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ROBARTS Revitalization

We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.

Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media, 1964

“A great university must have an excellent library at its heart – as a centre for research and learning, a refuge for solitary scholarship, a place to inspire, a location for collaboration and as a custodian of knowledge and the historical record of humankind. Through the foresight and generous support of friends, alumni, faculty and staff, the University of Toronto has world-class library collections and services. The library is a national treasure and an international destination for scholars. Please join us as we invest in Robarts Library for the benefit of future generations.” Larry Alford, Chief Librarian

The University of Toronto educates the international leaders of tomorrow. Our graduates are nation-builders and community partners – business innovators, diplomats and jurists, thinkers and visionaries – in Canada and around the world.


Education for international leadership requires programs and facilities for

students that develop their ability to analyze and solve problems, synthesize complex information, think creatively and innovate in the face of global challenges and opportunities. These qualities of mind are nurtured in classroom settings but are honed during many hours of study, research, writing and collaboration at the library.

In recognition of the central importance of the library to higher education, the University of Toronto is in the process of revitalizing Robarts Library, Canada’s largest academic library. The expansion and renovation will reinvent Robarts for a new century, dramatically increasing the quantity and quality of study spaces and reconfiguring them in support of learning in a networked world. 2

“I edited my fourth novel in Robarts Library. Twenty years before, I sat in the very same spot labouring over essays. I’m drawn to Robarts for the incomparable sensation of being alone yet surrounded by people similarly challenged and engaged, people seeking answers to questions that matter.” Camilla Gibb, BA 1991, author of the novel Sweetness in the Belly Winner of the Trillium Award and shortlisted for the Giller Prize

Robarts Library


Robarts Library is the flagship of the University of Toronto Library system, which is ranked among the top four research libraries in North America. Our libraries contain more than 15 million print and microform volumes, as well as outstanding collections of maps, data, audiovisual materials and archival resources. Access to electronic resources is virtually limitless.

Above all, Robarts is a place for our students. Open around the clock during the academic year, the library is available to each of U of T’s 72,000 students. With 18,000 visits a day, it welcomes more students than any other building on campus. Our students rely on Robarts for resources and study spaces and for a sense of engagement with campus life.

For international students, it is one of the cornerstones of their university experience. For domestic students, most of whom commute to the campus from their homes in the Greater Toronto Area, the library also reinforces their sense of belonging. Robarts is at the very heart of student life on campus.


“Accomplished procrastinator that I am, there’s no better place for me to concentrate than Robarts Library. The ample study areas, suffused with tranquility, are just what I need to overcome procrastination and stay on task.” Avie Englert, 2nd year Political Science student

Revitalizing Robarts Since opening in 1973, Robarts has greatly enriched campus life, maintaining the highest standards of service to students, scholars and the general public. However, after almost four decades of use, it is clear the library must be transformed to reflect changing times.


Two major factors – enrolment growth and technological advances – have driven our plans to seek private support to expand Robarts Library.

Enrolment at the University of Toronto has increased dramatically in the last 35 years. The number of students using the library has more than doubled. Space must be added. Moreover, our students’ needs have changed. They require a library that supports mobile computing with study spaces that reflect the ways they learn and interact. They need a library that is calibrated to the 21st century. With the help of our visionary benefactors, we are responding to

the needs of our students by adding spaces and electronic infrastructure to Robarts through expansion and renovation. The first phase of the project is nearing completion and has already delivered major enhancements to the existing building, improving the quality of its study spaces and adding new infrastructure to support mobile computing and connectivity. The second phase will see the construction of a major new addition – the Robarts Common – to the existing library. 6

“The new renovated spaces feel like ‘home.’ They’re comfortable, yet at the same time conducive to producing high quality work, both individual and collaborative. Robarts has created a great new environment where people can come together to learn and better themselves.” Rustam Dow, graduate student, Faculty of Information

The Campaign for Robarts The University of Toronto has launched a comprehensive campaign to support the rejuvenation of Robarts Library. The Campaign for Robarts addresses the following themes and priorities:


Robarts Common

Transforming the Student Experience

Expanding Access to Media and Data Collections

The construction of the fivestorey glass pavilion will create 1,222 additional study spaces and greatly improve public access to the main reference areas of the library.

Major renovations have modernized the library’s reading rooms, group study rooms, work stations, reference areas, student lounges and carrels.

