Major improvements to Susquehanna University's Blough-Weis Library took place between May and August 2014. This created a unique giving opportunity that allows alumni, parents and friends to support both current and future students.
Well-managed and attractive academic libraries have long been associated with student success and retention. Moreover, libraries are one of the few places at a college or university that can accommodate the intellectual needs of the entire campus community.
One way libraries add value to the campus is by providing well-appointed space that
- Is flexible enough to serve a variety of learning needs
- Provides adequate workspace for employees, as well as necessary services and resources
- Offers casual and comfortable space where the campus community can gather for learning, research and the creation of knowledge
Susquehanna’s Blough-Weis Library is 86 years old. Its last major renovation took place in 1989 and consisted of mostly cosmetic changes. The nature of student research has changed dramatically since then. Much of the work students do is no longer paper-based or solitary. Increasingly, we see students using audiovisual technology for their assignments and working in groups, which better reflects what their experiences will be in graduate school and the workforce.
To accommodate these new research and study practices, the library should have flexible and individual work areas that students can configure to their needs, and provide appropriate individual and group instruction space that facilitates the role of librarians in the research process. Susquehanna currently offers no centralized space on campus where this type of transformative learning can occur, and the Blough-Weis Library is poised to fill that need.
Major renovations to the first floor of the building took place over the summer. Five areas of improvement were identified: utility, instruction, attractiveness, comfort and security. Key among these was the desire to
- Make the library an attractive and functional space for students to work and meet
- Create new teaching and learning spaces
- Transform the library into a vibrant venue for the campus community to gather for intellectual stimulation and engagement
The concept drawings submitted by the architectural firm Kimmel-Bogrette of Conshohocken, Pa., provide amenities currently lacking both in the library and on campus, including a class-sized theater, late-night coffee, individual and group workstations, conference space, and an additional library classroom that can be easily and quickly reconfigured into presentation space.
Collaborative Knowledge Center
Located in the northeast corner of the library, the knowledge center includes a main area that can hold up to 30 people for instruction, lectures, meetings and readings. When not otherwise in use, students can use this space for individual work. Six semi-private study pods featuring electronic white boards that can display up to four computer screens simultaneously, as well as several “computer bars,” will line the perimeter of the central circle.
The Learning Commons is located in the inner central circle of the new floor plan. The area houses a new help desk, intended as a one-stop shop for all library services including circulation of books, media and mobile equipment, reference and reserves. Most of the inner circle serves as the campus “living room,” providing a discipline-neutral venue for small groups or individuals to meet, and outfitted with comfortable furniture and several “computer bars.”
Theater and Café
Occupying the footprint of the original library, the theater and café is situated in the northwest corner of the building. The café includes a leisurely reading area, and offer coffees, teas, soft drinks and food items that do not require heating or cooking. The glass-enclosed theater space fills the oft-cited need for class-sized groups to view films together using individual wireless headphones.
More natural lighting, secure storage and display spaces, better climate control, designated quiet areas and lockers for patrons are among the other improvements made during the renovation project.
Three giving levels were available on two-year payment plans:
$200 ($100 x 2 years)
$1,000 ($500 x 2 years)
$3,000 ($1,500 x 2 years)
Donors at these three giving levels were able to have their names inscribed in the library. Donors who make a gift by June 30 at the $3,000 and $1,000 levels also had the opportunity to include with their names a single-sentence quote from their favorite author or historic figure on topics relevant to the pursuit of knowledge.*
*Susquehanna reserved the right to edit quotes for accuracy or refuse quotes deemed inappropriate for public display.