Widener Library

, Harvard University

Cambridge, MA

reading room
computer room
computer room
grand staircase
reading room
reading room
exterior view

Harvard University's Widener Library hums with students gathered around tables, consumed by laptops and databases, but Widener also boasts more than 3.5 million books in over 100 languages — one of today's most comprehensive humanities and social sciences research collections.

New modernization features will bolster the safety and security of Widener's people and collections. Sited in the heart of a National Historic Landmark District, the library, which was initially dedicated in 1915, required careful and complex infrastructure and design changes to preserve its historic character.

Protecting the condition of Widener's collection was paramount – both for storage areas and the stacks themselves. EYP invisibly threaded new building systems through the 10 floors to provide climate control for materials storage and enhanced building circulation, improving students, faculty, and staff's comfort. The design flexibly infuses technology to provide state-of-the-art workspaces and support the library's evolving role of providing students traditional and digital research materials.

An essential resource to Harvard's researchers and students, it was critical that the Widener Library continue to function during these necessary adjustments. So, EYP carefully phased the work, installing systems first and then carrying out restoration to existing architectural features.

With increased daylight, workspaces, and climate control, the modernization of the Widener Library now offers greater comfort for its users – while preserving its collection into the future.

Building Facts

  • 320,000 GSF
  • 6+ million items
View of the reading room at Widener Library

Working with History

To preserve precious cultural resources, work on historic properties must follow established best practices. Modern systems were carefully threaded throughout the historic building to meet current accessibility and life safety codes, ensure the well-being of visitors and staff, and support new technologies. New construction respectfully complements the historic fabric. All work was completed in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and the Boston Landmarks Commission.