The Temple University Ambler Library Building didn't escape the wrath of the EF2 tornado that ravaged campus on September 1, 2021. Ferocious winds and debris tore holes in the building's roof and blew out most of the large windows, threatening the collection of 130,000 books, periodicals, research material and historical archives inside.
"Our first concern was the care of the materials. That was paramount in our thinking — how to save what we had because we knew there was major damage to a number of books," said Sandi Thompson, Head of the Ambler Campus Library. "We focused initially on saving the archives; that work started the day after the tornado. Temple's Special Collections Research Center got two moving trucks to take all of our archives and preserve them in the University's environmentally-controlled spaces at Charles Library and the Library System's storage facility."
With the ongoing recovery work taking place after the storm, "we knew we had to get the rest of the materials out of the building — there were people everywhere at that point working to restore the building and preserve the collection," Thompson said.
According to Thompson nearly 2,360 crates — about 54 tons, not counting the archival material — were sent to the Charles Library. About 15,000 items, she said, were not salvageable.
"A determination had to be made about a location on campus that could hold a collection for student, faculty and research use," she said. "It had to be a centralized location where we could continue to provide all of our services."
As rapid-paced recovery on campus has continued, the Ambler Campus Library has found a new temporary home in the Ambler Learning Center.
"For the materials that were not damaged, the Ambler Campus Library staff chose the books that would be most likely to be used immediately. Library Services and that collection of books have been moved to the Ambler Campus Technology Center (inside the Learning Center) and set up as a temporary library — that includes more than 5,000 volumes," said Beth Shepard-Rabadam, Associate Director of Temple University Ambler. "Fortunately, we had large parts of the collection that were undamaged. Immediately after the storm, the special collections archivists from Main Campus came to Temple Ambler and took the most valuable, unique materials down to Main Campus for immediate restoration, if needed, and preservation. The remaining damaged books were inventoried by the recovery specialists and separated — they will be able to be replaced."
The rest of the Ambler Campus Library materials have been sent to the Charles Library Bookbot, and are available to request by clicking on the red "How to Get This button" on Library Search. The library has resumed normal services, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., including circulation of materials and intra-campus and interlibrary loan.
"All of the services previously available from the Ambler Campus Library remain the same at our location in the Tech Center," said Thompson. "All students, faculty, researchers and staff have direct access to librarians, which I think is extremely important. With a person to provide assistance and guidance for an area of study or research needs, the library system becomes much easier to navigate."
Creating a Space for Collaboration
The damaged Library Building — a staple of the Ambler Campus for decades — has been restored, including dry wall, windows, ceiling panels and lights all damaged in the storm, said Dr. Vicki Lewis McGarvey, Vice Provost for University College and Executive Director of Temple University Ambler. The intention, she said, is to create a space for collaborative, hands-on research and study.
"The Temple Ambler Field Station has moved in to the offices and some of the smaller computer labs in time for the spring semester," she said. "The mat room, a training facility used by the Criminal Justice Training Programs, will stay in place while additional spaces will be dedicated to the College of Engineering for some of their hands-on capstone classes."
According to McGarvey, the area where the library stacks were previously located, about 8,000-square-feet of space, will become a new Innovation Studio.
"We are working with Engineering and the Tyler School of Art and Architecture, specifically Landscape Architecture and Architecture, to re-envision the location and outfit it as a design-build fabrication space," she said. "Both Landscape Architecture and Architecture have design-build classes that are an integral part of their curriculum — Architecture would in fact like to offer more of them. This will become a place not only for them to work but to collaborate."
Engineering, McGarvey said, has had an increasing presence at Temple Ambler for its capstone courses. Temple Ambler is exploring expanding the building facilities for Engineering modelled after the IDEAS (Innovation, Design, Engineering and Applied Science) Hub in the Engineering Building at Main Campus, she said.
"We are working with those schools and colleges to envision what this space could look like as a shared maker space, which would allow us to have more hands-on classes on campus," she said. "Engineering really envisions this as a location for pre-college classes — more pipeline programs for local high school students to experience engineering classes firsthand. Large numbers of students from our pre-college programs apply and matriculate at Temple."
New uses for the building, particularly the Innovation Studio, "will benefit the campus because it will bring these disciplines together — the ecology researchers with horticulture and landscape architecture and architecture students and faculty in addition to engineering — into one building where they are going to have regular contact and conversations with one another."
"Those types of interactions often lead to truly unique and interesting collaborations and projects," she said. "We have all of these disciplines on Main Campus, but they are all in separate buildings. This really brings them together and creates that opportunity to interact."
The large Innovation Studio will not remain empty while plans are being developed for the shared space.
"We've looked at uses for the space for the spring 2022 semester, such as the Landscape Architecture Design-Build Studio, the capstone course in historic preservation and other courses that can use the large open space as it is now without the renovations in place," said Kate Wingert-Playdon, Associate Dean and Director of Architecture and Environmental Design in the Tyler School of Art and Architecture. "We have such creative students and faculty, I know that the interaction of all of these different students and programs is going to lead to interdisciplinary collaborations, student projects and possibilities we haven't even thought of yet. For each individual piece of the puzzle, this is the place where the picture can become whole."
With the co-location of the Tech Center and the Ambler Campus Library, "it's an opportunity to provide the best service possible while creating a sense of community," said Shepard-Rabadam.
"This provides us with the ability to provide 'one-stop-shopping' for our students. If you look at other universities, this idea of a learning commons is gaining popularity," she said. "This is our version of that concept. You can still access the physical collection but for a lot of our disciplines, the digital collection and the support provided for it, is becoming increasingly important."
Providing Access to Temple's Entire Library System
According to Thompson, as plans move forward for the old building, the Library within the Technology Center continues to provide daily service between the Charles Library and Ambler Campus Library, "which is all the more important since the physical collection is limited for the time being."
"Any resource in the University's Library System, if it circulates, is available to anyone at Temple Ambler. That was a major consideration for us as we realized that we would be able to have 5,400 items here out of a collection of 130,000 — in all forms of media — that was present in our previous space," she said. "We've focused primarily on the needs of the classes held at Temple Ambler and we are continuing to analyze what among our collection should come back to Ambler from the Charles Library to meet the needs of the students currently — what are the materials that are most relevant to our students' courses of study."
At Temple Ambler, Thompson said, "we still have the reference material, we still have a new books collection, we still kept some of the material from our young adult and juvenile collection and leisure reading collection."
"Pieces of everything that we had are available here. We'd like to re-create the activity space that we had in the old building — just a little space that gives students a little break between their studies," she said. "Our goal is that the Library will be the heart of the campus again as we continue to provide all of the assistance that we can to ensure student success."