Reading the future: building libraries for our modern world

In the digital age, libraries are still needed to access materials, to study alone, and to work together. Since ancient times, humans have collected writings in storehouses called libraries.

Today, most universities and large cities have impressive physical libraries. Their designs have changed over time, adapting new techniques and technology, and adding new functions. Let’s see how Samsung C&T Engineering & Construction Group is building cutting-edge libraries for the future.

Libraries around the world

There are many beautiful library buildings in the world. Here we will look at just a few of them. A very famous example from classical antiquity was Egypt’s Library of Alexandria. For centuries, scrolls and parchments were gathered from lands near and far. The library was destroyed and its contents lost over 1,500 years ago, but it inspired many others, including the New Library of Alexandria, with an impressive modern design inspired by its original namesake. In Korea, the 11th century Haeinsa Temple holds the Tripitaka Koreana, the most intact ancient library of Buddhist scriptures, carved into over 80,000 woodblocks. Ancient technology allows airflow while preventing humidity and deterioration, so that the woodblocks are well preserved a thousand years later.

In the United States, the Seattle Central Library is known for its unique architecture designed by famed designers Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus, while China’s National Library is one of the largest and most modern libraries in the world, featuring a vast collection of Chinese literature and historical documents. Known for its innovative and eco-friendly design, Norway’s Vennesla Library and Culture House features a wooden facade and open interior spaces.

Fitting a library inside a giant shopping, entertainment and convention complex is a creative challenge, and that’s exactly what was achieved in Seoul, Korea, with the Starfield Library inside COEX Mall. Its tall bookshelves and wide open space has made it a tourist attraction.  

Most recently, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library opened in Dubai in 2022. It has a unique design with a roof that resembles a tome lying open on a bookstand.

Libraries built by Samsung C&T

Samsung C&T Engineering & Construction Group builds up-to-date modern libraries. For example, Yonsei University’s Samsung Library, opened on May 13, 2008, has 6 stories above ground and 3 below, with a total floor space of 33,429 square meters. This new building adds to the Central Library and is connected to it, forming one unified complex. 

Yonsei’s Samsung Library has some special features. Samsung C&T E&C Group used open-joint external cladding on the exterior stonework to prevent rain staining the façade. Also, the curtain wall is made of transparent glass, giving a feeling of openness. Low-emissivity (low-e) double-glazing is used to insulate the windows and to block infra-red radiation, important for temperature control. Inside the book storage areas, a climate control system maintains temperatures between 22-25 degrees Celsius and humidity between 45 and 55%, to prevent paper from deteriorating quickly.

Another example is Sungkyunkwan University’s Samsung Library, opened in 2009. With 7 stories above ground and 2 below, it has a total floor space of 23,742 square meters and was built by Samsung C&T E&C Group using building information modeling (BIM). The glass-covered exterior lets in a lot of natural light. The sectioned, curved roof on multiple levels looks pleasing to the eye, resembling an open book.

The library holds 700,000 books but also many computers and monitors on which to read electronic materials. In the 4th floor reading room, the high ceiling and large windows create a well-ventilated and well-lit space for studying. There are also spaces for group work and break rooms, some built in such a way that they appear to hang in mid-air. From reserving a workroom or extending a book loan, every function of the library can be accessed and controlled digitally, making it modern and convenient.

When construction a library building

There are some things to keep in mind when constructing a library building. A single book or piece of paper is light, but when accumulated, they quickly become heavy. This is why old libraries sometimes have to reinforce their floors to house their growing collections. When designing a new library’s floor, consideration is given not just to the current collection size, but also future growth.

Secondly, in order to extend the service life of a library’s collection, the internal environment must be controlled to keep temperature, humidity, air quality, and light levels within acceptable bounds. Also, fire safety is critical, because paper burns so well. New libraries must be built to the best fire safety standards, while older ones must undergo costly retrofits to install or improve sprinklers, smoke alarms, and emergency exits.

Thirdly, for the optimal reading environment, a reading room must be well-lit and well-ventilated, to prevent eye strain and drowsiness. While modern buildings allow lots of natural light in, older libraries have lighting systems that need upgrading, and air conditioner systems that need replacing.

Finally, new libraries are not just about books; they need information technology infrastructure too, for example computer terminals and high-speed internet. ICT technology is now an integral part of modern library design.

Libraries are here to stay

In our modern world, libraries are not disappearing – people still need them. The Samsung C&T E&C Group excels not only in housing, civil engineering, and plant projects, but also in the creation of public spaces such as libraries, hospitals, and parks, which contribute to improving the quality of life for modern people.

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