Philadelphia has a brand new 220,000-square-foot library that can house two million books and it anticipates that it will attract over five million annual visitors.

The atrium of the Charles Library at Temple University in Philadelphia with students in the picture
The Charles Library has opened at Temple University in Philadelphia © Michael Grimm

Designed by Snøhetta in collaboration with Stantec, Charles Library at Temple University has opened its doors. Its design includes expanses of glass that create maximum transparency at the three major entrances. There is a three-storey domed atrium lobby that offers views to every corner of the building, and within the central atrium is a 24/7 zone, as well as computing workspaces available to Philadelphia residents.

Rows of shelves of books in the Charles Library and people reading at desks
The library offers a diverse programme tailored to the emerging needs of contemporary students © Michael Grimm

While the library offers a diverse programme tailored to the emerging needs of contemporary students, it also offers the focused research experience of traditional academic libraries. The sun-filled fourth floor encourages visitors to meander through the stacks of the library’s browsable collection. Approximately 200,000 volumes anchor the centre of the room, while more private study spaces line its perimeter.

People reading books in Charles Library with a large glass window overlooking a green area
There are expansive reading rooms in the Charles Library © Michael Grimm

There are two expansive reading rooms with views out to the planted green roof. Conceived as an amplified meadow landscape, ornamental grasses and herbaceous perennials form the foundation of these reading gardens. The roof gardens are composed of upwards of 15 different species, and they provide a rich urban habitat for pollinators. Covering over 70% of the building’s roof surface, the 47,300-square-foot green roof is one of the largest in Pennsylvania.

The 47,300-square-foot roof garden at Charles Library in Temple University in Philadelphia
The roof gardens at Charles Library provide a rich urban habitat for pollinators © Michael Grimm

Charles Library's book collection is stored primarily in the high-density automated storage and retrieval system, affectionately termed the "BookBot." At 57-feet tall, it spans three levels of the building and currently stores 1.5 million volumes with a capacity of nearly two million, allowing holdings previously housed in off-site deep storage to be relocated on-site. By drastically reducing the space required for book storage while also expanding access to the library’s collection, the BookBot enables increased space for collaborative learning, academic resources and individual study space.

The exterior of the new Charles Library at Temple University in Philadelphia
Charles Library at Temple University has opened its doors © Michael Grimm

By uniting academic resources, disciplines, and cutting-edge technology under one roof, Charles Library stewards the university's progressive mission to provide equitable learning experiences for its students, its faculty and the surrounding community.

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