An in-depth look at the new library

By Jeff Hill | March 27, 2024

After being closed for nearly four years, Alderman Library — now The Edgar Shannon Library — reopened in early January, with 100,000 square feet of renovated space and 130,000 square feet of new construction replacing the previous stacks towers. Now that the semester is well underway, the library is already experiencing heavy traffic as users explore and enjoy the new building (check out this Cavalier Daily article for the student point of view). Photographer Tom Daly captured a few of the spaces on and just prior to opening day. In advance of our grand opening celebration on April 4, enjoy this photo essay of the renovated library!

A group of people walking out of a vestibule and pouring into a large room. The room has light fixtures on long chains hanging from very high ceilings, and black and white checkered floors.
Although the library opened before the regular semester began, there was still a small crowd waiting to be let in. Promptly at 9 a.m. the doors automatically unlocked, and the group poured in through the vestibule.
Wide lens view showing a huge room with light fixtures on long chains hanging from a high ceiling, black and white checkered floors, and a variety of seating options.
Memorial Hall, the main lobby on the south side of the building, has been completely refurbished. In addition to the three new doors and vestibule, there’s a much larger Service & Information Desk and a variety of seating with room for flexibility. The checkered flooring the room originally sported when it opened in 1938 is back — but now made of sustainable tile with acoustic advantages.
Long view looking down a reading room with black and white checkered floors and wooden chairs accompanying long wooden tables with 2 lamps on each table.
The Reference, Periodicals, and Oversize Room retains an old-school reading room flavor. The ceilings have been raised and the walls have been painted a warm yellow which, along with the windows lining the east wall, give the room a lighter feel than it previously enjoyed. Much of the furniture in this room was refurbished by the same company that built it more than 85 years ago, Virginia Craftsmen of Harrisonburg.
A student taking a photograph in a brightly lit library space with shelving and a row of wooden tables and chairs.
Shannon Library features a clerestory — a raised section of the roof with windows — that allows natural light to flow down into the fifth and fourth floors. This area on the fourth floor beneath the clerestory has proven to be a popular place to take photos.
People, some seated, some walking, in a brightly lit library with shelving, multiple windows, and an aperture in the floor surrounded by a railing.
The fifth floor stacks area beneath the clerestory features an aperture in the floor surrounded by a railing. The cast iron panel in the center of the photo was one of many once in the Rotunda — they lined the Dome Room gallery. The windows in the clerestory, as well as other windows in the building, are now treated with UV protection on the glass so collections won’t be damaged by the natural light.
An open seating space in a library with wooden tables and chairs, as well as armchairs and low coffee-table style tables.
This is the building’s fifth floor, but this open central area is mirrored on the other four floors as well (but not the basement, which doesn’t contain public areas). The spaces mostly contain a mixture of seating types, and there’s easy access to elevators and stairs. The setup also allows Library staff the flexibility to see how the space is being used and modify accordingly once the building has been “lived in” for a while.
A person wearing a backpack and carrying a tote bag squats, reading, in front of a shelf of books in a library.
Shelving on the library’s fifth floor. Shannon Library, along with stacks on the first floor of Clemons, holds the University’s social sciences and humanities collection. The books, moved out of the building for the duration of the renovation (mostly to Ivy Stacks), are moving back in over the course of the spring 2024 semester.
A reading room in a library with parquet-style floors and a double-height ceiling. Shelving can be seen in the background and seating on the floor above behind a railing looks down into the room.
The north end of the new construction has large reading rooms on the second, third, and fourth floors. This is the fourth floor reading room, which features a high ceiling with double-height windows, and looks up to seating on the floor above.
2 area rugs with tables and soft seating on each rug create 2 separate sitting areas in a large room. The room has a fireplace, large windows, chandeliers, and shelving on either side of the fireplace.
Prior to the renovation, this comfortable third floor space was most recently the Current Journals Room. With journals and periodicals moving to the fourth floor, the shelving was removed and replaced with soft seating and tables and the room was reimagined as the Graduate Student Lounge. The space also features a kitchenette and lockers, and is exclusively for the use of UVA graduate students and their guests.
View down an aisle between two rows of compact or mobile shelving, with handles on the end of each range of shelving.
Stacks on Shannon's first and third floors feature compact mobile shelving. The shelving units are fitted with wheeled traction systems and are easily moved with rotary handles, allowing for more books to be held in the same footprint than with traditional shelving.
View in the interior of a building looking down several floors from the center of a stairway with landings at right angles to the steps.
