Emory, Georgia Tech dedicate new Library Service Center

By Kimber Williams | Emory Report | March 18, 2016

The Library Service Center dedication was held on the floor where books are processed into the center's collections.

The Library Service Center dedication was held on the floor where books are processed into the center's collections.

In remarks at the dedication, Emory President James Wagner praised the partnership with Georgia Tech.

In remarks at the dedication, Emory President James Wagner praised the partnership with Georgia Tech.

The ceremonial ribbon was cut by, from left, Jack Tillman, president of EmTech; Rich Mendola, Emory senior vice provost of library services and digital scholarship; Yolanda Cooper, Emory University librarian; Catherine Murray-Rust, vice provost for learning excellence and dean of libraries at Georgia Tech; Emory President James Wagner; and Georgia Tech President G.P. "Bud" Peterson.

The ceremonial ribbon was cut by, from left, Jack Tillman, president of EmTech; Rich Mendola, Emory senior vice provost of library services and digital scholarship; Yolanda Cooper, Emory University librarian; Catherine Murray-Rust, vice provost for learning excellence and dean of libraries at Georgia Tech; Emory President James Wagner; and Georgia Tech President G.P. "Bud" Peterson.

The Library Service Center, which will hold two million books by this summer, features 32-foot-tall shelves.

The Library Service Center, which will hold two million books by this summer, features 32-foot-tall shelves.

The facility has the capacity to house about four million volumes.

The facility has the capacity to house about four million volumes.

Massive air-conditioning units keep the temperature to 50 degrees, optimal for preserving the library's collections.

Massive air-conditioning units keep the temperature to 50 degrees, optimal for preserving the library's collections.

The state-of-the-art facility is housed on Emory's Briarcliff Property.

The state-of-the-art facility is housed on Emory's Briarcliff Property.

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The Library Service Center, a joint project of Emory and Georgia Tech, celebrated its official opening on March 17. Emory Photo/Video

The state-of-the-art Library Service Center (LSC), created by Emory University and the Georgia Institute of Technology to house a shared collection amassing millions of books and other materials, formally opened Thursday after a joint dedication ceremony.

Stretching across 4.6 acres near the back of Emory’s Briarcliff Property, the climate-controlled 55,000-square-foot facility was developed to create a seamless, unified collection of materials that will be available to faculty, staff and students at both campuses.

The LSC will house around 95 percent of Georgia Tech’s collections and much of Emory's collections, with projections of reaching more than 2 million volumes by this summer. Items will be available for delivery to the main campuses at both universities.

Developed in collaboration between Emory and Georgia Tech, the joint project marks the latest chapter in a longstanding public-private partnership between the Atlanta-based institutions and offers advantages for both universities.

Not only will the LSC provide optimal conditions for the secure, long-term preservation and storage of books and related materials — including film and microform collections — it brings key content from two major research university libraries under one roof, expanding access to a broad range of resources and freeing up campus spaces.

Partnership serves both universities

Speaking at the March 17 dedication ceremony, Emory President James W. Wagner praised the institutional partnership that gave rise to the project, noting that the new facility will benefit both Emory and Georgia Tech “in ways and with economies that neither partner could have achieved alone.”

He noted that it was on Emory’s Briarcliff Property that the universities joined forces more than 15 years ago to create EmTech, originally a biotechnology business incubation initiative to provide infrastructure for biotech start-ups.

“Our collaborations are broad, deep and multiple, growing largely out of the ways in which our institutions complement each other,” Wagner said. “EmTech now is the working name under which the Library Service Center is now incorporated.”

Georgia Tech President G.P. “Bud” Peterson described the new facility as “the next chapter in the evolution of what libraries and information centers will be at each of our institutions, and it will help define the library of the 21st century.”

“Investments like this insure that the library will continue to be a crucial part of each of our institutions and more importantly a crucial part of the educational experience,” he said.

Expressing appreciation for both the institutional collaboration and a personal friendship with Wagner, who leaves Emory later this year, Peterson noted that “this partnership will miss you, but it will continue. And this facility will help ensure that it continues.”

New direction for academic libraries

Shared library service centers mark a new direction for higher education, and a partnership model now growing in popularity.

During Thursday’s dedication, Catherine Murray-Rust, vice provost for learning excellence and dean of libraries at Georgia Tech, observed that there are now more than 40 such shared facilities across the country, adding that this is “surely the most technologically advanced and the most beautiful of them all.”

“This building is a symbol of a remarkable collaboration between two complementary institutions of higher education and it represents a new level of research library cooperation in the United States,” she said.

“Emory and Georgia Tech librarians and staff continue to work together to create one collection for the benefit of both,” she added. “There are many other libraries that have tried and failed to do what we have done and we hope that through our efforts we can encourage our library colleagues around the United States to improve access to collections and services through deeper collaboration.”

The LSC dedication culminates four years of project development, drawing upon the expertise and staffs of both universities. Each institution contributed equally to the facility's construction and will continue equal support for operations funding.

With libraries that feature complementary strengths, only about 17 percent of the Georgia Tech and Emory collections overlap, which means that "together we have an exceptional collection that benefits both campuses," explains Yolanda Cooper, university librarian at Emory.

"Our goal is to leverage the services we can provide across both institutions, enhancing our ability to meet the changing needs of users and to develop new resources and tools for use in research, teaching and learning."

Benefits for Emory Library users include:

  • A single-site location for collections from all Emory libraries.
  • Expanded electronic access for faster, more efficient service.
  • Enhanced preservation and security to heighten collection protection.
  • A reading room to view materials onsite with technology that allows for virtual connections with outside research colleagues.
  • Users can request items through discoverE.