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Sterling Memorial Library Nave Restoration: Home

This guide describes planning for the restoration of the entrance nave of Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University, scheduled to take place between June, 2013, and September, 2014.


In the summer of 2011, Yale University received a generous donation to restore and the entrance nave of Sterling Memorial Library. Opened in 1930, Sterling Library is architect James Gamble Rogers’s masterpiece of collegiate gothic style. With more than 3,000 decorated windows, seven stories of reading rooms and offices, and fifteen floors of book stacks, Rogers intended Sterling Library to be a cathedral to learning and the intellectual heart of a great university. The entrance nave is the grandest of the many awe-inspiring spaces in Sterling Library. The architectural elements in the nave are reminiscent of gothic cathedral architecture, which find their modern equivalents in the massive stone columns, soaring leaded-glass windows, and a circulation desk at the crossing of the nave that generations of visitors to the library have mistaken for an altar.

In October of 2011, the University selected Helpern Architects of New York to lead the restoration of the nave, working alongside experts in historical preservation and planners from the Library, the Office of University Planning and Facilities, the Office of the Provost, and selected faculty members. Planning assumptions for restoring the nave include the following:

·         Retain the architectural splendor and the sense of awe what one experiences in the nave.

·         Restore all glass, wood, and stone in the nave to their former glory.

·         Make the nave an inviting location for members of the Yale community.

·         Enhance library services and empower users in the nave.

·         Develop the ability to keep the first floor of Sterling Library open after library services close.

The descriptions and drawings in this guide explain how many of these assumptions will be put in place during and following the restoration.

Subject Guide

Ken Crilly

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