Westmont Magazine It’s Not Your Mother’s Library Anymore
Renovating all three floors of Voskuyl Library this summer did more than take out shelves, walls and cubicles: It demolished traditional ideas of library design and function. The theory of multiple intelligences has shaped new learning spaces throughout the building to better address the different ways people prefer to study.
“These spaces will inspire students to learn, think and imagine,” says Debra Quast, director of library and information services.
Harvard Professor Howard Gardner says schools tend to focus on math and English intelligence but should pay equal attention to other gifts to develop artists, musicians, dancers and entrepreneurs. He identifies eight different pathways to learning.
“Some people learn best when moving, touching and doing something,” Quast says. “The improvements wonderfully incor-porate the ways students like to learn.” For example, individuals who learn through physical experiences can use three, low-speed treadmills and walk while studying.
Students who respond well to social experiences or need to work in groups will appreciate five group-study rooms on the third floor furnished with flexible seating, tables and white boards.
Silence will reign on the first and third floors in specially designed study areas for students who thrive when it’s quiet.
The main level houses a new learning commons that includes two rooms equipped with collaborative tables integrated with technology. “Students can access and share information by allowing everyone present to contribute their ideas seamlessly using laptops interconnected to multiple plasma displays,” Quast says.
The learning commons also has an open lab area with 27 computers and a library instruction lab with another 24 computers. Learning centers feature café-style seating and outlet tracks where students can plug in their laptops; 94 percent of students arrive with these computers.
The renovation, long proposed by former library director John Murray, became feasible when an Orange County insurance firm donated $350,000 worth of moveable, compact shelving. “It has really allowed us to think big,” Quast says.
Students responding to surveys and interviews have repeatedly asked for comfortable, flexible furniture equipped with the technology they like to use and suitable for collaborative work. Quast and Reed Sheard, vice president for college advancement and chief information officer, visited half a dozen libraries, noting the best features of each. They quickly saw the value of staffing the reference desk with both a librarian and a representative from IT.
“Since many library-based resources involve technology, it’s important that IT and the library form a strong partnership to better serve students,” Sheard says.
The film that darkened the entry windows to reduce the sun’s glare is gone, creating a more inviting entrance. An ocean vista returned to the main floor after workers moved stacks and other materials to the compact shelving on the first floor. The new furniture has been carefully selected so it won’t impede the view. Noise abatement systems, new carpet and paint use a color palette drawn from the natural surroundings.
Student technology fees, capital improvement funds, the library, Information Technology, Writer’s Corner, the Office of Life Planning and the sale of library furniture funded the $600,000 project, the largest library makeover since the facility was built in 1968. Construction took all summer, and the renovation was finished by the time classes started.
Given the extent of the work — which involved demolishing walls and ceilings on the first floor, using a crane to move 44 feet of moveable shelving stored on the roof, and loading 100 rented book trucks to transfer volumes to new shelves — completing it on time was impressive.
The library exterior also has a new look as an accessible ramp and a wooden information kiosk dramatically alter the main entrance to the library.