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The Amazing Reinvention of Arizona State University’s Hayden Library



Hayden Library is world-famous for its unique collections as well as inspirational focus on innovation. It is located in the center of Arizona State University’s campus in Tempe, Arizona. It recently went through a reinvention process that not only included renovations to the original areas but also added new spaces for students to expand their knowledge and skillsets. What makes Hayden Library so special? Let’s take a closer look and then you’ll see.

Outside the library at night on Arizona State University's Tempe campus.
Hayden Library at Night|Image credit: Ryan Cadby via Flickr

The Reinvented Hayden Library Opened On January 13th, 2020

A serious amount of money went into Hayden Library’s renovations – $90 million to be exact. Since 1966, Hayden Library has proudly served Arizona State University students, faculty, and the public. But with the growing population (currently, ASU has the largest amount of students in the country), new technological developments, and changes in society, the library had to make adjustments to cater better to the modern world.

To simplify it, this reinvention was based around making accessibility and engagement better overall. The lower level, the concourse level, and the four levels above that, now have more improved study spaces, a large variety of research services and learning labs, a community-driven book collection, two massive reading rooms, and one floor dedicated to innovation. The renovations now allow space and walking areas for almost double the number of students compared to before. And the entire library environment was designed to stimulate the student’s sense of comfort and feelings of ownership. This is their space. Their home away from home.

One of many of the whiteboards on the pillars throughout the 4-story section of Hayden Library. Students can share their thoughts freely here.
One of many of the whiteboards on the pillars throughout the 4-story section of Hayden Library. Students can share their thoughts freely here.

One misconception is that all the books have been removed and replaced with digital versions accessible only on computers and other smart devices. While many of the books can be accessed this way, the books are not being replaced. Most of the collection is being stored at ASU’s East Valley Polytechnic location, over 200,000 books are still immediately accessible at Hayden. Though, any of the books at the Polytechnic campus can be transferred to the student within one-day.

Hayden Library. The concourse level is in the foreground with the 5-story white tower in the background.
Hayden Library. The concourse level is in the foreground with the 5-story white tower in the background.

Let’s Discuss the New Stuff at Hayden Library

Since 1989, the only entrance into Hayden Library was from the underground concourse level. After the 22-month renovation process, there now are entryways on the first level surrounding the white 4-story tower next to the underground entrance. That’s the first thing you may notice about the library’s updates. However, there are many more great things. These are as follows:

  • State-of-the-art learning labs designed to stimulate exploration and encourage collaboration through immersive technologies and integrated support from many academic areas.
  • Makerspaces, data labs and collaborative learning areas designed to increase innovation and stimulate imaginative minds.
  • National and localized distinctive collections that showcase the more special and valuable assets, with a primary focus on Arizona’s political, cultural and artistic history.
  • Active community print collections, in addition to a carefully curated core print collection, with the hope of stimulating curiosity and motivating innovation.
  • Exhibits that showcase Arizona State University’s long history and dedication to academia and knowledge-building.
  • More seating and outlets, above-ground entrances, open spaces, and transformational areas that support and stimulate students by helping them achieve academic and personal success.
Hayden Library on Arizona State University's Tempe, Arizona campus.

The 6 Different Levels of the Library

There are 6 floors in Hayden Library. They begin on the concourse level which has access to the lower level. Going down the outdoor steps will take you down to the concourse level. The concourse level also attaches to the white 4-story building. Each floor in that building has its own unique attractions. Let’s break them down starting with the lower level.

Lower Level

Down here there are three learning studios, the library’s video collection, current journals, the European history collection, and the East Asian collection.

Concourse Level

This is the big level. It also consists of the library information desk. Down here you’ll find a beautiful courtyard, Charlie’s Cafe, viewing stations, disability services, an interfaith reflection room, and several large classrooms.

Level One

Now we’re on the ground floor of the campus and have entered the white 4-story section of Hayden Library. Here you’ll find the Distinctive Collections Reading and Instruction Rooms. In these rooms, librarians can assist visitors with viewing unique collections that can’t be checked out. Also, there is a small coffee shop, the office of the university librarian, and the massive Luhrs Arizona Reading Room, which features ASU librarian featured books focused on the history and culture of the Southwestern United States. Level one has two main entrances, four stairwells, and four elevators (the stairwells and elevators continue in number all the way up through the fourth-floor.

