The New McHenry: It’s Not Your Parents’ Library

Hard at work in a Group Study room (Photos: Carolyn Lagattuta)

Studying in the Information Commons on the main floor
Reading porches on the fourth floor have great views
Grateful Dead Archivist Nicholas Meriwether at Dead Central
Restaurant-style booths are already a big hit with students

I’m sitting in a “Group Study” room of the newly renovated McHenry Library at UC Santa Cruz and I’ve got to admit—I’m pretty relaxed.

There’s a floor-to-ceiling window going up about 15 feet high covering the outer wall, and it looks out on a stunning view of towering redwood trees.

This is definitely not the library your parents used.

It’s not institutional. The furniture moves. You can eat and drink, and yes…even speak freely to your friends and colleagues, and study in small groups.

It’s wired and it’s convenient. And it even has a few restaurant–style booths you can deftly slide into to read, work on your laptop, or interact with other students.

Best of all, there’s no scowling waiter or barista to give you a dirty look if you just want to sit comfortably for three hours and simply study.

Walk up the front steps of McHenry this fall, and you will immediately find yourself standing in the new Global Village Café now in the old library lobby.

Celebrating its grand opening on September 22, the café will be under the helm of the local owners of Hoffman’s Bistro and Patisserie in downtown Santa Cruz.

The UCSC connections run deep in the Hoffman family: Adam Hoffman, the new manager of the Global Village Café, is an alum (2003), and so is his mother June (1974), and father Edward (1976).

In fact, Edward Hoffman was one of the original apprentices under Alan Chadwick, a key founder of the sustainable food movement on campus back at the beginning of UCSC.

With indoor seating for nearly 70 people, the café will offer up coffee/espresso drinks, soups, salads, sandwiches and desserts—all with an emphasis on fresh and healthy ingredients provided by local farmers.

And while you’re in the café, don’t forget to check out the two rotating digital newspaper displays on the wall--spotlighting the latest front pages of approximately 140 newspapers from around the world.

Move into the rest of the main floor, and you’ll encounter a large information commons—containing more than 60 computer stations, plus a “laptop bar” with stools for optimum studying.

On your right, you’ll see a sign that says “Dead Central” hovering over a large glass-walled rectangular space that come April 2012, will house stunning exhibits and memorabilia from UCSC’s Grateful Dead Archive.

“We’ve tried to stay away from an institutional feeling to be more organic and alive,” says University Librarian Ginny Steel.

“We’ve put in furniture that encourages people to sit together. We expect that people will move chairs around and create groups.”

“Whether you want to sit quietly and read, work collaboratively, or just interact with colleagues, we’ve tried to create a variety of spaces to support all of these activities,” she adds.

The new look includes reading porches on the fourth floor, plus a great lawn and reading gardens that are not only wireless, but have electrical power installed in the benches outside, where you can plug in your laptop.

Steel noted that green materials were used as often as possible in the library’s renovation, and much of the original furniture purchased in the 1960s has been refurbished.

“The whole idea is that people interact with information very differently than they did before,” says Steel. “We wanted to think about new tools and ways of using information to obtain knowledge—whether it’s print or digital.”

“We have a lot of students who live off campus and have no place to go between classes.” Steel adds. “We want the library to be a crossroads, a gathering spot, a cultural hub on campus.”

“It’s not the old quiet, sedate library,” she concludes. “It’s not static—it’s dynamic.”