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ArticlesSummer 2010

Connecting Scholars Across Ages

Plans for a renovation of the Central Library are now in place to address changes in teaching and learning, providing improved access to the facility and its collections, increased services for visitors, and expanded study spaces.“Scholarship has changed dramatically in the almost 70 years since the construction of the Central Library,” Provost Richard M. McCarty said. “The information revolution has completely reformed the way faculty members teach, the way students learn, and the way faculty and students conduct research.”

The Vanderbilt Board of Trust approved the $6 million renovation of the library, which is designed to increase the libraries’ support of the university’s educational mission while creating a warmer, more inviting facility for students, faculty, and the community.

“With these changes, our libraries will make additional intellectual contributions to our campus,” Dean of Libraries Connie Vinita Dowell said. “First and foremost, we will offer additional and more attractive study spaces. The environment will be enhanced with extensive exhibits—both electronic and those featuring our extensive collections of rare books and archives. There will also be more artwork.

“And, beginning next spring, the libraries will be able to host readings and lectures in a room large enough to open them to the community,” Dowell continued “I look forward to gatherings here that connect scholars of all ages from across our campus and beyond.”

Vanderbilt Student Government President Wyatt Smith and Vice President Lori Murphy present Dean of Libraries Connie V. Dowell with a proclamation earlier this year.

Vanderbilt Student Government President Wyatt Smith and Vice President Lori Murphy present Dean of Libraries Connie V. Dowell with a proclamation earlier this year.

Over the past year, Dowell sought extensive input from faculty, students and staff regarding the campus libraries through dozens of focus groups, presentations and meetings along with more than 2,200 responses to a campus libraries survey.

Student leaders who have seen the plans are excited about the changes. “Dean Dowell brings exciting leadership and a strong vision for transforming our library into a more accommodating, interesting and supportive facility,” said Wyatt Smith, 2009-10 president of the Student Government Association. “I think the students will embrace the opportunity to study and to congregate in a facility that has so many accommodations that are a step beyond anything we’ve seen in the past.”

Jonathan Wellons, 2009-10 president of the Graduate Student Council, echoes Smith. “Dean Dowell came to one of our meetings and gave a very detailed presentation, and she had the blueprints posted for us to see,” he said. “The ideas that we heard—the increased public space, the new and more comfortable furniture, improved lighting, the spaces that can be configured for a variety of presentations—are all things students need.”
Vanderbilt Student Government recognized Dowell and the library staff in February with a resolution praising their efforts in planning the renovation and their commitment to “creating a flagship library of the highest quality and excellence for the university.”

“Vanderbilt’s exceptional students have high expectations of their libraries,” Dowell said. “They are a joy to work with, and I want them to know that their libraries have a commitment to help them succeed in every way we can.”

Special Resolution Recognizing The Efforts Of The Library Leadership

Proposed By: President Wyatt Smith, Vice President Lori Murphy, Chief Of Staff Fabiani Duarte, Speaker Of The Senate Aysha Malik, Speaker Of The House Josh Levine, Security Co-chair Zye Hooks

We, the elected representatives of the Vanderbilt Student Body, hereby enact the following:

Whereas, the undergraduate students, graduate students, faculty, and staff of Vanderbilt University utilize its library facilities and amenities on a daily basis; and,

Whereas, the renovations currently being undertaken by Dean Connie Dowell and the hardworking faculty and staff of the library system to advance the Jean & Alexander Heard Library are greatly appreciated by all of the students of Vanderbilt; and,

Whereas, since the beginning of January 2010, over 75,000 volumes of literary material have been moved from the 8th floor alone and meticulously relocated to places that are accessible to all patrons throughout the library; and,

Whereas, 86 staff members have invested over 5,100 hours, or the equivalent of 2.5 staff years, over the past three months working to ensure that the renovation is completed in a timely manner; and,

Whereas, many of Central Library staff members are giving up their offices to allow for the creation of study areas more conducive to student productivity; therefore,

Be It Resolved That Vanderbilt Student Government commends all of the faculty and staff of the library system for their hard work and commitment to creating a flagship library of the highest quality and excellence for our university; and,

Be It Resolved that Vanderbilt Student Government thanks the library staff for its unselfish sacrifices, exemplary dedication to student interests, and its promotion of academic excellence and a culture of discovery at Vanderbilt University.

The project will expand the library’s exposure to the community, increase the opportunities for students to discover information from primary sources, and begin to create the “destination library” described by Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos in 2008.

The campus department of Facilities and Environmental Affairs is working with Orion Construction and Gilbert McLaughlin Casella Architects on the project. In all, almost 19,000 square feet will be renovated.

“It’s very inspiring from a facilities’ perspective to try to get the 3-D aspects in alignment with the vision being painted by our innovative new dean and her team,” said Judson Newbern, deputy vice chancellor for facilities and environmental affairs. “It is very motivational to all of us to set the stage, both on the interior and exterior, to re-energize that wonderful location.”

Construction began in February on the eighth floor Flowers Wing, formerly home to 75,000 books and walls lined with vintage study carrels. The renovated eighth floor will provide 2,300 square feet of new open space for student study, with comfortable furniture and natural light from the windows. It will also have a large group study room and a conference room. Librarians who often consult with students and faculty will have offices on the floor.

Work will then move to the second and fourth floors. The main entrance from 21st Avenue will be enhanced, with new concrete stairs and wheelchair access ramps. A 1,240-square-foot gallery will be created by enclosing the breezeway between the Divinity Library and the Flowers Wing. After the renovation, library users will be able to see from the Divinity Library through Special Collections to 21st Avenue.

The main campus entrance and lobby on the fourth floor will be transformed into a sunlit, spacious welcoming area. A consolidated service desk will be easier for patrons to use. One computer alcove will become a browsing area with cozy furniture; the other will be a sizeable display and exhibit space. Computer work stations will be moved to reduce sunlight glare.

Renovations to the main reference room will add a library instruction area and a spacious reading and study space to the existing reference space. The final renovation phase will change a staff workroom into a multipurpose community room and study space, complete with an indoor café and open-air patio with umbrellas, tables and chairs.

The project is scheduled to be finished in December 2010.

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photo credit: Architectural renderings provided by Gilbert McLaughlin Casella Architects

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