San Francisco State University J. Paul Leonard Library

A Renovated Library for Tomorrow's Students

If knowledge is power, then the J. Paul Leonard Library is a powerhouse. A vital part of the San Francisco State University (SFSU) campus, the library is more than a resource. It’s also home to the Sutro Library, a world‐class archive collection of rare books, original documents and artifacts donated by former San Francisco mayor and mining magnate, Adolph Sutro. Since its last expansion more than thirty years ago, the enrollment at SFSU has increased, leaving the existing facility to provide for only 68 percent of the library space required by the growing student population. To accommodate this growth, the library was completely renovated, seismically strengthened and expanded into a stunning facility and “signature landmark” of the campus.

Originally constructed in three phases (1953, 1959 and 1971), our design takes the library into the future by addressing inadequacies in the exterior envelope’s condition—introducing new concrete and glass consistent with the campus architecture. The massive, anchoring forms of the iconic neighboring student union are carried into the library architecture with the use of sculptural concrete forms at the ground level. The building’s electrical and telecommunications systems were updated to meet the needs of modern electrical information and multi‐media systems. We installed an automated library retrieval system and freed space normally consumed by book stacks for use as study and computing areas. Lastly, our designers saw a unique opportunity to create a joint use library and moved the Sutro Library from its previous location to the 5th and 6th floors of the renovated building. The new library adds more space, seating, group study areas, collection capacity, and computers—all while providing a flexible, congenial and powerful learning environment.