A renovation design for the Kreitzberg Library is being developed that will include the addition of state-of-the-art technology and physical changes that are aimed at creating both a functional and social educational environment.
“The library is 20 years old, 25 years if you add in designing it,” said Dave Magida, the chief administrative officer for Norwich. Magida said the college needs to think about “how technology and the sharing of information has changed in 25 years,” and update the school’s resources accordingly.
In order to bring the library and its resources into the 21st century, Norwich is planning a complete overhaul of both the atmosphere inside and the technology.
The library “is not current with today’s technology, and it’s not representative of the way people use libraries nowadays. It’s not current with the way students and professors want their learning environments, so we want to [make it more] modern,” Magida said.
Students interviewed said they like the proposals in the plan, especially updating the technology and socializing spaces, though a few express concerns that the library will become noisier and harder to study in.
To bring the library up-to-date, the design team is looking at every square foot of available space that they can use, Magida explained.
The design will use most of the areas within the existing walls, but there will be some construction as well within the existing structure, he said. While the entire library is in the plan, the museum will not see any changes during this project.
“There’s going to be a lot more spaces for students to be more relaxed in the library. Food will be allowed in the library and there will be a café, as well as furniture that will be designed and intended to be moved so students can rearrange it if they want to study together,” Magida said.
The aim of the changes is turning the library into a place that can be a social destination in addition to its function as an educational resource.
Magida said that, “there will also be a state-of-the-art electronic classroom that will be used for professors and students.” The classroom will be available to both the students and professors.
The library will be “designed to introduce maximum flexibility” for the schedules of both students and faculty and will make the library not just an educational destination, but a social destination, he said. “We want it to be a place that’s vibrant and busy,” said Magida.
At the same time, there will be designated spaces in the library which will be quiet for those who desire that type of environment as well, Magida said.
Among the types of technology improvements that will be included are changes aimed at allowing the users to obtain information easier in either hard copy or electronic form, Magida explained.
“We want to make sure that they can work with that information, whether it’s hard copy or electronically, in a flexible manner. This way they can work alone, with other students, with a professor, or they can work in a class,” he said.
“They can share information easier amongst themselves and it’s going to be a lot more of a collaborative learning environment than it is today with the help of this technology,” Magida added.
The design team has developed an initial plan on its own, but the team also used multiple sources such as surveys and design displays in order to acquire information as to what should be included, according to Magida.
“We formed a building committee and that includes the users of the building. We also have design professionals, architects and engineers,” Magida said.
These two sources of information gave the design team the ability to match what students and faculty desired to what has already been successfully used in other locations in order to create a well-rounded plan, which was able to include the majority of received suggestions.
According to Magida, students and faculty were consulted. “We talked to the users. We also see what the best practices are at other institutions to see where we’re lacking and where we do things really well,” and what should be incorporated to best fit the needs of the NU community.
“We developed some initial plans, and then we had two open-talk sessions for the Norwich community. Anybody could come and learn about the project; we had [the plans] in the campus center,” Magida said.
“We also surveyed the students, faculty, and staff last spring to see what types of things that they wanted to see included in the project,” he said, explaining the extensive outreach done in considering the renovation.
The University still needs to get the go-ahead from the trustees to begin the project. “The committee has been working on this for eight months,” he said, and they are still in the planning stages of the process, and “a date has not been set yet by the trustees as to when we’re going to undertake this.”
Magida explained the steps that a design team must take in order to move ahead for a project.
“The way the process works is that we present our design to the trustees, and they give us approval to move to the next step of design. We just haven’t finished the design work yet,” he said.
If the board approves the design, the board of trustees will then decide how it will be funded, and then a decision will be made about the best time to undertake it.
As far as how long it may take to complete the renovation, Magida said it is going to be a complex project. “The construction cannot be done just during the summer, it’s not enough time,” he said. The construction is complicated “so we need to work through the logistics of doing that, and we can’t work through the logistics until we’re finished with the design.”
Magida is enthusiastic about moving ahead. “It’s an exciting project [because the] library is the learning hub of the university, and it’s important to the university’s educational mission to make sure that the learning hub meets current standards. The library is a beautiful building and we’re going to make it even better,” Magida said.
Students who have weighed in on the plans are generally pleased with it. William Borgeson, 20, a junior chemistry major from New York, N.Y., said, “I think it will improve the library and the usability of it.”
Of all the changes that are included in the design so far, Borgeson is most excited about “the idea of a café. I think the distance from the Wise Campus Center makes it hard for students to get their food and go back to the library. I think it’s more convenient than anything,” he said.
He added, “The availability of food in the library would make it easier to spend more time studying instead of having to go back and forth between two places.”
Other changes that he would like to see come out of the renovation are, “more study spaces. Everybody competing for a spot to sit down and do their work is an issue for me,” Borgeson said. “That’s the reason why I don’t use it that often. I’d also really like to see more collaborative areas where you can do group work,” he said, but have them also secluded from the library so there’s no interference.
Borgeson said he thought it was a good use of Norwich’s funds to revamp the library.
“I think that they should be spending the money because it’s going to be affecting the students directly,” Borgeson said, noting there are issues that he sees in the facility and wants fixed.
Other students echo his opinion. “It’s interesting to see more of the money being put into improving the current spaces that we have available to students and faculty, and I would rather see it spent on that than on building new stuff,” said Jack Brown, 21, a senior criminal justice major from Henniker, N.H.
Brown, however, also has some mixed feelings on the proposed renovations. He explained how some of the additions could be useful, while on the other hand, he felt the library already adequately serves its purpose.
