Renovations finished, doors open at Wayne State's Conn Library
After years of planning and eventually breaking ground on the project, Conn Library on Wayne State College's campus is finished and ready for the 2017-2018 year.
While the student center stays busy, Conn Library has the reputation on campus of being the hub. It's where the resources are, it's where study space is available and it's where the coffee flows.
"Being the hub of campus is especially true at night," Conn Library Director Dave Graber said. "The student center quiets after supper but this place picks up steam about 6:30 to 7 o'clock at night. I feel like we hit our peak about 8 o'clock."
With those things, and many others, in mind, planning began on the complete overhaul of the facility a decade ago. While the original building dates back to the '50s, since the addition in the '70's, it hadn't seen much for changes, which meant materials used and the layout no longer functioned the way they should.
The complete renovation allowed for much needed updates both to the building's infrastructure -- the technology used now for everyday life requires a lot more outlets than it used to -- and to the design of the space.
"It's areally a social gathering point as well as being a study point, and we had to incorporate that in the space. We try to provide all the amenities students want. Historically this acted more as a warehouse -- that's the way it was designed in 1970. And most libraries, ourselves included, are trying to move away from that warehouse design."
That meant rethinking the entire building, moving more toward open spaces with a significant amount of seating and private study rooms of all sizes. It meant relocating the Nordstrand Visual Arts Gallery and designating more space to Jitters and Red Mango. The design added floor to ceiling windows, allowing much needed natural light in.
Because of the magnitude of the renovation, the college decided doing it in four phases would be in the best interest of the students and the staff of the library.
But phase renovations mean moving. Moving of people, of offices, of items. Some of those moves were brief, while others weren't.
"We have everyone back in place at this point. We had people who had to leave the building temporarily, Eddie (Elfers) and Jennifer (Johnson) with the technology center had to move over to Connell Hall for three years. Marcus Schlichter our archivist moved out for three years."
Now that everyone is back home so-to-speak, it's not hard to see why it was worth it.
On the main floor, a large circulation desk is easily discernible upon entrance. Dozens of tables, chairs and couches offer plenty of space for studying or napping, Graber said.
The new entrances to the building are spacious. Stained glass taken from a chapel that once stood in Connell Hall was repurposed and placed in the entrances and main stairwell.
A class room and better functioning Instructional Resource Center highlight the second floor. The relocated Holland Academic Success Center is now at it's permanent residence on Conn's second level for students in need of tutoring, A computer lab is also available on the second floor.
The basement of Conn Library no longer feels like a basement. Study rooms, some for small groups, others for large groups, include screens for presentations. The biggest change in the basement comes from the shelves themselves. The days of vast spaces completely filled with book shelves are over.
The open-space design called for moving shelves. The 'stacks' as they are lovingly referred to are now located in electronic shelving units that move back and forth on a track system. This allows the collection of books to be kept in a condensed area, without foregoing the hard copies all together.
The renovation took several years and a lot of patience to complete, but Graber assures it was worth all the hard work that went into it.