By Joseph N. DiStefano
(Adds comment from Temple spokesman Ray Betzner) Temple University's new President Neil D. Theobald has killed plans for a $190 million, partly state-funded library on North Broad Street that the previous administration had promoted as "a great living room for all Philadelphia," and is instead considering a possible update to the Paley Library near the old heart of the North Philly campus east of Broad. (As the Temple News noted last semester here.)
The Broad St. library center was the last of the major projects under the "Temple 2020" plan inaugurated by former President Ann Weaver Hart in 2008, and the only one still unbuilt when she suddenly left last year, university spokesman Ray Betzner told me.
Betzner confirms Theobald is not pursuing the Broad Street plan. Instead, the new administration is collecting suggestions from Temple alumni, staff and others as to which campus projects should be priority at https://visualize.temple.edu/.
Hart wanted the library to make a statement about the redevelopment of North Philadelphia and Temple's public role in the city, much as the high-rise dorm and retail complex on the south side of campus, named for trustees' building committee head Mitchell Morgan, helps unite Temple to Center City.
That plan is over; what hasn't changed, according to Betzner: "Temple has a tremendous pride in being in North Philadelphia. We are and have been a very proud member of the North Philadelphia community. Look at Sue Snyder's story in the Inquirer last Friday. The president called Temple 'Philadelphia's University.' The opportunities that are available to students becaue we are in Philadelphia and the opportunities that are available to people are huge. And the notion somehow that we're backing away is -- you can't print what I'd like to say...
"What's going on is we are taking a look at where to position this library. The location has not been set for the library. This is part of the master planning process. We are making decisions on the library in a way that will give it the most value moving forth. The 2020 plan [that included a Broad Street library] was created seven years ago. Things have changed. The residential population has gone up dramatically. The environment we're living in has evolved. Let's make sure the library is going to be at the best possible location to serve the learning needs of the community today and moving forward.
"I can't give you a location where the library is going to be.The state money [$50 million] is still there. There is going to be a library." But it's back to Square One, what that library will be like, and exactly where.
Betzner objected to my note, in an earlier version of this item, that some unnamed Temple people had raised questions whether the University really wanted an open facilitiy, and why it needed an expensive digital-age bookroom instead of just fixing up Paley, which Hart had proposed converting to classroom space.
Temple boosted enrollment during the later recession, but like other Pennsylvania colleges expects declining applications as the state's slow economic growth convinces more young families to move elsewhere. Meanwhile Temple's hospitals are boosting debt and draining cash, and Wall Street is pressuring the new administration to "separate" the hospital system or take other effective steps to protect the school from the healthcare cash drain.