“Personally the library suits my needs, so if it were up to me, I don’t know if I would put the money into it,” he said.
Brown said his main concern is that he does not want the café addition that is being proposed in the reconstruction plans.
“I feel like the library should be a strictly academic building because that’s where a lot of people go to get their stuff done. [However], the ability to get food, coffee, or late night snacks or whatever you need to keep going while you study [could] be really helpful, if you’re under pressure,” he said.
Brown added that, “it would be nice if there were isolated study areas where you could just block everything out, almost like office cubicles, so that you can just focus on what’s in front of you.”
In addition to isolated study areas, other students such as John Erdeski, 22, a senior criminal justice major from Stamford, Vt., would like to see “better computer systems. I believe some of the computers are eight years out-of-date,” he said.
As for the overall aim of changing the social nature of the library, Erdeski said that he liked parts of the plan. “I believe some levels should be a little bit more social, like the first floor (the Mezzanine) and second floor, but that the other floors should still be silent places. I know a lot of people need absolute silence to work and I don’t want to see that taken from them.”
He said that the renovations will have mostly positive effects such as making students more efficient with their work. He liked the idea of meeting spaces, saying “the conference rooms will give a cool new experience to classes instead of the boring desk setup.”
He expanded on this idea by explaining how he tends to “go to the library a lot to write papers and do research, but I feel like the only place that you get the best quality for the technology is on the first floor.”
However, he noted, the first floor either has the computer lab section “which gets really loud,” or the main section computers which are often all in use, “and I like to have privacy,” Erdeski explained. This is why he finds this project to be “one of the better ideas for innovation around campus.”
Nathan Holtgrewe, 21, a senior computer science major from Penacook, N.H., said the changes should boost the popularity of the library.
“I think that it will definitely bring positive effects. I think that there will be a lot more people looking to use the library, and I know some people avoid it now because it’s out of the way but I can definitely see if improvements are made that people will go there,” he said.
While he sees the positive effects that could come with the renovation and social goals, such as increased use of the library by new users and faculty, he also doesn’t want to see the library stray away from its intended purpose.
“I think some parts of the library would be good for a social atmosphere, like the first floor, but I don’t think that we need to have the library orientated towards a chit-chat area rather than the study space that it should be,” Holtgrewe said.
He added that, “I think that it’s a good idea, since there are definitely some things I would like to see added to the library. I’m not sure if a complete overhaul is necessary, but I think some additions and renovations might be better.”
Holtgrewe said for his part, “I would like to see more group orientated study areas. I try to get together with groups all the time and it’s hard to find a room that’s usable.”
He added that, “Technologically-speaking, we could definitely use a lot more than what we currently have.”
If the changes were to be made while he still attended Norwich, Holtgrewe said, “I think I’d definitely go to the library a lot more to do whatever kind of work I need to do, especially group work if some of the changes are made.”
Although he is excited about some of the upcoming changes, he also thinks there are other places that perhaps Norwich should focus on. “I think that the school should be upgrading the facilities that we currently have. I think the classrooms could use an update more than the library,” he said.
Jason Kaplan, 21, a senior studies of war and peace major from Brewster, N.Y., said he felt the new plans would provide “a better place to study and a place to go besides the computer labs.”
He added that, “I think that it’s going to be better than what we have now.” He is another student who believes that changes will bring in a more useful and up-to-date library that can fulfill the needs of those who would like better than the current set-up.
One of the most important changes that he would like to see included in the final design is “better online accessibility for documents and books,” Kaplan said. However, he admits he is also very interested in the café and the availability of food while studying in the library.
In regards to the overall design, Kaplan said that “it should be more of a place to study, so they need to find a balance between being comfortable and getting your work done.”
While he doesn’t want to see the library lose its quiet attributes, he’s a fan of some of the proposed renovations, like the more comfortable furniture.
Kaplan wondered if overcrowding may be an issue once the library opens after the renovations, as well as that “it’s going to get really crowded,” and sometimes closing time will still be too early for people needing to work late, he said.
While the majority of the interviewed students mainly support the renovation project, there is at least one student who does not.
Alex Arsenualt, 21, a senior civil engineering major from Williston, Vt., explained that it’s not that the library doesn’t or won’t need renovations, just that other facilities may need it more.
“Personally, I feel that the library doesn’t need it. I don’t go to the library often, I’ll admit, but when I do it has all of the resources and all the tools that I need.
If anything, the AAC could do with getting bigger and having more space,” he said. “I feel other facilities on campus need the funding and renovation a lot more, such as the dorms on campus, the dining facility, and the gym.”
Arsenault added that, “The library, as far as I know, serves the Norwich community without any problems, but I feel other buildings are overlooked when they are in much needed repair.”
Even though he believes that other buildings may be more deserving of a renovation, he is still attentive to the proposed changes to the library.
Arsenault mentioned being interested in seeing “how they’re going to incorporate technology, make it more modern, and also seeing the construction itself.”
However, he also wondered about “how some of the other buildings on campus perhaps need the funding more so than the library, and also how the whole café, food, and social aspect will come into effect when they’re trying to study,” Arsenault explained.
In regards as to whether or not he would use the library after the changes, Arsenault said, “I think I would, especially with the social gathering area.”
He felt the changes meant you could combine studying and eating instead of having to take more time to go to separate areas.
While not all students agree that the library is the building most deserving of the renovations, it seems that most, if not all of them, are excited about the changes and are looking forward to them.