Last week, the Board of Managers granted the library permission to move into the request for qualifications (RFQ) phase of design. In this phase, the library will outline the project, program and cost parameters for the renovation to roughly twelve architectural firms that they believe will best carry out the project. From those firms, the library plans to select between four and six firms to recommend to the President, according to Terry Snyder, Librarian of the College.
This news follows years of planning and design based on student feedback. In 2009, the master plan, which created a vision for the campus, called for a renovation of Magill and proposed several different locations for the new library: Ryan Gym, the Fieldhouse, or its current location. Following this plan, the Academic Space Planning Committee created four different projects, which designated the library as one of the buildings that would be renovated. In 2011 and 2012, the library gathered information from students through focus groups, surveys, and whiteboards about how they use the library and by 2013, the library formed a working group—composed of 5 students, 5 faculty members, 3 librarians, architects, administrators, and a representative from institutional advancement—to create a concept design. The library continues to involve students in the process by tabling at the Dining Center and other locations around campus.
“Though we have moved through multiple administrations, the planning has been cohesive and well-informed and there’s been a consistency,” said Snyder.
The plans call for many new spaces in the library, based on the needs of students and faculty. The renovated library will include the Digital Scholarship Commons, seminar spaces, and appropriate spaces for Quaker & Special Collections.
According to Snyder, the gate count indicates that roughly 7,000 people walk through the libraries every week, with Magill representing a large portion of this data.
“We know that people are using [the library], but we know also from the feedback…what people want and we know we need to do this,” said Snyder.
Snyder pointed to a few concerns among students, including the need for group study rooms, a greater number and variety of study spaces, a cafe, better seating, and access to outlets, faster Wifi, and adequate lighting.
“We talk about light here on campus, we talk about inner light, we talk about wisdom, we talk about knowledge—all of these light references—and this space is a very dark space,” said Snyder.
According to Snyder, the library has not had a refreshment in the last fifty years, though most libraries have a refreshment about every 15 years. As a result, the building has not kept up with technology and other demands. She also added that the library’s role in academic life has changed in this time:
“Libraries have shifted from the repository paradigm…to spaces that are much more engaged in user-centric paradigms.”
Snyder is excited about the future of the project, but recognizes that even as the project moves forward, there is still a long process ahead.
“We’ll continue in the RFQ process, in the RFP [request for proposal] process and in the design process to engage the community. It’s very important to us to get it right, especially when we’re doing something this monumental,” said Snyder.
The library hopes to complete the project by 2019 or 2020.