Last week, the school announced that the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) will undergo a fifteen-month renovation starting in June of 2018 and ending in August of 2019. The renovation is estimated to cost 20 million dollars and has already received half of its funding from the recently-launched Knowledge and Goodness Campaign.
The OWHL will be under construction and closed the summer of 2018, the entire 2018-2019 school year, and the summer of 2019.
According to Michael Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information, and Library Services, during the renovation, books will be stored in the Smith Center, library instruction will take place in Samuel Phillips Hall, and the Nest will be relocated to the Gelb Science Center. The service desk and Silent Study will likely relocate to Lower Left in Paresky Commons.
Architects from the Ann Beha Architects firm presented the proposed artistic renditions of new library spaces in an information session last Thursday.
Though no additional square footage will be added, but the majority of the OWHL’s interior will change. Air conditioning will be implemented throughout the entire library, and bathrooms will be installed on each floor. In addition, about 150 more student spaces will be added to the current 350 seats, including more teaching spaces, group study spaces, and preserved heritage spaces.
Larry Muench, Director of Facilities, said, “I like the fact that where we have rooms that are sort of sectioned off and you don’t have any good circulation, we’re opening up the floor plan so you’ll have a lot more space to work. It’s more of an open feel. Right now, it seems like you have the Stacks in the middle, and a donut around the perimeter. The new library will have all this open space for kids to work, and you can snooze there and work together, and it’s going to feel really good.”
On the first floor, the circulation and the service reference information desk will join to become an intuitive question bar. The archives and the Sidney Knafel map collection will move to the first floor from the second floor of the library and the Peabody museum respectively, and new classrooms will be implemented.
The Garver room will stay the same, though charging outlets may be added to the desks. A new hallway connecting Garver to the other side of the building will be implemented so that students will no longer need to cross through the Dole room, the Freeman room, or the Stacks to walk from one side of the OWHL to the other.
On the second floor, Barker plans to section off study areas for students and decrease the amount of noise generated by the open space.
“We’ll look at different ways to kind of treat the ceilings or divide off the space so that it’s a little less noisy in there. The big move here is the Tang Institute will move in on the second floor. The Tang Institute currently is located in Pearson. They’ll actually move into the area that’s currently the archives. They’ll have office area there, but also it’s a space where faculty can… collaborate,” Barker said.
In the basement of the library, the Nest will increase to almost four times its original size, taking the space where the Phillips Academy Computer Center (PACC) is currently. The Stacks will also move into the basement, though half of the volumes that are currently present will be moved off campus to storage.
A faculty steering committee headed by Clyfe Beckwith, Dean of Studies, is in charge of making sure that students will find places on campus alternative to those of the library during the renovation.
Betsy Davis, Associate Director of Facilities and Member of the Steering Committee, said in an interview with The Phillipian, “It’s pretty clear that we can’t just replicate the library somewhere else on campus, so we’re going to have to pull apart pieces and fit them in… We’re going to have to be very creative about where [the Garver room] goes, where the help desk goes, where the [Nest] goes, where does academic skills goes… It’s actually a giant jigsaw puzzle.”
“I’m honestly a little nervous about [not having a library] because I’m not sure where I’m going to go cause I usually study each night in Silent doing my homework…[not having a library] really makes me sad, too, especially since it’s my Senior year next year and I’m not going to have a library and I’m going to be gone by the time the new library is built. I just feel like I’m missing out,” said Emily Qian ’19.
Though the renovation may seem inconvenient, Barker hopes that in the absence of a the library next year, underutilized places on campus might receive more attention.
“I think it would be awesome to see all the other spaces on campus, like Addison and the Peabody museum, become really popular, if they’re not already, spaces that day students use. I love how important the OWHL is to the day student experience, so I want to do everything we can to try and make it fun, but also productive,” said Barker.
“[I’m] not so much mad about [the library] not being done by the time I graduate, so much as being less than enthusiastic about not having a library my Senior year, so I consider that less than ideal,” said Ryan Owyang ’19.
Olivia Lai ’20 is concerned about the effect the renovation will have on day students, since the library is a go-to building for day students, in lieu of dorm rooms, according to Lai.
“I definitely think that [not having a library] is going to be a drawback because the library is a very important part of my life at Andover, especially as a day student, but I’m sure that the administration will find a way to increase the amount of seating available in other buildings and sort of offset the inconveniences that [the renovation] causes,” said Olivia Lai ’20.
Some students feel that the renovation is necessary in order to keep the library updated in terms of technology and the growing student body.
Andrew Stern ’19 said, “I think [the renovation] is slightly unfortunate, but I don’t [care] too much… I think that this is a situation where all the students are pretty much on the same page, so we find that it would be an innovative addition to the library that would encourage a more creative atmosphere, and it’s also something that we are all, fairly unanimously, for, or at least from the people that I’ve spoken with.”
Kylie Quinlan ’20 said, “I’m excited that it’s going to be more open and less crowded, because sometimes I’ll walk into the library and there literally won’t really be a seat anywhere. The spaces aren’t necessarily as collaborative or open for group project work, but I’m excited for the new plans.”
Erik Wang ’21 does not think the new renovation is necessary.
“I think [the library] is fine how it is… I come to the library every day, so [the renovation] is probably going to cause a big change in my schedule and where I study and how I study,” said Wang.
“The renovation itself I really like. I like all the new spaces and the final design. I don’t like how 50% of the books… will no longer be in the library… Personally, I like reading kind of obscure things. I read a lot from the Chinese literature section, which I’m assuming is not a well-used section, so I’m guessing that those are just going to be like, gone, so I’m less enthused about that,” said Owyang.
Ace Ellsweig ’18 is disappointed that he will not be able to experience the new library, but is still glad that they’re renovating it.
“I’m really bummed out that I’m not going to be able to study in [the new library], just because it’s focused so much on collaboration, but then you have all these spaces for individual study, which I think is a problem right now in the library. If you’re not someone who likes to be in Silent, you can’t really sit in a space that’s secluded, and I like how we have a lot of new nooks that seem to be put in place. It just seems like there’s going to be a lot more space to utilize now that they’re moving Stacks out,” said Ellsweig.
Barker said, “We’ve changed the orientation of the OWHL [from] something that holds a lot of books, and books are still important, don’t get me wrong, [to] a place where students can exchange ideas, can work together, and work together in productive ways and different ways. So there will still be silent study space, there will still be space for group study, there will be classroom space; the whole orientation of the building changes from a place that holds stuff to a place that’s more about collaboration, exchanging ideas, and learning.”