BUCKHANNON – In the coming weeks, staff of the Annie Merner Pfeiffer Library will prepare for renovations that will offer progressive learning options for students.
The $2 million renovation project is expected to enhance student accessibility and learning for years to come.
Among the new features of the plan are:
-A new rear entrance facing toward the center of campus that will improve accessibility,
-An expansion of available individual and small group study spaces, focusing on a diversity of furniture solutions,
-Consolidation of some academic services, such as tutoring and writing center, to take place in the library facility,
-24-hour access, and
-A focus on the student experience as they occupy the space.
The idea of enriching student learning at the Bobcats’ library came about when current Wesleyan president Joel Thierstein arrived on campus.
“When President Thierstein came to Wesleyan, one of his initial goals was to look at the library space and how he could bring the space, which was built in the 1950s and renovated last and added on to during the 1970s, how [it could be made to be] more student centered for 21st-century students,” said Brett Miller, director of library services.
Having opened in 1953, Miller said the library received an add-on in 1972, and has since served students and the Wesleyan community well.
“We’ve been able to adapt with not a whole lot of renovation between 1972 and the present, other than some cosmetic things,” he said. “We’ve made some changes internally. We added a café in 2006, and that was just in response to student response and them asking for that kind of a service … And we’ve added some technology to some of our side rooms.”
Miller said there has been a lot of feedback from students who wanted private, small group study space for the purpose of working on group projects.
“We don’t have the space available in the building to do that. It’s just not configured to do that,” he said.
Currently, academic tutoring sessions are happening outside of the library in different areas of the campus. The campus’s writing center, which assists students with proofing papers and writing mechanics, is also located in another building.
However, once the renovations are complete, the library will serve as a hub for student learning.
“The idea was that we wanted to try to consolidate, so we would become a one-stop shop,” Miller said. “So, if it’s on a cold, snowy night, someone doesn’t have to go out into the snow to another building to get help.”
Miller explained the project’s master plan is designed for today’s students, but also to be adaptable for students 20 years from now.
Miller said the Cincinnati design firm, BHDP, took the input of students, faculty and staff to synthesize a design that meets the needs of those who utilize the library.
“They have visited campus a number of times, did focus groups with students, faculty, staff, so there was a lot of input into the process of what’s important for students, what’s important to faculty because there’s a lot of folks who use the library, as well,” he said. “We have folks who teach in the building. Those who do informal meetings here. We have student groups who have events in the library, so we wanted to get a lot of input from a lot of different folks.”
Regarding renovations, there will be minimal structural changes; however, current spaces will be reconfigured.
“One of the things we talked about during the design (process) was that this building has a timelessness to it … there’s a classic character to it with a lot of the woodwork, and the architectural detail is really nice, so we wanted to maintain that, and the architecture firm said, ‘This is really great. … We don’t want to change this. We want to keep the character of the building,’” Miller said.
With minimal structural impact, Miller said the firm is working create a modern and flexible library that won’t lose its character in the renovation process.
In terms of the timeline of the renovations, Miller said, “It’s going to be very accelerated.”
In fact, once students leave for holiday break, library staff will begin the process of relocating books and rearranging shelves.
“Almost all of the print collection will move to the second floor, so what we need to do is take care of the flooring in that section first to make sure we move the shelves out, do the flooring, put the shelves back and rearrange that so that it has all of the shelves that we’re going to need up there,” he explained.
By mid-March, Miller said the entire library will “come offline” as contractors begin working on structural details.
As renovations increase during the second semester, Miller said staff will try to minimize the impact on students.
“We have another space dedicated on campus that will become the ‘de facto’ library during the time that the library is offline,” he said. “It’ll still be a place where people will be able to check books in and out. We’ll be able to have quiet study space, computer terminals set up for them.”
The satellite library will be situated in the Nellie Wilson Lounge located on the first floor of Benedum Hall.
“It’s a pretty large space. We’ll be able to move some of the furniture from here over into that space, so there will be the tables and chairs, and we’ll set up our desks, so the library staff has a place to work there too,” Miller said.
However, café services will not be offered at the satellite library, Miller noted.
“Again, it’s some of those inconveniences that we can’t avoid,” he said. “But there will be enough space, and there will be some other spaces that they will be opening up on campus for students who need a study lounge … We’re really confident that between those study spaces, having the satellite facility that students will still have the academic support that they need and the places to do the kind of work they would normally do in our building.”
Though the setup isn’t ideal, Miller said the product will be worth the minimal disruption.
The end goal, Miller said, is to have renovations completed by the beginning of September 2019.
“We’re excited about the project. We’re excited about the opportunity to really maximize the flexibility of our space,” Miller said.