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The Opening of the New Library at SNU

  • March 25, 2015
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SNU’s second library, Kwanjeong Library, opened on Feb. 5. The new library which was constructed with innovative engineering is now embracing the old library, just like SNU keeps the tradition when making innovation.
SNU’s second library, Kwanjeong Library, opened on Feb. 5. The new library which was constructed with innovative engineering is now embracing the old library, just like SNU keeps the tradition when making innovation.

The newest building completed in Seoul National University (SNU) can arguably be said to be its most impressive yet. Kwanjeong library, a massive project that began in 2013, is finally complete and open for individuals of the SNU community to experience.

Kwanjeong library is an aesthetically impressive building. It appears to embrace the old library, SNU’s Central Library, surrounding the three open sides like a perfectly fitting Tetris piece. But what it holds inside is in fact the most impressive aspect of the new library.

Ethereal Building Combining Elegance with State-of-the-art Equipment

Room of Truth on 7th floor
Room of Truth on 7th floor

There are eight floors that offer a variety of facilities for individuals to use. The first floor demonstrates basic information about the facilities, with media polls that have interactive maps of each floor of the library. The first floor also introduces notable alumni of Seoul National University, as well as showcasing all the individuals and companies that have donated funds to aid in the construction of the library. In addition, the first floor has large seminar rooms for meetings to be held.

The second floor uses the vast space to hold group study rooms. A study garden is also located on this floor where individuals can engage in casual conversation while studying. Lockers have been placed on the second floor for the convenience of those using the library.

Similar to the second floor, on the third floor there are group study rooms and spacious study gardens. On the third floor there is also a large hall where lectures and ceremonies may take place. Acknowledging the need for space where students can study together, group study rooms continue on to the fourth floor. The faculty lounge is also located on this floor.

The new library has a roof garden with great view on the 5th floor
The new library has a roof garden with great view on the 5th floor

One of the most impressive aspects of the library is located on the fifth floor. The fifth floor is not only home to the administrative service office, but also the path to the library roof garden. From the garden one can see the majestic Gwanak Mountains. While the mountains can be seen anywhere around campus, this particular spectacle is exponentially striking because of the height in which it is seen. The mountains appear incredibly grand with no buildings to obstruct the view. The library roof garden offers a place of repose, where those weary of studying can stretch their muscles and clear their view with such an exceptional view.

Multimedia Plaza at 6th floor where students are allowed to watch films and TVs in the comfortable chairs.
Multimedia Plaza at 6th floor where students are allowed to watch films
and TVs in the comfortable chairs.

Another noteworthy floor is the sixth floor where the Multimedia Plaza is located. This space has couches of different sizes in front of large television screens, allowing individuals or partners, or even groups of four to five to watch films and television shows offered. The Multimedia Plaza also has computers for students to complete assignments and do research.

Floors seven and eight are mainly composed of reading rooms labeled with the four themes. The themes memory, imagination and reason are derived from Francis Bacon’s three faculties of the mind while the theme truth relates to SNU’s motto ‘Veritas Lux Mea’, Latin for ‘Truth is my light.’ In addition, there are carrels open exclusively for graduate students. For those who need to use their laptops, a laptop zone is available on each of these floors.

LG Chem, the world’s largest OLED light panel manufacturer, supplied 550 desk lamps in the reading rooms located on the eighth floor, making Kwanjeong Library the world’s biggest building installation of OLED lighting. This type of lighting was chosen because it is energy efficient and comfortable to the eyes.

The Process of Creation

Kwanjeong LEE Jong-hwan, Chairman of Kwanjeong Educational Foundation, who donated 60 billion KRW for building the new library.
Kwanjeong LEE Jong-hwan,
Chairman of Kwanjeong Educational Foundation,
who donated 60 billion KRW for building the new library.

The most difficult part of creating any facility is receiving funding. The university began receiving funding through a program called “Friends of the SNU Library”. A large sum of the donations came from the Kwanjeong Educational Foundation, which donated a total of 60 billion Korean won (approximately 53 million US dollars). Apart from the Foundation, diverse members made donations, such as students, professors, and individuals outside of Seoul National University.

The design for Kwanjeong Library was created by the Design Organizing Committee, a group formed by professors from the Graduate School of Environmental Planning, the College of Engineering and the College of Fine Arts. In addition to the committee, students were also involved in choosing the design of the new library. Students communicated their opinions through the comment page on the library website, surveys done on post-its, and student monitoring.

With the administration stressing that the Kwanjeong Library should be a library created by all, the opinions of the various members of the SNU community were considered. The administration also expressed the hopes that the new library could become a symbol of identity and expression of gratitude for the SNU community. However, impressive as the new library is there were some people voicing the concern that no funding was allocated to books and research materials. The administration responded by allocating some of the funds to expand the existing Central Library to expand the facilities where books are mostly held.

An Installation That Transcends Tradition

The new library is a stunning addition to SNU campus
The new library is a stunning addition to SNU campus

The extensive preparation for the creation of the new library is easily noticed in the facilities. The builders have been keen to address the needs of students. Various spacious study rooms that allow for comfortable group discussion, a greatly needed facility for students engaging in group projects, have been built. The wide reading rooms with comfortable chairs and cozy carpets are precisely what students need during exam period when the reading rooms of the Central Library becomes packed. What is most impressive about these facilities is not the number of new seats or the sophisticated individual lamps but rather the minute, student-friendly details that demonstrate the effort the administration put into creating the library. The wide windows that bring in natural light, the information polls for web search, the high ceilings that reduce the stuffiness, these are all evidence of meticulous planning that has been done in order to create such an extraordinary facility.

Kwanjeong library is more than a place to study or read books; it is a place that offers a good balance between engaging in academics and also experiencing entertainment. The library is important because it truly captures the values of Seoul National University: an institution that seeks to create individuals who academically prominent as well as well rounded in diverse areas. It acknowledges the different needs of students; there may be individuals who study best in sterile, quiet places, or individuals who need to engage in discussion with peers in order to understand certain concepts.

The library is important because it truly captures the values of Seoul National University: an institution that seeks to create individuals who academically prominent as well as well rounded in diverse areas.
The library is important because it truly captures the values of Seoul National University: an institution that seeks to create individuals who academically prominent as well as well rounded in diverse areas.

Kwanjeong library is a place that transcends the traditional concept of a library. It liberates thought by providing a space that stimulates creativity. It challenges individuals to break molds and transcend above any boundary instilled upon us. The tools have been given; whether we can do so lies completely within us.

Written by OH Jung Eun, SNU English Editor, josefinaoh@snu.ac.kr
Reviewed by Eli Park Sorensen, SNU Professor of Liberal Studies, eps7257@snu.ac.kr

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