Ready for fall with library upgrades

It was just before spring break when staff at the Memorial Library were excited to unveil four new and sharp-looking group-study rooms in the main level.

Each of these spacious rooms with glass walls had space for six students. They brought the building’s total number of study rooms to 17 (13 are on the second and third floors) and were definitely a cause for celebration.

But it was spring break … 2020.

From left: Evan Rusch, Diane Lochner and Chris Corley of the Memorial Library staff. Behind them, a tour group visiting the library.

“We were kind of getting ready to celebrate the opening, and then we were figuring out how to close the library,” said Chris Corley, interim dean of library and learning.

As Corley spoke on a June morning in the library, student painting crews were hitting the walls with purple and gold while library staff were assembling and placing dozens of new chairs and tables throughout the main level. Both operations were part of enlivening the look and inviting nature of the library.

Paul Sherwood, painter, with new color and furniture.

“It’s important that when our tour groups come through here that these buildings look pristine, and well-maintained and taken care of,” said painter Paul Sherwood.

As Sherwood and crew are ushering the library’s interior colors “into the new millennium,” chairs, tables and lounge furniture being replaced are all early 90s-era that came with the expansion of the library at the same time. Legs of the new tables are equipped with rollers, and the tables themselves can be folded and easily moved to accommodate different needs and functions of library space.

It all address a need for malleable spaces, Corley said, noting the southwest corner of the lower level. Here, amid giant windows looking at the campus mall, is a space that can be transformed in minutes from a typical study/lounge area with tables and chairs to a space for literary readings, lectures or other events.

One of the new study rooms constructed in the Memorial Library.

“More and more, libraries are becoming accessible, inviting, and dynamic social learning spaces that can accommodate new group learning activities,” Corley said. “They are also safe spaces that can host difficult discussions over complex issues, ideally in partnership with our information literacy faculty experts. At the same time, well-designed library study spaces will continue to accommodate the more traditional individual needs of our patrons – the need for silent focus that all of us crave at one time or another.” 

The fresh look throughout the building gives a solid first impression for visitors to campus, particularly family tours for prospective students. And the new ground-level study rooms are already showing themselves as points of interest on tours.

New chairs and tables are easily movable to accommodate various uses of library spaces.

“Campus tours are happening, and they gravitate toward this space,” said librarian Evan Rusch.  “It feels as though the tour guides themselves are looking at this as something to point to.”

Interim public access team manager Diane Lochner noted the timing working out well.

“It’s going to look really sharp for everybody to come in,” she said. “I think it’s great timing to get everything done, spruced up and looking good for the fall.”