Level Two

The second level of Hayden Library is also a special one. It features two large library instruction rooms, four rooms for presentation practice, the Sun Devil Reads, and the Labriola Collection and study room.

Level Three

The third level of Hayden Library is a very busy one, perhaps even the busiest. Up here you’ll find the Center for Digital Antiquity, the Map and Geospatial Hub, a makerspace, the Data Science and Analytics room, the media lab, an incubator, several study rooms, the faculty, and graduate room, as well as a couple of library instruction classrooms.

Level Four

We’re finally at the top of Hayden Library. Level four has a lot of great scholarly books. This is where the Scholar’s Enclave resides as well as the featured collections. You’ll also find a lot of study rooms and open study spaces.

Looking up from the 1st-floor stairwell at Hayden Library
Looking up from the 1st-floor stairwell at Hayden Library

The Specialized Collections at Hayden Library

Hayden Library has a lot of unique collections. The collections fall under the following main categories:

Arizona Collection

Benedict Visual Literacy Collection

Chicano Research Collection

Child Drama Collection

Chinese Studies Collection

Government Documents

Labriola National American Indian Data Center

The Mimijac Palgen Cambodian Photographic Collection

Online Collections (Archives and Special Collections)

Periodicals, Videos, and Microforms

Special Collections

University Archives

Visual Literacy Collection

The William W. Sage Collection on Laos

Let’s Focus More on the Library’s Rare and Unusual Collections

These are just some of the interesting collections at Hayden Library. There are far too many to list here, but you can look into them more by following the links above or by going here.

The Nicholas A. Salerno Star Wars Collection

This is a unique collection of Star Wars merchandise as well as promotional memorabilia from the three original Star Wars movies: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi. This collection includes merchandise as well as promotional material from 1976-2005. Star Wars fans from all walks of life will find this collection to be not only exciting but also brilliant.

A simplified breakdown of the variety of Star Wars material you’ll find here is also provided by Hayden Library’s website and is as follows:

Press kits and promotional materials; journal, magazine and newspaper articles; still photographs; vinyl phonograph and magnetic tape audio recordings; digital, magnetic tape and film moving images; co-branded and licensed merchandising products; posters; as well as fabric textiles.

Some of the rare publicity materials also include the white Revenge of the Jedi pre-release press kit and two fold-out posters for Revenge of the Jedi. Merchandising realia include 130 action figures; and the Millennium Falcon, Dagobah and Ewok Village playsets.

The Eugene D. Valentine Pop-Up Book Collection

This incredible collection consists of over 600 pop-up books. They’re not only children’s books though. They also include pop-up books designed for adults. There is a wide range of different subjects and styles that touch on almost every topic. It’s a very unique collection and perhaps more surprising than you might think.

The Civic Classics Collection

Here you’ll find first editions of classic works of leadership in America’s civic and political life. This brilliant historical collection includes The Federalist (1788) and writings by Frederick Douglass, Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King, Jr as well as many other works of brilliant and influential minds.

Manuscripts, Ancient Texts, and Fragile Works

Hayden Library is also home to a lot of unique texts. The oldest relic in Hayden Library is an Egyptian Coptic musical manuscript written on vellum. This manuscript dates back to somewhere between 400-600 C.E. (or A.D. if you wish to respect the Roman calendar designers).

Looking down on the Hayden Library courtyard and entrance to the concourse level.

If you’ve been to Hayden Library in the past, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amazing reinvention it just went through. If you haven’t been to Hayden Library at all, then you’re missing out. Do yourself a favor and explore the reinvented 21st century Hayden Library as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.

John Ghost is a professional writer and SEO director. He graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in English (Writing, Rhetorics, and Literacies). As he prepares for graduate school to become an English professor, he writes weird fiction, plays his guitars, and enjoys spending time with his wife and daughters. He lives in the Valley of the Sun.