Miller Library Renovation Plans Heat Up: Improvements to be made for HVAC system and more

By Emily Blackner
Elm Staff Writer

Whether students have a question about the Spanish Inquisition or the discovery of antibodies, Miller Library holds the answer. This valuable part of the Washington College community is currently in the renovation process so that it can better meet students’ and facultys’ needs.

Miller Library has been a staple on the campus for many years, and it has been relatively slow to change. “The last renovation was the creation of the Information Commons on the main floor, completed in Summer 2006,” said Dr. Ruth Shoge, associate professor and Director of Miller Library.
The current project is much more extensive. “This renovation is focused specifically on improving the physical facility,” said Shoge.

“The major change that will occur with this renovation is replacement of the heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC), electrical, and lighting systems,” she said.

“In addition we will create new enclosed collaborative, group study spaces for students on the second floor, relocate the archives to a bigger space on the ground floor, and create more office space for the instructional technologists, also on the ground floor. Of course, the entire building will be refreshed with new paint and carpets,” she said.

Such an extensive project has a hefty price tag. WC has allocated $3 million to the project, and staff are currently awaiting a matching sum from the state. “Conservatively speaking, we hope to hear from the state by January 2011,” Shoge said.

After that, the actual work can commence. “We plan to do the renovation during the summer, most likely 2011, so that students and faculty will not be out of library services during the semester.”
Upgrades to the HVAC system have been met with the most enthusiasm from staff and students alike. Shoge said, “After years of discomfort from lack of climate control, I am most excited about the replacement of the HVAC system because finally the library will be a comfortable and healthy place in which to study and work. The new system will save energy and reduce our carbon footprint.”

Senior Meaghan Murphy echoed Shoge’s sentiment. “I would like the heating/cooling system to be fixed, or at least the windows fixed so students can open them. I’m really excited that I won’t be baked in the winter or frozen in the summer anymore!”

Murphy also noted several other things she would like to see happen with Miller Library. “I’d also like the layout of the library to change, so that there is more than one entrance; that way students coming from Daly or [Decker] Theater don’t have to walk all the way around to the front to enter the library. Miller Library should also get a new roof and drainage system; we have frequent leaks upstairs and floods downstairs. Finally, getting a new printer or an extra printer to meet the demand for printing and decrease the amount of paper jams I fix.”

She is in charge of fixing those printer jams when she works at the circulation desk. “I work seventeen hours each week. Depending on how much work I have due that week, I can be there studying an additional one to seven hours a week, so I spend a lot of time there,” Murphy said.
Murphy’s experience as an employee has given her insight on the average student’s use of the library. “Students typically use the library for the free printing and as a study area, less as a place where they can find books and information they need,” she said. “I have frequently had upper class students (sophomores, juniors, sometimes seniors) come in and ask where the main stacks are (the books they can check out), or ask how to find a book. This can be discouraging because the library is a valuable resource but students don’t use it or take the time to learn where things are.”

Murphy feels that several factors are involved in making Miller Library such a valuable resource. “I like the friendly and knowledgeable staff, free printing, and especially our electronic resources and interlibrary loan. Miller Library doesn’t always have the most up-to-date books, so interlibrary loan (ILL) is extremely helpful.

“We should definitely keep the talking study area and the study carrels,” Murphy said.

Murphy also advocates using the electronic resources offered through the library such as JSTOR and Academic Search Premiere. “It’s great for people, like me, who procrastinate on their work and don’t have time to ILL books or check one out to read the night before. Teachers also frequently ask students to use academic peer-reviewed articles and those databases are a treasure trove of information.“ The renovations would not affect student access to those resources at all.

Other students naturally value different library features. Freshman Stephie Giles, who also works at Miller Library, said, “My favorite things about the library are the amount of computers and the moving shelves,” she said.

Giles also had a few suggestions for things that should be changed to make Miller Library a more productive place to work. “If the library is renovated I think some of the areas like the labs could do with some more space. Also, I think that the main collection should go together rather than being split up between the basement and the second floor.”

Conversely, some of Miller Library’s features seem superfluous to Giles. “I don’t like the ATM in the basement because there is no reason for it to be there. Also I don’t like snack and soda machines in a library.”

This is an especially interesting point because some students may not know they are even there, as they are unfamiliar with many library features. “I know for a fact that there’s no library introduction during freshman orientation; the entire first two weeks I worked I had to repeatedly explain how printing worked, where things were, how to use the Miller Library catalog, and other basic tasks. I think that if some time was given during Orientation Week for freshmen to be given a tour of the library students would use it more instead of waiting until a professor requires them to,” Murphy said.

The renovation plans seem to be very in-sync with students’ needs and desires. This is vital, because the library is used frequently. “The gate count shows that during the semester there are over 900 visits to the library each day,” Shoge said.

These visits are made with good reason. Murphy said, “The library is a great resource on campus because it provides a place for students to work outside of their room, is a great source of research, and is a center of student life on campus. Miller Library is an integral part of the WC campus.”

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