The expansion of the Media Commons and the creation of a new Data, Map and GIS Centre provide greater access and profile to the library’s unique assets in audiovisual materials, digital media and geospatial data. 8

Robarts Common addition – Huron Street view

The Robarts Common

Diamond and Schmitt Architects

The Robarts Common is the signature project of the Robarts renewal and the most important capital project on campus today. The five-storey structure will become a new face of Robarts, enhancing the library’s relationship to the campus by opening up the west side of the building to the street, bringing a flood of natural light to the lower floors and making the overall environment more inviting, accessible and productive for students. The Common will join the existing structure through a series of bridges.

Most significantly, the Common will add 1,222 new work and study spaces to Robarts, bringing the library’s total number of study spaces to 6,027. These spaces have been designed to the highest standards and reflect the diverse ways in which today’s students use the library. For example, some spaces have been designed for study and individual reflection, while others will be configured for working on projects such as term papers.

The Common will also feature group study areas to accommodate the more social aspects of learning and the growth of collaboration and teamwork in higher education. Each floor will possess the design characteristics that students value highly: natural light, subtle task lighting, ample workspace, comfortable seating and full internet connectivity.


Interior perspective – Robarts Common lobby

“I spent many a night sequestered in the corners of Robarts getting my reading done during my university years. Something about finding a quiet place amongst the bookshelves and history was inspiration for concentration. I sneak in for reading time when I can. Technological changes may affect the platforms of information, but a library still remains an oasis of thought for me.” Jian Ghomeshi, Host of “Q”, CBC Radio One and CBC TV

Diamond and Schmitt Architects

In addition to study spaces, the Common will introduce a number of important amenities to enhance the quality of student life on campus. The south entrance will feature an atrium with a café, flexible seating and information terminals. The space will have multiple uses, serving as a place to engage in individual or group study or simply take a break

from scholarly pursuits. The café will open out into a new outdoor plaza and park – a wonderful public space with additional seating for student activities and special events. Together, these amenities will allow the University to better serve its large commuter population, providing them with a more positive and welcoming experience of the campus.

Naming Opportunities Robarts Common Plaza and Park

$2.5 million

Robarts Common Atrium

$3 million

Robarts Common Floors

$2 million (×4)


Interior perspective – Robarts Common third floor

Reducing the Library’s Carbon Footprint In planning our renewal, we have taken steps to reduce the library’s overall carbon footprint. The new Robarts Common will attain a silver rating according to the standards of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) through features such as a green roof area, optimized energy performance, reductions to water usage, efficient landscaping, regionally sourced or recycled materials and certified sustainable wood products. Environmentally responsible renovations to the existing structure also include refurbished study desks and chairs, and higher-efficiency indirect and direct lighting fixtures.

Transforming the Student Experience The first phase of the Robarts revitalization has delivered significant upgrades to the library’s existing footprint. Renovations make more efficient use of the library’s floor plans, yielding 1,222 additional study spaces and vastly improving wayfinding and circulation throughout the building.

Diamond and Schmitt Architects

The library’s large reading rooms, located throughout the building, facilitate prolonged and productive study. These

spaces feature new desks and tables, comfortable seating, ambient and task lighting, and wired and wireless connectivity. The library’s apexes, which offer spectacular views of the city, have been optimized for study and mobile computing. And since group projects are becoming an integral part of coursework in most disciplines, a number of group study rooms now enable student collaboration and discussion. These spaces are

soundproofed to ensure other students in the library are not disrupted. In addition to new and reconfigured study spaces, the renovations have added an inviting student lounge on the second floor with comfortable seating and full connectivity. A major gathering point for students, this space will open out into the new Common in the west, connecting the existing building with the new. 14

Interior perspective – portico lobby

Renovations have enclosed the library’s two entry porticos with glass, transforming these architectural features into more versatile spaces. The portico entrances welcome library visitors, provide wayfinding via digital touch screens and offer additional seating and study areas with wireless connectivity. Additionally, the porticos provide the library with attractive spaces for staging special events, for mounting fascinating book and manuscript exhibitions and for serving as a convenient gathering point for our patrons.

Naming Opportunities Main Reading Room

$1.5 million

Reading Rooms

$1 million (×6)


$500,000 (×15)

Group Study Rooms

$100,000 (×34)

Robarts Porticos (Entrance Foyers)

$1.5 million (×2)


“The Media Commons has some of the rarest movies, TV shows, experimental films and other media in the world. I’ve rented videos for classes, for pleasure and watched movies in the new theaters to get their full experience.” Ammar Ijaz, 4th year Psychology and Computer Science student

Expanding Access to Media and Data Collections With the rapid proliferation of electronic and digital media, the way students and faculty research and access information has radically changed. The printed word is no longer the only accepted medium of serious academic inquiry. Increasingly, students and scholars are looking to complement their review of printed literature with audiovisual materials, digital media and geospatial data. Renovations to Robarts are creating the infrastructure needed to improve access to these important collections.


