Knowing and Doing: CWRU’s Kelvin Smith Library Offers Innovative Ways to Engage

This is the latest installment in a series highlighting interesting aspects of Judson’s new partnership with Case Western Reserve University. The partnership offers Judson Park and Judson Manor residents more robust access to the many lifelong learning opportunities available at the University.

“Vibrant.” “Collaborative.” “Connected.”

If those aren’t qualities you typically associate with libraries, step inside the Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve University.

Opened in 1996, on the outside the library is a neoclassical building — crafted from the same Indiana limestone used to construct the neighboring Severance Hall and Cleveland Museum of Art.  Inside, the sleek and modern architecture contains a diverse motherlode of knowledge and modern educational technology that stretches far beyond books to encompass computers, specialized software, sound and video equipment, and even an art gallery.

As the university’s main library, KSL supports teaching and research with emphasis given to the College of Arts and Sciences, the Case School of Engineering, and the Weatherhead School of Management.

More importantly, thanks to the innovative partnership between Judson and CWRU, many of its resources are available to residents of Judson Park and Judson Manor.

That includes everything from leisure reading to a “one-touch” recording studio where visitors can create personal videos. A lack of technological savvy is no barrier, and there are staff available to assist you.


As Melissa Hubbard, head of the library’s Special Collections and Archives, notes, “as the university’s center for collections, creation, curation and connection, we are all about facilitating learning, which includes providing the services needed to help someone navigate all our resources.”

As a result, making use of the collections and equipment is often as easy as walking up to the service desk and asking for help.

The Special Collections and Archives are a case in point. With “miles” of archival records, the department is a treasure trove of medieval manuscripts, unpublished diaries, and documents relating to everything from CWRU’s own history to the complete chronicles of the Cleveland Play House. Currently, researchers are plumbing the archives to uncover the contributions of Jewish students and faculty to the university’s development, says Ms. Hubbard. Likewise, local and national media have made “tremendous” use of the Cleveland Play House archives, especially during that institution’s recent centennial.

Have you ever wanted to hold an ancient manuscript in your hands? Just ask one of the special collections librarians. Among the library’s rare books, you can peruse a 15th century copy of the Flemish “Book of Hours,” a 16th century edition of Galileo’s “System of the Universe,” or even a copy of the “De Alchimia Opuscula,” a 450-year-old “how-to” manual for those hoping to turn base metal into gold. In the Hatch Reading Room of Special Collections and Archives, frequent public exhibitions bring together rarities from the collection.  For example, the current exhibition (which will be open through the end of September) features cookbooks and culinary tomes dating back to the 1600s.

If, on the other hand, your interests move toward more contemporary pursuits, the library’s Freedman Center for Digital Scholarship is your kind of place. With a knowledgeable staff and more than 5,000 square feet of workspace and state-of-the-art equipment, the Freedman Center makes modern technology accessible to students, researchers, and visitors from Judson.

CWRU Kelvin Smith Library

Among the available services and equipment, you’ll find:

  • equipment that allows you to digitize not only images (such as photographs, slides, documents, and even x-rays), but also sound and video recordings from vinyl, cassette, VHS and BetaMax.
  • sound and video editing equipment
  • stations for viewing VHS and DVD content
  • printing (for a fee) of posters, artwork, photography, signage and maps, as well as lamination and foam-board mounting.

The CaseLearns program also is part of the Freedman Center; this ongoing series of small, scheduled workshops (most of which are offered at no cost) covers an array of concepts and techniques — everything from how to use basic software to the best ways to utilize the library. You can find a full schedule of upcoming workshops here; to register or for more information, contact


Of course, there are plenty of other reasons to visit the Kelvin Smith Library, including its large collection of books, the art gallery, a small café, and the collection of leisure reading materials. And because it’s part of both the Cleveland Public Library system and OhioLINK (Ohio’s academic library consortium), Judson residents can search for and request books online from member libraries and have them delivered directly to KSL.

Arnold Hirshon, Associate Provost and University Librarian stresses that “KSL strives to be a warm, welcoming, and intellectually stimulating environment that encourages scholarly interest, not just for the students, faculty and staff of the University, but to the public as well.”

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Kelvin Smith Library hours and programs vary with the CWRU class schedule; please visit the website for the most up-to-date information.

Judson residents are invited to contribute documents, memories or memorabilia to the ongoing research on the role of Jewish faculty and students in the university’s history by contacting professor Gillian Weiss at

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