The Gerstein Science Information Centre used to be one of the more confusing, uncomfortable libraries on campus, but now it’s one of the most sought-after places to curl up with a good textbook.
A recent $15-million renovation and addition has transformed Canada’s largest academic science and medicine library, located at 9 King’s College Circle, into a welcoming space for students from all faculties. Libraries are havens for the thousands of students who commute to U of T every day, says Joan Leishman (MLS 1974), the director of the centre. With enrolment on the rise, it was vital to increase study facilities.
The dimly lit basement of the original 1892 structure used to be known as “the dungeon,” says Leishman. The inadequate security, poor accessibility and awkward layout stemmed from ad hoc improvements over the years.
In 1997, Diamond and Schmitt Architects Inc. of Toronto became involved in the first phase of the refurbishing project when they undertook a 22,000-square-foot renovation of the library’s entrance and main floor. The next phase, completed this past January, added 32,000 square feet on the east side of the library.
The new addition, called the Morrison Pavilion, is five floors and nearly doubles the available space. It features 650 ergonomically designed study spaces with wired and wireless Internet access, an open staircase, a fully accessible elevator, extensive book shelving and a layout that is easy to navigate. One side of the pavilion gives students ready access to the library’s print and electronic resources, while the other three sides feature massive windows that look on to Hart House Circle and Queen’s Park. Architects Donald Schmitt (BArch 1977) and Gary McCluskie chose limestone for the exterior and oak panelling for the interior to match the original heritage structure. “We were very conscious of the fact that this is one of the incredible architectural sites in Toronto,” says McCluskie.
Federal and provincial grants contributed to the financing, but the pavilion is largely a gift from Russell (MA 1947) and Katherine Morrison (PhD 1979). Students from every discipline have shown their approval of the pavilion by filling up the new study spaces, says Leishman. But they aren’t the only ones taking notice. “We’ve had librarians from all across North America come to look at it. It’s seen as a model for upgrading facilities and bringing them into the 21st century.”