Ringling College of Art and Design’s Library of the Future

When Dr. Larry R. Thompson arrived in 1999 to take on the role of president at Ringling College of Art and Design, then-Director of Library Services Kathleen List pulled him aside and explained, “The School needs a new library.” He agreed. Yet they both knew that handling a project of that scope would take time, energy, money, and serious, serious planning. Still, no one imagined it’d take 17 years to fulfill that request, but here’s the good news—it was worth the wait. As Dr. Thompson recently said, “I had high expectations [about the new library], and it exceeded them by so, so much.”

The Alfred R. Goldstein Library opened its doors this January, and at 46,000 square feet, this $20 million building is nearly four times larger than the previous library, and it holds a whopping 75,000 items.

It also boasts ten group study rooms, round-the-clock access to com-puter labs, a special project workroom, four terraces, a coffee shop, and a black Escher-like staircase in the center that spirals up to floors two and three. The library’s interior walls are covered by a bright abstract mural created by a Ringling graduate, Julie Kanapaux (Fine Arts, ’00) whose design was chosen from more than 200 submissions. “Each side of the mural represents an aspect of human discovery,” she explains about her evocative art. “And they each symbolize a different innovation in the creative process.”

Director of Library Services Kristina Keogh—who took on that position in early 2016 after List’s retirement in the summer of 2014—explains that the building itself is a true design object. “We’re an art and design college, after all,” she said, “so it’s terrific that the facility can be studied for its design elements. It has iconic pieces—the Eames lounge chair and ottoman on the second floor, for instance—that students can sit in and watch people interact. Ultimately, what’s implicit in all of these books and research materials becomes explicit in this awe-inspiring place.”Individuals, foundations, and corporations were incredibly generous in their support. $3.8 million alone came from the 40-year-old Ringling College Library Association, which has a pair of offices on the library’s first floor. Dr. Thompson says, “I’m sure that Annamae Houston Sandegren [the Association’s founder] is looking down at all this and smiling.”

The Goldstein Library is noteworthy not just for its awe-inspiring design, but also because it’s the first Ringling College building to be primarily funded through philanthropy.

Keogh says that part of the excitement comes from being surprised by the unexpected opportunities the new space affords. The Jan Schmidt Terrace will host the Motion Design Senior Exhibition in May, with work projected on the exterior wall. The Barbara & Sanford Orkin Lecture Hall on the first floor will be home to the Creative Writing Program’s Visiting Writers Forum speaker series in the 2017 academic year. And other student groups are regularly sending in requests to use the terraces, study rooms, and classroom space for their own events. As Dr. Thompson claimed more than once, “the students are like bees to honey” with the new library and its range of spaces.

ALFRED R. GOLDSTEIN

The name “Goldstein” has become nearly synonymous with the Ringling College of Art and Design, thanks to the family’s ongoing generosity and support. Witness the Ann and Alfred Goldstein Center that’s home to the Film department and Institutional Technology, the new Ann and Alfred Goldstein Residence Hall which houses so many of Ringling’s students, the classrooms in the Goldstein Studio Village, and now the Alfred R. Goldstein Library. About the library—the most recent of his latest philanthropic gifts—Dr. Goldstein shared this: “This is the best gift to myself, in that I not only watched but also participated in the growth of the College from a little-known institution to one of the leading arts colleges in the nation. The library is the heart and soul of every institute of learning, so it gives me extra pleasure to have my name on this beautiful new building!”

In a symbolic gesture that completed the process of moving all the books, periodicals, and other materials from the Verman Kimbrough Memorial Library to the Goldstein Library, the College enlisted the help of hundreds of students, faculty, and administrators to create a human chain and pass the final 200 books bucket-brigade-style across the 500 yards to the Goldstein Library, where Dr. Thompson received them. On the other end? Bob Kimbrough, whose father was the President of the school (called Ringling School of Art at that time) for 40 years and for whom the previous library was named.

While the Goldstein Library has been open since January 9 when classes resumed and the final Passing of the Books was held, the official ribbon-cutting ceremony took place on January 25. Addressing over 500 trustees, donors, Ringling College faculty, and other supporters, Dr. Thompson talked about how the new building has already become an “intellectual student union” and a “creative cauldron” that is anything but “your grandfather’s library where you had to be hushed.” At this library, noise is expected and encouraged because it’s the sound of people being creative and collaborating.

During that ceremony, Willis Smith Construction President and CEO David Sessions explained the massive undertaking that this project became. It used over 2,700 cubic yards of concrete (“picture a sidewalk going 13 miles,” he explained), over 650 tons of steel, 10,000 square feet of glass, and 75,000 feet of low-voltage data cables. And it all was done on time and on budget. But equally important, noted Sessions, is that his company believes in supporting the community. Of the 27 different trades involved in the construction, 19 of the companies they used were headquartered locally. They averaged 65 full-time workers on-site each day, and “nearly all of whom were from Sarasota or Manatee counties,” he said.

At the very center of the Goldstein Library is a three-story mural created by Julie Kanapaux (Fine Arts, ’00). Her artwork, Momentum, was selected from over 200 entries as part of a contest open to Ringling College students and alumni. The concept of her work, the impact of technology on the creative process, reflects the purpose and direction of this new “library of the future.” Momentum was unveiled to the public at the January 9th opening, the Passing of the Books.

Kathleen List—the one who alerted Dr. Thompson to the need for a new library—was one of the many ribbon-cutting guests who helped celebrate the official grand opening. She explained the significance of the library’s role at the college by saying, “With the Goldstein Library, Ringling College fundamentally repositions the library in the life and the future of the College. It honors our past and inspires our future. It’s a place of beauty and a delight to the eye.” She closed her remarks with “this remarkable place is indeed a home for creativity and community, a building full of energy, a place of discovery, and engagement.”

Dean Eisner, the Chair of the Board of Trustees, describes the building as an important beacon as well as “the central place on campus. It’s the center of thought, the center of innovation, of ideas, of knowing.” Then he shared that during his visits in the opening days of the library, he overheard students saying, “This is my place!” as they picked out a specific chair. “This is where I’m going to be.”

And that’s exactly where the students are. Day or night, students flock to the Goldstein Library to socialize, study, research, and even relax.

The Goldstein Library is fast becoming the heart, the brain, and the soul of Ringling College. It’s also a huge move for the College toward transforming into—as Dr. Thompson said in the closing of his ribbon-cutting speech—“the preeminent art and design college in the world.”

By Ryan G. Van Cleave  |  Photography by Ryan Gamma

To learn more about the Alfred R. Goldstein Library, view our website.