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  • Alex Mathers

University of California San Diego Copley Library

Housing over 500,000 books, the Helen K. and James S. Copley Library is a place where learning leads to discovery, where discovery brings breakthroughs and where purpose inspires true passion.


Located on the west side of the USD campus, the library underwent a major renovation in the summer of 2020. It now includes areas for active learning, teaching, collaboration, and research, as well as spaces for classes, group projects, discussions, events, and exhibits. There are also new spaces for individual study, casual gathering, and outdoor gatherings.

The renovated Copley Library includes 38 small group study rooms and individual seating for 1,000 users in its event and outdoor spaces, as well as a lounge/reading room and five individual study spaces for the Camino Hall stacks. The expanded library includes exhibit, gallery, and display spaces, three new library instruction rooms, two seminar rooms and a presentation room, as well as a faculty reading room, a journal reading room and university archives and special collections.

The first floor of the library was completely redesigned to create a well-lit and inviting collaborative study space for students. Unlike the second floor of the library, the first floor does not have a noise-level requirement and encourages active learning. Students are welcome to meet for group project work and collaboration. The first floor also features new restrooms and the new Copley Lounge.

The second floor of the library features a large, elegant new foyer, as well as a revamped hallway to the Mother Hill Reading Room. The hallway features exhibits and private study spaces. The second floor also features several new spaces including a Journals Reading room, open-view classrooms for library faculty, a Faculty Reading room for USD professors, and office spaces for librarians.

One of the more critical spaces in the renovated library is the Special Collection Archive room which provides access to unique archival and digital collections as well as rare books, manuscripts and print ephemera. The University Archives contains documents, photographs, media, publications, and memorabilia from the University’s inception. It serves as a historical and educational resource by providing research assistance and access to its collections and exhibits. The Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection includes Californiana with an emphasis on the San Diego area and Catholic Church history, manuscripts and early printed books, 20th century and contemporary artists’ books and fine press books, and 19th century books notable for their bindings and ornamentation.

GMC Commissioning’s expertise in critical MEP systems provided value to the project through design review of the systems serving the Special Collection Archive room. In addition, the library had its own unique challenges including specific humidity control requirements. GMC Cx collaborated with the general contractor and the MEP trade subcontractors to maintain the project schedule. This project is another great example of how early commissioning involvement results in a quality product.

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