginative and thoughtful suggestions for the renovation planning teams to consider.  After many treks to the library to gather data and research, including inspiring visits to the Special Collections and Archives for resources related to O’Neill Ford and our current and former location in Storch, our building ultimately became both the focus of their project but also the mine from which so much of their evidence and imaginative proposals would be discovered.  It was a very memorable day and a wonderful launching point for the library renovation.

Campus Partners

I’d like to thank Professor O’Rourke for her leadership and partnership in designing the course and for sharing her expertise on this topic with me and with the students. The reading selection was fantastic as it guided students in their thinking around and through library architecture more broadly so that they could narrow their focus in their own work on our building. If you’re interested, one of the course texts—The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel— is available as an ebook from the library’s collection.

I hope that the students from this class and their work will serve as the inspiration for a new Student Library Advisory Board that will regularly gather information about student interests and needs and make recommendations to library leadership about–not just the future–but the very active, vital present of the library and its happenings.  I’d envision this group as one whose members would remain a part of our conversations well after graduation—once a member of SLAB, always a member.  Maybe five or ten years from now, some of our first members of the board will remain interested in our building and its future, as well as its integral role as the heart of Trinity’s campus.

While summer is beckoning and asking us to think about backburner projects or maybe trips away from San Antonio, I know that we will resume this conversation as the planning stages of the renovation project continue with library consultants and architects who will help us and our students realize our vision for the future of the Coates Library.  I can’t wait for you to also be involved.

Benjamin Harris
Dean of the Library