Media Commons The Media Commons is the largest, most comprehensive repository of audiovisual resources at a Canadian university. The collection has three basic components: a film/video/DVD lending library consisting of more than 14,000 titles available for circulation; microform holdings of more than 1.6 million newspaper, periodical, rare book, manuscript and government publications; and a rapidly expanding holding of archives and special collections related to Canadian film, broadcasting, television, popular music, animation and new media.

Virtually every mass media format is represented, from the earliest methods of recording images and sound, such as film stock and wax cylinders, to the latest forms of digital media. Student demand for these collections is growing as more and more courses incorporate media into their curricula. Recent renovations are addressing this demand by adding two intimate theatres, screening rooms, an instructional “e-classroom,” a video conference room, group study spaces, and by providing more convenient playback and better access to archival materials. 18

“The Map and Data Library at Robarts is overflowing with terrific knowledge. Beyond merely locating a culture geographically, it is possible to learn a great deal about civilizations based on the mapping conventions they used. Having access to a multitude of period maps allows greater insight into the evolution of cultural perceptions of the world throughout history.” Sandrena Raymond, MI student at the iSchool


Map and Data Library

Naming Opportunities

Maps have existed for thousands of years, but it is only within recent decades that we have married this durable technology with powerful databases and computer graphics to create complex geographic information systems (GIS). University of Toronto students and faculty working in geography, architecture, anthropology, civil engineering, economics, forestry, geology, management, medicine, political science, ecology and evolutionary biology, among other subjects, rely on GIS to conduct their research. In addition to GIS, the Map and Data Library is home to a vast collection of quantitative and qualitative datasets that are used by scholars and students from virtually every academic discipline. To meet the demand for these materials, the library has redesigned its Map and Data Library to include consultation offices, a reference area, a teaching lab and additional wired study space.

Media Commons

$2 million

Theatre (50 seats)


Theatre (30 seats)


Video Conference Room


Screening Rooms

$100,000 (×2)

Map and Data Centre

$2 million

GIS and Statistical Teaching Lab


Map and Data Reference Centre

$100,000 20

“Robarts Library is an ideal place for me to study comfortably for long hours. I love to discover a cozy nook by a big window and spend nearly an entire day immersed in my books, all the while knowing that other students are doing the same.” Jiexi (Jessie) Li, 2nd year Commerce student

Building for Tomorrow


The renewal and expansion of Robarts are critically important for the University. As U of T’s flagship library, Robarts should be the gold standard for the learning environment we envision for students in the 21st century. The revitalization project now underway is designed to assure the stature of

Robarts as the most innovative and productive library in the country. Support for this project presents a unique opportunity to enrich the campus experience, to contribute to the foundations of education and to create the conditions in which independent

thought can flourish. The impact of this investment will reach well beyond Robarts and the University of Toronto, ensuring that future generations of students have the mindset to excel in the global knowledge-based economy of tomorrow.


Robarts Common addition – Huron Street view

1st Floor Proposed

Diamond and Schmitt Architects Diamond and Schmitt Architects

2nd Floor Proposed

Diamond and Schmitt Architects

3rd Floor Proposed

Diamond and Schmitt Architects

4th Floor Proposed

Diamond and Schmitt Architects

5th Floor Proposed

Diamond and Schmitt Architects


Diamond and Schmitt Architects

Boundless: The Campaign for the University of Toronto The University of Toronto has launched a $2-billion campaign, the largest fundraising and alumni engagement initiative in Canadian history. The Campaign will build on our strength as one of the top universities in the world and invest in our boundless potential for global leadership and impact. With our breadth of excellence across almost every field of human inquiry, no other Canadian university is as equipped as we are to address the most important questions of our time in human health, the environment and civil society, and to prepare citizens for success in a borderless world. The Campaign for Robarts Library will lift the University’s flagship library to new heights and help ensure our students and faculty have access to great study spaces and the best library resources in the world.

Megan Campbell MBA MA CFRE Director of Advancement University of Toronto Libraries Robarts Library, Rm 2013 130 St. George Street Toronto, ON M5S 1A5 Tel. 416.978.7644

Robarts Case June 2013  
Robarts Case June 2013