A Visit to the Hunt Library

The research library of the future? Maybe so.

Last February, I blogged about BiblioTech, an all-digital, public library in San Antonio, Texas. Recently, I had an opportunity to visit the Centennial Campus at North Carolina State University (NCSU) and tour the James B. Hunt Jr. Library. The Centennial Campus is the focus of a collaboration among students, faculty, researchers, and corporate, governmental and institutional partners. The Hunt Library supports the campus, primarily the College of Engineering, College of Textiles and other science programs. The library’s state-of the-art spaces and technology set it apart from other research libraries. The Hunt Library was designed to be one of the most technologically sophisticated learning spaces.

Just as law librarians are debating how to use the space freed up from print subscription cancellations, here is an amazing library with lots of exciting ideas for space and technology utilization.


The Hunt Library is longer and wider than a football field, 460 feet in length, 88 feet tall and 180 feet wide with a total of 221,000 gross square feet with 5 floors.

What’s the bookBot?

The bookBot, an automated storage and retrieval system, can store up to two million volumes, delivering any item within a five minutes. Visitors can watch the retrieval process through a glass wall on the first floor.

The bookBot is on the right and the virtual browse screen to the left.


Requiring 1/9 of the space of conventional shelving, the bookBot frees up room for learning and collaborative space. While most of the print books are in the bookBot, there are small collections at different places in the library.

Where are the students?

With the bookBot housing the collection, I wondered about the space in the rest of the library. What I discovered was that there are lots of open areas and glass study rooms. Since I was visiting during Fall break and the library was not so busy, I was able to see where the students preferred to be.

  1. In Pods on the 3rd These are group areas with table, chairs and a mounted monitor. They are different from study rooms as they are not entirely closed. The picture below might be helpful.


  1. In seats along outside windows. It reminded me of going into a restaurant and choosing the booths or tables along the outside of the room rather than the tables in the middle of the area. There are an amazing number of different types of seating too. Before the library opened, NCSU had seating for fewer than 5% of its students. … a lot less than the 20% UNC standard. With the new Hunt Library, that original number doubled.


  1. Using all the study rooms. In fact, the only study room that I found unoccupied was the one with bean bag chairs. The study rooms varied in size and accommodated individuals, pairs, and larger groups. I saw students writing on the specially painted walls, using laptops and monitors. Some study rooms were being used for media and music production.


  1. Where there were individual sized, rolling white boards.


Where were there no students?

From my wanderings, there were only two areas without students during the time I visited. One area was the MAC bars on the 3rd floor and the other was the cushions on the very yellow steps between floors.  My conclusion from this observation was that maybe students preferred to bring their own devices. And perhaps when classes were in session, students would use these areas more.


The Hunt Library is an amazing and beautiful library. If you get a chance to visit, the library is open to the public and often has tours. There are many other interesting spaces and aspects that I hope to write about in another blog post.

~Betty Thomas~

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