By Maegan White
Elm Staff Writer
Students returning from winter break will be welcomed back to campus with a newly renovated and furnished main floor of the Clifton M. Miller Memorial Library.
Dean of Library and Academic Technology Mary Alice Ball said that she has been working at the College for four years and from the first time she visited, she wanted to make the library better for the students.
“The look was kind of tired and was stuck in the 1990s,” Ball said. “I want the library to be this warm, welcoming, safe space for our students and it was not.”
The first year Ball was there she added the two-person study carrels and moved shelves to create more study spaces and allow more natural lighting to enter the space. These changes were based on the request and feedback from students.
Since Ball being hired, she and the library staff have continued to look for ways to improve the student experience in the library. While they were undergoing the planning of the renovations, they again sought student advice and feedback. Everything from the color of the furniture to the layout of the library was created by and for students.
The main floor of the library now has single-person study carrels, higher tables to accommodate students of all sizes, more casual study areas with lounge chairs instead of desks, mobile white boards for studying, and desks and chairs. According to Ball, the new furniture is green to convey a more calming and welcoming appearance.
The Newlin Room also received a huge upgrade. The room once had immobile desks with large desktops which students rarely used. Ball said that the Newlin room was useful when students did not have laptops, but the needs of students have changed. The room now has a laptop chart that can be used when needed and a better utilized workroom.
Ball said that she wanted the Newlin room to be utilized more for group studying and even club events. With mobile tables and chairs, the room can be converted more easily to desktop seating, theater seating, or open seating.
The main floor also has more group lounge seating with comfortable couches and chairs. Ball said she hope this addition will become a space for students to relax and meet new friends.
“People at certain points of the day and semester will want to connect with other people and these are spaces for students to come and make friends and relax. They can do that here,” Ball said.
Senior Jastin Garcia-Mendoza is a student worker at the library and was present for much of the renovations that took place over winter break. He helped prepare for the renovation.
“I am very excited to see how students react to the items since we asked the students for their input on what they would like or prefer in the library,” Garcia-Mendoza said.
On Thursday, Jan. 19, the library staff hosted an open house to welcome staff, faculty, and students to visit the new library. Ball and other library staff gave tours and visitors could explore and sign a guest book.
Sophomore Marcelina Lewis attended the open house with a group of students. She said that the atmosphere of the library has completely changed and is much more welcoming.
“It looks much more colorful and inviting then it was before,” Lewis said. “The variety of seating options will be great for group studying.”
The upgrades to the library are just beginning. According to Ball, the ground floor of the library, which houses the Virtual/Augmented Reality Digital Imaging Studio (VARDIS) and IdeaWorks, is set to receive the next round of updates. They are hoping to add more large group study rooms since that was another major request from the students. This next step is dependent on budget approval and fundraising and is not yet confirmed.
For the time being, the ground floor received a small upgrade. Some of the old furniture and study tables have been moved down to the ground floor and students are encouraged to use that space as well.
Additionally, Ball explored options to increase art in the library. Ideally she wanted to see permanent art added from students and local community members. More information will be sent out in the future to students about ways to get involved in adding and creating wall decorations.
Ball and the rest of the library staff are excited to welcome students back and see them utilize the new furniture and supplies. She also wanted to recognize the hard work of Director of Facilities Stan Yeakel and Corporate Interior staff who designed, planned, and installed the improved library. Jess Giblin ‘22 also worked closely with Ball to address student issues and concerns.
Photo by Maegan White
Photo Caption: Staff ensured that the remodel would include single-person study carrels.