Robbie Short

After recently securing a gift from Stephen Gates ’68, the Yale University Library announced plans to add a new classroom in the Sterling Memorial Library’s Manuscripts and Archives wing, according to its annual report released Thursday.

Projected to accommodate up to 20 students, the new classroom will be named after Gates and will provide faculty and students with direct access to many of the University’s special collections. The classroom will be open to the campus community upon the successful completion of the wing’s planned renovations, which still require significant additional donations, the report said. The size of the Gates gift has not been disclosed.

“We at Yale recognize that our students and scholars desire library spaces that convey scholarly gravitas,” University Librarian Susan Gibbons wrote in the report. “As the beauty of our historic libraries is renewed, each renovated space also evidences our renewed ability to support teaching, learning and research at Yale.”

An avid collector of globes, Gates is a lawyer specializing in the energy sector and a member of the library’s advisory board. He has previously helped fund the preservation of two 17th century globes created by Venetian cartographer Vincenzo Coronelli, as well as a conservation laboratory for the University Library’s Preservation Department now named in his honor. His new gift marks the latest development in the University Library’s ongoing effort to better utilize its extensive repository of special collections.

As libraries at the nation’s leading research universities look to collaborate on collection development and focus increasingly on digital resources, Gibbons told the News that the quantity of special collections available at the Yale’s libraries provides the University with a unique advantage over its peers.

“I don’t think that any other library is making a similar investment in special collections,” Gibbons said. “We are really trying to think about how an education at Yale can be qualitatively different as a result of these collections.”

The special collections at Yale are characterized by their relative rarity in comparison to published books, comprehensive coverage of a particular topic — however esoteric — and their unconventional formats, such as handwritten texts, physical artifacts or maps.

Some of the University’s acquisitions in recent years include material collections of queer superhero comics from 1976 onward, production documents from films directed by Oscar-winner George Roy Hill ’43 and over 1,000 boxes of the papers of former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

According to a guide published by the University Library, there are nine locations on campus designated to house special collection materials. Along with the Beinecke Library, the Manuscripts and Archives wing is one of the only campus locations that exclusively holds special collections. Gibbons noted that it is important to add classrooms in both locations in order for the library to become more closely aligned with the needs of today’s students and faculty, which demand more special collections.

The recently completed renovations at the Beinecke Library included doubling the number of classrooms. Library Director of Communications Amanda Patrick indicated that the additional classroom space has proved popular. For example, in recent weeks, there have been times when more than 20 groups have used Beinecke’s classrooms in a single week.

“Interest in teaching with special collections is on the rise at Yale,” Gibbons said. “Faculty realize that exposing their students to primary source materials, from medieval manuscripts to colonial documents to literary archives, can transform their classes.”

One such faculty member is history professor Jay Gitlin ’71 MUS ’74 GRD ’02, whose seminar on “Yale and America” has seen more than 50 eager students vie for a spot each time it has been offered in the past three years. In the library’s annual report, Gitlin said that he teaches one session of the seminar at Sterling Memorial Library.

“My students always tell me that our visit to [the Manuscripts and Archives wing] is the single most special class of the semester,” Gitlin said in the report. “It would help enormously to have a dedicated classroom for this sort of teaching with the walls of Sterling.”

Major renovation work is set to begin in the wing next week. The wing will be completely closed from next Monday to Jan. 16, 2017. Collections currently stored in the wing will only be accessible in a temporary reading room located elsewhere in Sterling Memorial Library between Jan. 17, 2017 and November 2017.

Correction, Jan. 19: An earlier version of this article misreported the frequency of classroom reservations at the Beinecke library.