Students who walked into Cattell Library at the beginning of this semester might have been surprised when they saw much of the furniture gone. For the past several months, the library has been undergoing renovations that are mainly aimed toward increasing the usability of the space for students.
Provost Donald Tucker was a key player in moving the process along on the administrative end. Describing his part in the undertaking, Tucker said “my involvement was to make sure it was put on the agenda.”
The money that goes into projects like these renovations comes from what is called the capital budget, which covers physical changes on campus. Once a yearly review of the needs of both Malone’s individual schools and of the university at large is completed, a decision is made about the priorities of those requests.
Tucker’s enthusiasm for the project is a significant reason for the progress made. He believes that the previous layout of the library “served its purpose when it was built,” but he became increasingly interested in a new direction for the building. During the planning stages, Tucker asked, “How do we refocus the library to be more of a learning commons?…How does it really facilitate academic growth?”
The budget for the current phase of the project was roughly $65,000, as estimated by the Provost. It is a modest budget, but “it doesn’t actually cover personnel costs and labor costs,” explained Tucker. He added that the grounds crew are to thank for so much of the work that has been done in the library. Tucker praised these workers highly, insisting that “people don’t realize what they do” in order to keep campus operating well and looking great.
Although most of the student body was unaware, the process began as early as last spring semester.
“We found out we were going to be able to do it in January or February,” said Rebecca Fort, acting director of Cattell.
According to Fort, for several years, the library staff has been taking inventory of how many people use each area to determine what is successful and what isn’t. These statistics have proved very useful in determining the changes to be made.
No campus-wide survey was taken, simply because it is impossible to please everyone. However, Fort said, “We have 25 student workers, and we tried to get as much input as we could from them.”
Many other people were involved in brainstorming ideas for the new space, including the physical plant, IT, and library staffs. Webinars and meetings were hosted by the Office of the Provost to look at options and examples, and to discuss specific needs and goals.
Widespread use of computers has eliminated the need for some of the print materials kept at the library.
“We weeded the bound periodicals collection to about half of what it was,” Fort said.
The shelves that once housed this collection have been moved, opening up the space for tables and chairs for studying. The computers, which used to be scattered in many different areas, are now more clustered to provide efficiency for classes or large groups.
“We wanted to get more comfortable furniture as well,” Fort said. There will be a larger section of lounge furniture available to the students who prefer sofas and loveseats to tables and chairs.
More additions include a gallery of student artwork and a collection of portraits of Malone’s presidents. Also notable is a display case that was brought in to house Malone’s volumes of the St. John’s Bible.
These initial changes are a part of the first of three phases for renovations in the library. According to the current timeline, the upper levels of the building will also see some great changes in the next two to three years.
Overall, Fort said, “We are thrilled.”
She praised the way everyone involved has worked together throughout the process. Fort is hoping the renovations will be done within the next month. Upon completion of this phase, the library staff will hold an open house for the entire campus to see the final product.
Kim Farkas is a staff writer for The Aviso AVW
Blaire Thompson is a staff writer for The Aviso AVW