Boris Tsang, Sun Photography editor

Mui Ho Fine Arts Library in Rand Hall

February 5, 2020

University Addresses Fine Arts Library Complaints

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Under the normally quiet, illuminated bookcase of Mui Ho Fine Arts library, students frustrated with loud steps from librarians above sit in an imperfect silence –– something University representatives have now responded to.

In an email to The Sun, J. Meejin Yoon, the Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning replied to student concerns regarding the library’s disability access and general comfort.

“Each point raised is an opportunity to think through the design and function of the library and its overall mission,” Yoon said. “The building is fully ADA compliant, and time and use will allow us to explore options that ensure that the space is inclusive, welcoming, and inspiring to all.”

The Mui Ho Fine Arts Library currently meets all regulations established under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, providing equal means for disabled persons to access the library, according to Yoon.

Since the library opened on Aug. 5, 2019, students and faculty members alike have raised concerns about its design.

Problems relating to the book stack’s floor design constitute the bulk of student complaints. These issues included the floor grate’s transparency, the noise the grates make when walking on them and accessibility problems for disabled persons.

“I basically have to be conscious of my outfit on the days that I go to the library,” Nicole Nomura grad told The Sun. “If you built a library, why would you make metal grate floors that are loud?”

Nomura also noted that although Cornell cannot concretely address student complaints about the library without additional construction, the process by which it was designed should be examined more closely.

“What was the process with the admin in terms of designing this and developing this?” she said. Were there even students involved? Who were they thinking of when they were designing this?”

Regarding the design process, Yoon wrote,“I returned to Cornell as the building was nearing completion, and my understanding is that the library was the result of many years of design development and community engagement.“

Architect Wolfgang Tschapeller M.Arch ’87, designer of the $22.6 million-library, defended the process to The Sun

“The use of floor grating was …  selected as a result of a careful architectural investigation,” he said in an email.

Despite the ongoing concerns, student use of the library has remained strong, according to architecture librarian Martha Walker. Walker also said the library’s ethereal design generates positive reactions from students seeing it for the first time.

“The enthusiasm lasts,” she said. “They keep coming back, so the library is very heavily used.”

Regarding potential complications with the design, Walker said that complaints were natural.

“Moving into a new space always creates both opportunities and challenges,” she said. “It’s always a work in progress.”