The College will begin the second stage of an extensive renovation to the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library in December. This phase deals exclusively with the second and third floors of the building and is the final portion of the 2001 renovation, which tackled the basement, first floor, and portions of the third floor.
The primary goal of this year's renovation is two-fold. Currently, the Special Collections section is in danger of being damaged in its current location by condensation that affects only the outer rooms of the building.
One focus of the renovation is the transfer of the rare book storerooms from the exterior walls of the library to an enclosed central room with a climate-controlled environment.
The other objective is to install a sprinkler system on the top two levels of the library.
The library staff also plans to address students' requests for changes to the second and third floors.
Librarians Sherrie Bergman and Judy Montgomery met with interested students on Tuesday to discuss preferences and concerns regarding the renovation. The two tried to assess what kinds of changes in study spaces, furniture, and lighting students would like to see accompany the construction.
Students primarily discussed individual and small group study spaces. Few predetermined small group work areas currently exist.
When the library was first built in 1965, the need for group work space was minimal. In recent years, however, professors have started to assign more group projects, and students are having a difficult time finding practical spaces in which to work.
"As teaching assignments have changed, libraries need to respond," said Bergman on Tuesday evening.
When designing small group study areas, the library staff is hoping to create a variety of work spaces that give the students the "ability to customize," the librarians said. This might include one study room with couches and soft seating and another with large tables and whiteboards so that students can choose to work in the setting in which they feel most comfortable.
While renovating in 2001, the library staff worked to ensure variety throughout the newly redone floors. "We strove for different colors, different textures, and different types of lighting," said Montgomery, noting that a library needs a balance of distinctive available spaces.
This reccurring theme of variety throughout the library is as much a concern today as it was four years ago. Students said they wanted a variety of library spaces to fit their personal preferences?a desire also reflected in a 2001 survey of students. When discussing seating options, for example, participants at the meeting had an array of preferences.
"It's physically uncomfortable," Britta Bene '07 said, when describing the existing library furniture. "There is no cozy feeling and I think that's important for a library."
Keith Matera '08, said a library should be more about studying and less about relaxation. "If the chairs were too comfy, I'd fall asleep."
Students also hope to see changes in the library's current lighting system, specifically the addition of soft-task lighting on each carrel and floor lamps dispersed throughout reading areas.
To increase the amount of natural light illuminating the second floor, the library staff is considering replacement of the opaque glass wall of the Pierce Reading Room with a pane of transparent glass, or possibly no glass at all. This seems like the best way to "maximize the big window," Derrick Wong '07 said.
Such an idea fit with the plan of "working with the context of a 1960s building," Bergman said.
While students expressed a number of unconventional possibilities for renovations, such as lounging mats, most large construction projects are not possible within the library budget. Such ideas are placed on a wish list, which will only be considered when the funds are available.
College officials insist that the second and third floors of the library will be accessible during most of the second semester, as the majority of construction will occur during the month of January and over summer break. Although the ceilings may be down and the lighting temporary, students will have continued access to all library resources through final exams.
Students are welcome to submit additional ideas for study areas by contacting the librarians.