Falvey Memorial Library serves the four colleges of the Villanova University community. The Villanova School of Law has its own library. The University’s original library building, commonly referred to as Old Falvey or the Old Falvey wing of the Library, is actually Falvey Hall, a structure built in the 1940s. The newer library building, Falvey Memorial Library, was built in the 1960s. It sits adjacent to Falvey Hall aka Old Falvey, and the two buildings are intertwined, but do not communicate very well with one another. The floors do not align for one thing, and for security purposes the public needs to exit the one building to enter the other.
One of the greatest features of Falvey Hall, which has its collegiate gothic façade facing the Mendel Green, is a high ceilinged reading room. After the new library building was opened, the reading room in Old Falvey served several purposes. The large painting on canvas donated to the University in the 1950s was mounted in the reading room probably because it was a large enough space to accommodate the 12×19’framed oil painting. Unfortunately when the reading room stopped being used for public functions, the painting went generally unseen. The conservation campaign now underway is an exciting venture to restore the painting, and reopening the reading room to the public means visitors can see the painting while conservation takes place. Unlocking the reading room is also a way for Falvey to add additional 24/7 study space for Villanova students. A major next step is to find funding for refurbishing the reading room not only to upgrade the environment for student use, but in order to create a more fitting and hospitable location for the Cortona painting.
A Learning Commons in Falvey was dedicated in February of 2012. This revitalization of Falvey’s second floor was a significant step forward in the overall renovation of the Library. It is a part of a larger plan to renovate the entire Falvey complex. The renovation and refurbishment of the reading room will be another major step. The ultimate step is to establish an atrium that would be cut from the Old Falvey book stacks and would connect the reading room in Falvey Hall to the main part of Falvey Memorial Library in a dramatic and grand way. The hope is that the Learning Commons will have an entrance and staircase into the reading room and that the reading room will be open to the atrium. The Cortona painting will remain in the reading room and perhaps, if they too can be restored, the other paintings donated to the University by Princess Eugenia Ruspoli could hang salon style alongside the “Triumph of David.” These plans are all contingent on fundraising led by colleagues in University Advancement.
In fact, transforming Falvey into a 21st century Library facility is one of several priorities of the recently launched comprehensive campaign at the University. A timeless focus on the needs of the academic community of Villanova is at the core of Falvey Memorial Library. In the 21st century this includes providing spaces that allow the mind to think and the imagination to create – where the student can focus on her studies, information is transformed into knowledge, and library research is accomplished – while at the same time serving as a generative intellectual environment which includes inspirational spaces. The renewal of the classic reading room space, home to a truly awe inspiring work of 17th century art and which is connected in an integrated fashion with the Learning Commons as well as other traditional library functions, is to have a place at the heart of Villanova’s campus which embodies the engagement of the whole student, in mind, body, and spirit.
by Darren Poley, Interim Library Director
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