In addition to stairs on the northeast, northwest, southeast, and southwest of the building, there is also a large central staircase. Bright, open, and easy-to-use, the staircase greatly improves the flow of people within the building and represents a huge improvement from the “submarine stairs” in the stacks pre-renovation, which were dimly lit, featured heavy swinging doors, and were so narrow users had to wait at the landings or turn sideways to pass each other going up and down.
A wall painted a honey mustard yellow with two stainless steel elevator doors side by side.
Two elevators side by side may not look like much, but like the central staircase they greatly improve mobility as thousands of people per day use the building. These are in the center of the building opposite the staircase, and there’s another elevator on the north end allowing visitors coming in from the second floor entrances to easily travel up and down.
A person walks through an interior tunnel connecting two buildings. A sign in the foreground says “Connector to Alderman Library this way.”
In addition to movement within the building, there’s also a vast improvement of movement between buildings, as a new internal passageway connects directly with Clemons Library. Library materials can also move back and forth — they’ll just need to be checked out before users take them outdoors.
A row of books on a shelf showing the spines, of various colors/ages/designs and in various states of disrepair.
A row of books awaiting repair in the Preservation Services department. Preservation Services has all-new labs in the building for the conservation of books, manuscripts, maps, and other printed matter, as well as audiovisual material and digital media.
A large bright classroom full of students sitting at tables while a person stands at a lectern in front of a screen. On the lectern is a “UVA Library” logo.
The new library has a large “Seminar Room” on the east side of the building, looking out towards the Chapel. On opening day, it was already in use as Teaching and Learning Librarian Todd Burks hosted a group of high school students from Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville, to introduce them to using college-level resources for a research assignment.
A large but cozy-looking wood paneled room with people sitting in soft seating. The room also has bookshelves, tables, and a fireplace.
The much-loved McGregor Room has been refurbished but maintains its cozy feel. Originally built in 1939 to house the Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History, it grew to hold the library’s special collections, and became a general reading room when those materials moved to the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library in 2004. 
A room with shelving and mid-century modern chairs and tables. At the end of a room a person sits in a chair in front of a pair of windows between two very large yellow vases.
Formerly the Asian Studies Room, this elegant space in the building’s east wing was dedicated as the Stanley and Lucie Weinstein Buddhist and Asian Studies Library in 2019, after a bequest from the Weinsteins made UVA a major holder of materials in that field. Books will fill the shelves by the midpoint of the spring 2024 semester. The large vases flanking the windows are from the Library’s Fine and Decorative Arts Collection.
Archival boxes line shelves in a bright white room. On the wall hangs a poster that says “Flowerdew Hundred: A day in the country lasts 400 years” and shows drawings of a windmill with a colonial-era person leading a horse, people wearing shorts and t-shirts excavating an archaeological site, and artifacts such as pottery and pipes.
Shannon Library's basement includes closed collections spaces, including the Flowerdew Hundred Collections Lab, which is open to students, researchers, and visitors by appointment. Flowerdew Hundred, on the James River, was at various times the site of Native American villages, a frontier settlement, a plantation, and a Civil War encampment. The archaeological collections from the site were donated to the UVA Library and the space is used to preserve, catalog, and study the artifacts and make them accessible for research.
A courtyard showing brick walls and a mixture of wooden tables and chairs and soft seating, under a skylight.
The building’s original design included two light wells meant to afford light and ventilation, but prior to the renovation the floor of the light courts was open to the elements and closed to visitors. These have been redesigned and are now two second-floor study courts under skylights. With seating for dozens, the courts have already become popular places for reading, study, and light socializing.
A row of card catalog drawers line the left side of a hallway, which is broken by an opening. At the end of the hallway are two doors, and the space is lighted by fixtures hanging from the ceiling down its length.
Opposite and on either side of the second-floor Service & Information Desk are rows of card catalog drawer faces, a nod to the building’s past. They will become a donor wall, listing the names of major donors to the renovation project, and/or those who donors chose to give in honor or in memory of.
A blue flag with a University of Virginia logo attached to a pole is in the foreground of a photo showing a multiple-story brick building with white pilasters between large arched windows, many smaller windows, and stairs leading up to terrace space.
A UVA flag flies outside the second floor north entrance to the building. With two doors on opposite sides of a large terrace connecting to a portico on the west, this new entry just yards from University Avenue affords an open, welcoming approach to the library and Central Grounds.