Ringling College to build new $18 million library


Ringing by Kat
Projected structure of the new Ringling Library from the view of Bayou Green.

Starting this June, construction for the new $18 million library at Ringling College of Art and Design will be under way, with an expected date of completion in Fall 2016. With $2 million set down from the Ringling reserves, a campaign to raise the remaining $16 million necessary to complete the construction began earlier this year. Every donation was doubled by the Ringling College Library Association, a non-profit organization. The campaign will end with the fiscal year in May but, with less than $500,000 of the costs left to raise, Ringling has already employed Willis-Smith Construction Company, and outlines for the innovative building have been drawn.

“This will be the first building from our 50-year campus master plan which was created about four years ago by our president, Larry Thompson,” Stacey Corley, assistant vice president of strategic philanthropy in the Office for Advancement, said. “The new library is literally and figuratively the center of the campus, it is a building for every student of every major.”

The facility will be open to the Sarasota community and New College students for art research or general interest. The current library is also available for use by non-Ringling students and community members.

Co-chairing the campaign are trustees Isabel Norton and Carolyn Johnson, who have both worked with Ringling for at least a decade and have dreamed of creating a new library for years. The campaign has reached out to the Sarasota community as well as Ringling alumni, students and staff in order to raise the funds for construction, which includes money for interior design, furnishing and technology.

Further expansion and renovation is unattainable for Ringling’s current library due to its location against Dr. Martin Luther King Way and the underground electrical system on its other side. With the school’s population having increased from an original 400 students to almost 1,300, the library is inadequate to hold all of the school’s necessary materials. In fact, 30 percent of the printed collection is already located off-site, requiring requests in order to access the material.

As with all art school libraries, the Ringling College library has an unusual collection of text and material including video games for game design students; more than 300 journals and magazines covering every topic taught under the fine arts; artist catalog raisonnés that collect all of an artist’s completed works of art; and the special collection holding more than 400 artist books.

“This library is different from other libraries – the special collection holds many artist books which are literally works of art from artists having reimagined what books should be so there’s a smell book, a glass book, a Lego book, many pop-ups and 3D books,” Ringling Research Librarian Jennifer Friedman said. “Students use these to get inspiration and see bindings, the paper used, how stories are put together without words – they learn to tell stories through different media.”

The special collection will have its own glass display room in the new library and will require a librarian’s assistance with the student wearing white gloves to keep the artist books in good condition.

Three stories high, the library will be built in an L-shape, complete with three terraces overlooking the Bayou Green, 12 group study rooms (as opposed to the current library’s sole group study room), two large classrooms, an Academic Resource Center and 20 work stations on both the first and second floors. The first floor, which plans to be open 24/7, will hold the periodicals, work progress room, spray booth room and a coffee shop.

The second floor will hold regular collections, the special collection room and group study rooms, while the third floor will have more traditional books relating to general academics. The layout of the library is designed to create quieter environments away or up from the black, highly polished staircase located in the center of the building.

There will likely be a competition for students’ artwork to be displayed in the new library, particularly on the core of the structure which reaches up all three floors and will serve as the major art decor of the whole building. In addition to the display of their artwork, the students at Ringling will have a considerable amount of input on the library’s design. Next semester, there will be a furniture fair – mostly modern to mid-century in style – with architects from the Boston Shepley Bulfinch firm allowing students to vote for their favorite.

Already, architects have surveyed the school, asking what is expected from the new library and have come to the conclusion that the students are looking for a warm and colorful place where they can feel at home and study.

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