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Of Bytes And Books: Keeping It All Together And Still Calling It A Library

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Collaboration, A Cool Tool: Librarians/Faculty/Students Work Together for Quality Results

Tagged Division

Engineering Libraries

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.920.1 - 14.920.15



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Paper Authors


Adriana Popescu Princeton University Orcid 16x16

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Adriana Popescu held positions in science and technology librarianship for more than ten years, both in Canada and United States. She holds a graduate degree in Civil Engineering from the Technical University of Civil Engineering in Bucharest and an MLS degree from Rutgers University. Before joining Princeton University Library in 2001 as Plasma Physics Librarian, she was the Head of the Research & Information Center at the NRC Institute of Ocean Technology in St. John’s, Newfoundland (Canada). Since 2006 she holds the position of Engineering Librarian at Princeton University.

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Patricia Gaspari-Bridges Princeton University

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Patricia Gaspari-Bridges is Head of the Science and Technology Libraries and Assistant University Librarian for the Special Libraries Department at Princeton University. She has spent over twenty-five years in science and technology librarianship at Princeton, and continues to hold positions as Geosciences and Map Librarian and Head of the Peter B. Lewis Science Library. Before joining Princeton, she worked in various library positions, including at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She earned a B.A. at the University of Pennsylvania and an MLS from Rutgers University.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Of Bytes and Books: Keeping it All Together and Still Calling it a Library


When the reference desk is becoming obsolete and the library’s collection is stored in bytes, maintaining the identity of a library can be challenging. If the library space is not reclaimed by the academic department for lab space or offices, can the engineering library survive in its traditional configuration with no reference desk and volumes disappearing off its shelves? In 2001 Princeton University opened the Friend Center for Engineering Education, a brand new building housing the Engineering Library, several computer labs and state of the art classrooms, but less than 10 years later, the library is contemplating a physical renovation to address current trends in users’ needs and to accommodate future collection requirements for new and emerging engineering research areas. Libraries have redefined their roles over many years of technological progress. In the case described, change proves once again that it can offer new prospects and fresh opportunities for asserting the role of the library in the academic environment.


In its early days, the library at Princeton University consisted of a gift from Governor Belcher of 474 books, which in 1750 made the library the sixth largest in the colonies. Since then, the library has grown over the years to a system that today consists of one central library and 9 specialized libraries, holding over 6 million books. Historically, the Library has gained from the generous support of Princeton donors, and the last decade, in particular, has been a beneficial one, with a number of library building/renovation projects supported by alumni donations. Driven mostly by the departments’ need to expand lab and office space into areas occupied by small departmental libraries, a concerted effort was made to consolidate smaller libraries in new buildings or renovate existing library spaces. Just a few impressive library building and renovation projects of the last decade include the Stokes Library for Public and International Affairs that was established in a newly dedicated building in 2000, the Engineering Library moved into a brand new building in 2001, the Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology renovation and expansion was completed in 2003, and five science branch libraries merged into the new Lewis Library, designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, in 2008. But the last decade has also been marked by profound technological changes, changes in the library’s collecting focus, as well as changes in users’ information seeking behavior. These changes affected not only space planning, but also staffing requirements and service delivery methods, making it necessary to take a critical look at our existing libraries even when they are only eight years old. In the wake of planning and building Lewis Science Library, new user needs were revealed and valuable lessons were learned, which have been applied to the project at the Engineering Library, described in this paper.

History of Engineering Library

The Engineering Library supports the educational and research activities of the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) at Princeton University and it is one of the nine

Popescu, A., & Gaspari-Bridges, P. (2009, June), Of Bytes And Books: Keeping It All Together And Still Calling It A Library Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4725

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