Opening the Doors to All: Baruch’s Newman Library Web Revitalization

Baruch College’s Newman Library website is a portal to unimaginable riches. Digital copies of archival materials, study guides by Baruch College’s professors, videos of guest lectures, links to collections at the Smithsonian and Library of Congress, online catalogs for the whole CUNY system – these are just a few of the resources publicly available on the website. CUNY students and staff can access additional troves of proprietary online journals, databases, and collections. Those planning to visit the historic library building in person can get directions and hours, learn about services, or take a virtual tour before they arrive.

Open Sesame

All of these treasures were available on the library’s old website, but they were harder to find. Working with Newman Library staff, we reorganized the 200-plus page website to make it more convenient for students, faculty, alumni, and other visitors to find features they most frequently use. We integrated sophisticated search tools to make it easier to pinpoint particular resources, using JavaScript to provide a uniform search control. We wrote a dynamic HTML widget backed by PHP to display the library’s hours for the current day. We added social media links and live chat with librarians to connect people to the latest library information and on-demand assistance. And we updated the website’s graphic design to highlight the beauty of the library’s Italian Renaissance-style building, built in 1894 to house the power station for a street railway and renovated and reopened in 1994 as the William and Anita Newman Library.

“Open the Doors to All”

Townsend Harris, campaigning for legislation to support a free public institution of higher learning in New York, wrote, “Open the doors to all—let the children of the rich and the poor take their seats together, and know of no distinction save that of industry, good conduct and intellect.” The legislation was passed, and the Free Academy, to which Baruch College, City College, and the rest of CUNY are the heirs, was founded in 1847. In 1953, the City College School of Business and Civic Administration was renamed in honor of prominent businessman and statesman Bernard M. Baruch, an 1889 graduate of City College. On that occasion, in a speech entitled “Where the Frontier Still Lives,” Baruch said, “The challenge of the frontier lay in the opportunity it provided for a new start in life. Essentially that is the challenge embodied by a public college like this one.” We’re delighted that we could give the Newman Library’s website a new start and make this public treasure more accessible.