September 2012 marked the twentieth anniversary of DePaul University’s John T. Richardson Library. Opened in 1992, the Richardson Library was built to address the changing role of the library on a university campus. During the Summer of 2013, the second phase of an extensive renovation to respond to the academic needs of twenty-first-century library users will begin. As we look forward to the future of the Richardson Library, we would also like to look back at the history of the library at DePaul University in all of its iterations.
The John T. Richardson Library is the first building designed expressly as a library at DePaul. Prior to 1992, DePaul’s libraries have always existed inside other campus buildings. When St. Vincent’s College opened in 1898, it featured a single reading room, but it wasn’t until the building now known as Byrne Hall was built in 1907 that DePaul University opened its first library. In 1929, a fire gutted the Lyceum, allowing the university library to move there. Schmitt Academic Center opened in 1967 and with it a new library for the university. For the next quarter century DePaul’s main library resided in SAC, until plans for a new space began in the late 1980s.
There had been plans in the 1920s, 1950s, and 1960s for a university library to be built, but each time the dream was deferred. The John T. Richardson Library was successfully completed with the understanding that it would function as DePaul’s main library for many years, and therefore a certain amount of modularity was included in its initial design. It is this modularity that will allow the ongoing renovation of the Richardson Library to proceed smoothly. The next stage of the renovation will transform the library’s first floor into an Information Commons. The Commons is designed to support and enhance learning by providing state-of-the-art technology in a variety of collaborative and individual workspaces, as well as providing library users with a shared social space where they can gather to access and share information. Another important addition will be the Learning Center, a centralized location for tutoring that will facilitate the partnership between the Library and other student support services.
From a small room in the corner of the DePaul’s first academic building to a 21st century research and information center, DePaul University’s libraries have all shared one characteristic: reflecting the needs of its users. As those needs have changed, so too have the libraries that have been designed to meet them. From a humble beginning to a bright and shining future, the DePaul University Library’s goal remains the same: to show the way of wisdom.