Reimagining the library


The idea

The Robert E. Kennedy Library opened in 1981, serving a campus that enrolled fewer than 15,000 students. In the three decades since 1981, Cal Poly enrollment has grown to nearly 20,000. An even more dramatic transformation since 1981 has been the Internet age, transforming the way we communicate, educate, do business, and connect with each other.

In 2013-2014 the library engaged the national architectural firm Shepley Bulfinch, and worked with Cal Poly students, faculty, staff, the broad Cal Poly community to create a new comprehensive vision for transforming Kennedy Library to meet the needs of today’s students.

The completed master plan offers new vision, direction, and exciting opportunities to shape Cal Poly’s library of the future. The plan adds urgently needed capacity for student-centered collaborative academic work. It supports our commitment to the future of digital scholarship. And it expands our commitment as stewards of the unique artifacts, records, and stories that reflect the shared legacy of Cal Poly, our community, and the lands of the central coast.

Three major ideas emerged from the master planning process and have been shared with campus leadership:

24-Hour Peer-to-Peer Learning Zone
The first floor of the library is reimagined as an expansive center for student peer-to-peer learning. The envisioned P2P learning center will be a hub where students develop and share skills in writing, data, statistics, communications, and more. Students will partner to collaborate on cross-disciplinary senior projects, incubate entrepreneurial ventures, and get just-in-time help – driving student success across the curriculum.

Special Collections and Archives
An expanded and digitally sophisticated center for Cal Poly’s special collections and university archives will be a center of tomorrow’s Learn by Doing. The library’s fourth floor will be a place to create, study and work in an environment that integrates unique, traditional artifacts and born-digital content. Cal Poly’s Special Collections and Archives will feature a new dedicated reading room, an oral history lab, expansive exhibit areas, a multi-use classroom, and a climate controlled environment for fragile materials.

Reading Room in the Sky
The Reading Room in the Sky, spanning the library’s fourth and fifth floors, celebrates Cal Poly’s beautiful surroundings while adding 3,000 square feet of new seating. Nearby are the Special Collections reading room, a graduate student reading room, a President Emeritus office, and ample exhibit spaces. With views of Bishop Peak, double-height window views, and inspirational quiet study seating, it’s the perfect place for visitors, special events and alumni.


Ways to give