Mansueto opens special collections exhibit

Yesterday, a special exhibit opened in recognition of the Chicago-wide celebration of the first illustrated architectural book.

By William Wilcox

A new exhibit at the Regenstein Library examines the past as it commemorates the upcoming unveiling of the new Mansueto Library. And as the opening of the high-tech library nears, students are considering how it will fit into traditional research habits.

The Special Collections Exhibition Gallery in the Regenstein Library re-opened yesterday, featuring an exhibit on architectural design. The gallery is part of the Special Collections Research Center, which re-opened March 28 after being closed for renovations to accommodate the Mansueto Library.

The exhibit opening was designed to coincide with the city of Chicago’s year-long celebration of the first illustrated architectural book, a first-century Roman architect, according to a May 4 library press release.

Colleges, universities, and libraries across Chicago are opening similar exhibits as part of the tribute. Titled Firmness, Commodity, and Delight, the U of C exhibit touts the library’s existing materials on architecture. Items dating as far back as 1485 are displayed in the new space, the release noted.

At the same time, the exhibit is intended to highlight the new Mansueto Library. After nearly eight months of construction, the library will open its doors to students on May 16, in a “soft” opening.

The opening next week will make the reading room available to students and faculty, but the books will not be fully moved in until the grand opening in October. The library will have a total capacity of 3.5 million volumes that is expected to allow for library growth until 2029.

Completely housed underground, books will be retrieved when a student puts in an online request. A robotic crane will retrieve the storage bin containing the book, and library staff will then deliver the book to the requesting patron.

Some students fear that this automated retrieval system will negatively affect research by limiting opportunity for browsing.

“My only concern with Mansueto is that when I’m doing research, the books that I look up on Lens are not necessarily the best books, but it’s those books around them that are the best,” third-year Ben Smithgall said. “I’m not sure if, with the mechanical crane, I’ll be able to do that.”

But other students have high expectations for the dual functions of Mansueto as a study space and library.

“If the study space is actually some place where you can go and sit down and write a paper or read, then it is going to get used,” second-year Molly Cunningham said.

“I think it’s going to be a nice way to interact with nature while in the reading room,” first-year Jonson Berman said. “A lot of times in a library you get shut in, especially in the Reg. I think it looks clean and modern, reminiscent of the pyramids at the Louvre.”