January 31, 2003

Library Room Restored

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The Kinkeldey Room, a quiet study area in Uris Library, was reopened yesterday after a $400,000 restoration finally reached completion. The room, which is located on the eighth floor and has access to the Andrew Dickson White Library and the Tower Cafe, was renovated with funds donated by the Class of 1957.

The goal of the project, according to John Barradas ’85, lead architect from the Ithaca-based firm Barradas and Partners Architecture, was to restore the room and stay true to the original architecture.

John Hoffmann, director of facilities planning for the Cornell University Library, similarly stated that with the restoration, “We have the opportunity to liberate the original architecture of William Henry Miller,” a famous architect from Ithaca.

The restoration included the addition of elegant chandeliers and new tables and chairs which were all selected to complement the new stylistic elements.

Such restoration to the room structure included the removal of a low ceiling which had previously obstructed the view of a vaulted ceiling and the addition of three large windows viewing west toward Cayuga Lake and one window looking east into the main reading room of Uris Library which was intended “to open up natural light,” University librarian Sarah Thomas said.

Thomas also noted that during their restoration work, the University made “all sorts of wonderful discoveries.”

These discoveries included niches along the south side of the room which were remnants of its original 1891 form as the main stacks of the library.

In 1937, with the construction of additional stacks, the room was transformed into a reading room in honor of head librarian Otto Kinkeldey, who served from 1930 to 1945.

Nearly three decades after its naming as the Kinkeldey Room, it underwent yet another change as it was modified to meet more modern standards with the lowering of the ceiling and the addition of lockers. Hoffmann stated that it was the hope of the project to “undo some of the bland renovation work done in the late ’50s and ’60s.”

One student who attended the opening, John Patrick Janowski ’03, said that the room was “absolutely beautiful,” adding that he “really liked how the room was renovated to how it originally looked with similar tables to the main reading room, classy chandeliers, high vaulted ceilings and views of Cayuga Lake.”

Kim Lamorte from Instruction Research and Information Services at the University Library stated that the room “looked too much like a classroom before. Now it’s like a living room.”

The prospect of restoring the room had so much potential that the “many ideas often competed and got in the way of each other,” Barradas said, going on to note that it became clearer once they focused on complementing architecture from other areas of the library.

Thomas said that the Kinkeldey Room answers a specific call.

“Some people think that libraries are like museums, that digital will replace the old. What we need are inspirational rooms, social study areas that respond to the needs of the students and inspire tradition.”

“The room is available as a quiet reading space … I think it will be a very popular spot,” she said.

Soft seating and desk lamps are still being researched to match the restoration effort, according to Barradas, and the room is ready for wireless Internet connections.

Archived article by Brian Kaviar