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The Henry Madden Library at Fresno State

A university is only as good as its resources, and in the Henry Madden Library, a stunning campus architectural landmark, there are more than 1 million resources for study, research and illumination.

Before its $105 million expansion, the Henry Madden Library served as a respected, solid and earnest purveyor of knowledge. But when the building reopened in early 2009, its sleek design and high-tech advances signaled the library's ascension to a spectacular new level.

Any first-time visitor will be instantly impressed, especially if you approach the library at night from its north side: A nearly four-story high massive wall of glass, when lit from within, is a dramatic sight.

The addition of space now makes Fresno State's Madden Library - with more than an incredible eight acres of floor space - one of the largest libraries in the 23-campus California State University system. It is the largest academic library between Sacramento and Los Angeles.

The library's striking visual appeal and expansion reflects its modern array of services that support the university's strong scholarly programs and its role as a leader in Central California. The library assists students, faculty and visitors as they broaden their educations and conduct research in this new, challenging millennium.

In just the first year alone after the reopening, more than one million people visited the library.

"The Henry Madden Library is the academic heart of the university," said David Tyckoson, the library's associate dean. "The new Henry Madden Library is a 21st century library for a 21st century university."

The history of the library is as old as the university. When then-Fresno State Normal School was established in 1911, the library was born as well. Fresno State's original home was at Van Ness and McKinley avenues in the central part of the city. By 1916, the library was included in the campus' distinctive Spanish-Moorish style administration building. It had a capacity for 14,000 books – a far cry from the more than 1.1 million volumes now in the collection.

By 1931, despite the Depression, the state allocated $260,000 for a separate library because of the school's growing enrollment. The new library opened in the fall of 1933.

During the 1950s, Fresno State was in transition. It was in the process of moving to a larger, permanent home at Cedar and Shaw avenues in northeast Fresno. And the library had a new leader – Henry Madden was appointed College Librarian in 1949.

Under Madden's direction, the library's collection grew from about 70,000 volumes to 576,000. New departments were created, such as Special Collections, Government Documents and the Music Library (later renamed the Music and Media Library). In 1975, the library stepped into the age of electronic information by offering to conduct electronic database searches for patrons.

Madden retired in 1979. Two years later, the south wing was completed and opened, and the library was re-named in Madden's honor. A plaque in the south wing reads in part: "He built here one of the finest university libraries of its size in the country."

As Fresno State's enrollment continued to climb, the library increased its sophistication and services, even as it dealt with the difficulties of tight budget years. But space was getting cramped. By 2001, the library's collection swelled to one million volumes. More room was critically needed, but how could the university afford to add square footage?

State voters provided the answer. In 2004, they approved Proposition 55, an education bond. Fresno State received $95 million for a major revamp of its library. In 2006, the project received $10 million from Table Mountain Rancheria, which allowed planners to incorporate unique design touches using American-Indian themes.

The project – designed by architects A.C. Martin Partners and constructed by Swinerton Builders – was an intricate process that, in its construction phase, would take 2 ½ years to finish. The library had a north wing (the original library) connected to a newer south wing. The north wing would be razed and completely rebuilt. Much of the collection had to be moved to a warehouse but was still made available through a retrieval system. The library operated out of the south wing. Once the north wing was done, the south wing was remodeled.

In an interview that appeared in Fresno State's University Journal just before the library's reopening in 2009, Peter McDonald – the Dean of Library Services-- talked about the excitement of offering the university and the community at large a place for "intellectual discovery, artistic expression, cultural engagement, community outreach" in a way not previously possible.

As McDonald said: "It can now really stand as a symbol for academic excellence at Fresno State."

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The new Madden Library debuted in February 2009 and was an instantly impressive addition to the Fresno State campus. The structure easily dominates the campus' central landscape, bested in size only by the Save Mart center on the university's east side. We Illuminate Quote

The library is a visual showcase, starting with its distinctive entrance. It is a five-story elliptical tower of steel, glass and angled wood lattice that conveys the design of twined Native American cooking basket. The motif is seen throughout the building's interior. For example, the grand metal staircase uses a woven pattern design.

The massive north wall of glass includes a three-story Mediamesh LED installation that depicts a basket weaver at work. Additional tribal components developed by Susan Narduli Studios of Los Angeles include a Native Plant Garden just outside the library's entrance. The garden was created as an outdoor laboratory intended to replicate in one location the plants and tools used in basket making. The names of these are etched and translated in three languages – Western Mono, Yokuts and English. The wall also overlooks the campus' Peace Garden and complements the garden's sense of tranquility and contemplation.

The library's other construction materials include locally quarried granite and wood to reflect natural resources found in the central San Joaquin Valley and the Sierra Nevada. In addition, hundreds of precast concrete panels on the exterior walls were imprinted with patterns inspired by aerial views of the Valley's agricultural landscape.

The library now also breathes of space. It's nearly six times bigger, at more than 360,000 square feet. There is seating for more than 3,500 students and visitors, from quiet study spots to the lounge area next to a Starbucks coffeehouse on the second floor.

Other features in the Madden Library include:

  • The largest installation of open access, electronic compact shelving on a single floor in the country, storing more than one million volumes.
  • Public flat-screen computers that operate on either Mac or PC systems. In addition, more than 200 wireless laptops can be checked out by students, staff and faculty.
  • Special rooms for meetings and events, as well as exhibit spaces.
  • A media production lab that can be used for editing digital video and audio.
  • A teaching complex (Studio 2) that includes two classrooms equipped with state-of-the-art technology and four seminar rooms.
  • The Learning Center that offers tutoring in a variety of subject areas, academic coaching and other related services.

As Tyckoson summed up the library: "Its collections, services and facilities provide information, research assistance, technology and space for intellectual pursuits in all disciplines on campus."

The new north wing also includes, on the fourth floor, the Harold H. Haak Administrative Center. It is named after former Fresno State president Haak, who served from 1980-91 and was widely respected as an educational leader. He died in 2003.

The center houses the president's office, senior administration and staff as well as meeting rooms.

The Madden Library, of course, could not operate without its expert staff. They provide reference assistance and other sources of help to guide students and others visitors through the library's many departments, collections and services.

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