BUCKHANNON – As they step into the newly renovated Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library, West Virginia Wesleyan College students will instantly realize the opinions they voiced during the beginning stages of the project were taken seriously.
They’ll know that when they see the vast open space, the rear accessible entrance and the numerous study rooms.
“I was really pleased both with the opportunity to renovate the library – it was long overdue – and also with the level of investment that the students had in this process of designing the building, giving input into the architecture firm,” Brett Miller, director of library services, said during a recent tour and interview. “Everything from basic design to furnishes to finishings, the students were really involved in, in the focus groups … I think it’s important that they feel that their voices were heard, and I really feel like we succeeded in that with this project.”
The $2 million project was completed three weeks before the start of the fall semester and will serve not only as a library, but also a hub for academic services for students. The finished project aided in providing additional space for 19 study rooms for individual-use and study groups, a rear-entrance way that improves accessibility, and the consolidation of the Writing Center and tutoring services offered on campus.
Other library features? Secure student and faculty-only 24-hour access and a micro-market for students stocked with snacks, drinks and made-to-order sandwiches.
Library student employee and Bobcat senior Hannah Parog said the renovations enhance student learning and provide for the growing technological era. Parog said the study spaces, the new arrangement of the books and the 24-hour access will be helpful to students throughout the school year.
“I was very impressed with how much the student body was very into helping out with saying what they needed and how they really took their opinions into account while they were renovating,” she said.
Construction began back in March and displaced students and library staff into a satellite library in the Nellie Wilson Lounge for the end of the spring semester. Now that the legwork is done, Miller said the library staff are working to put the finishing aesthetic touches on the completed project, adding furniture, art, window blinds, etc.
“Because we had eight months, that’s a real quick turnaround frame for something this big where we did a lot of these changes,” said Miller. “The construction company we worked with, High Point from here in Buckhannon, did a fantastic job with staying within budget and staying within their time frame in terms of getting the work done.”
Since classes began roughly three weeks ago, Miller said he has heard positive feedback from students and has even seen an uptick in use.
“It was fun to watch the first week or two as folks were coming back onto campus walking in, doing tours and we would literally see jaws drop,” he said.
Miller said the campus community appreciates that the classic characteristics of the library were still intact after the renovations.
“One of the things we said, but also the students said, was that they still wanted it to feel like a library. They didn’t want it to feel so vastly different and so modern and stark,” he said. “I think the renovations struck a nice balance. We preserved a lot of that, as much as we could we preserved – the wood moulding, crown moulding, that kind of stuff.”
The renovated library embodies a modern feel but still holds on to the charm that is and will be the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library, Miller said.
“It doesn’t feel vastly different, so students are still familiar with it and they’re happy with that and it still feels like a library. It doesn’t feel like a doctor’s office,” Miller said.
Another design driver for the project was flexibility, Miller said.
“We absolutely wanted a space that was fulfilling needs for our students and faculty not just for now, and not just for the next year and or the next five years, but really, we were challenged to look at what does the library of 20 and 30 and 40 years from now look like,” he said.
With technology growing and enhancing with no signs of slowing down and books and print media still relevant, Miller said the library needed to commit to spaces that were flexible and able to be adapted to other uses in the future.
“I think we’ve changed around to where there’s enough flexibility for people to use spaces in ways that they want to, that they can adapt with the furniture if they want to, and that we can adapt with new furniture if we have to,” he said, “but we’ve really tried to keep a lot of the spaces flexible and adaptable for different uses in the future.”
Miller said the event space on the second floor can be used for classes, readings, video showing and panel discussions.
College officials gathered Thursday morning on the library steps for an official ribbon cutting ceremony.