Usually, Andover students are encouraged to take advantage of the resources that the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) provides. Students often gather in the library to study and socialize, making the OWHL a central piece of Andover’s student life. With the OWHL’s renovation three months underway, however, librarians are working to provide students with alternative spaces to work and play.
Scheduled to finish in August of 2019, the renovation of the OWHL is an integral part of Andover’s “Knowledge & Goodness” campaign, launched in 2017. Michael Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information, and Library Services, explained how he hopes the renovated OWHL will contribute to different forms of learning and student life with the new spaces it will provide.
“I just can’t wait to get back into a central space that I think is critical to student life in a lot of ways. I hope it provides all kinds of different spaces that we didn’t have before.We didn’t have student group study space; [now] we’ll have like ten rooms… We’ll still have Silent [the Garver Room], [The Nest] will be quite larger… and there will still be spaces for convening and conversation,” said Barker.
Liza Oldham, Research and Instructional Design Librarian, eagerly anticipates the new building but sympathizes with the Seniors who won’t see the final product until after they graduate. Oldham hopes the new group study spaces the OWHL will provide will be refreshing for both new and returning students.
Oldham said, “I feel terrible for Seniors because… they’re sort of suffering this year, and they won’t get to see the great result… The space is going to be totally transformed, there will be more chairs for everybody, more seating, [and The Nest] that triples in size or something like that… There will be group study rooms. Instead of you just grabbing a table and hoping that you can hear each other, you’ll be able to close a glass door and be able to get stuff done. I hope people are excited.”
According to Barker, actual construction within the building has not yet begun. Most of the work currently being done is demolition. Since construction started roughly three months ago, the renovation is about one-fifth done.
“From a construction perspective, I think it’s safe to say that they’re in the process of ‘demo,’ demolition. So if you were to go into the OWHL today, [you would see] the stacks are gone, like the core of the building… We’re three months into a fourteen month project, so roughly 20 percent towards the end line,” said Barker.
Though new Lower Kate Pfister ’21 has yet to fully experience an Andover library, the demolition has already given her some experience with the OWHL in the form of noise pollution. According to Pfister, who lives in Day House, the noise coming from the construction site has woken up members of her hall on several occasions.
Pfister said, “I’m a pretty heavy sleeper, so I never woke up, but my roommate Su [Chermayeff ’21] has been woken up a bunch by it, and so have the Proctors in our hall. Everyone complains about it… Usually, once we’re in there during the night, it’s totally fine; it’s pretty quiet. The most loud or most annoying is just early in the morning at seven-ish.”
While construction continues, Barker and the OWHL librarians have been working to disperse all of the library’s normal resources to different areas on campus. Because the library serves such a multitude of purposes, OWHL librarians like Oldham have had to alter lesson plans that normally revolve around the physical OWHL.
“I usually work pretty heavily with the History-100 sections, so I’ve got a bunch of them starting their first research project ever at Andover. I’ll be going to their classrooms on the first day as soon as they get their assignment. We’ll be in the classroom and the focus will be more on the resources available online,” said Oldham.
Certain academic help centers have been either temporarily or permanently relocated, including the Writing Center and Academic Skills Center to Morse Hall 308 and Pearson C, respectively. OWHL librarians have taken into account the need for both silent and less rigid spaces to work, hence the transformation of spaces like Lower Left and the Underwood Room. According to Barker, the OWHL has purchased more noise cancelling headphones for student use so that students will have the option to work in silence if areas around them get too loud.
While Barker has heard mostly positive feedback from the community, he asks the Andover student body to be patient during the adjustment.
In the meantime, students like Robert De Jesus ’20 are using other places on campus to study and be with friends outside of class. For De Jesus, the proximity of his dorm, Bartlet House, to Andover’s major academic buildings has served useful during the library’s reconstruction.
De Jesus said, “I don’t really enjoy [the construction] too much, but it is fine for the time being, considering they are making improvements to the library. It just feels weird having all of your dormmates in the dorm at 9:30 and having no place to really go other than dorm. Yet, it makes Bartlet a lot more convenient for the people who are in it. After classes or during conference period, I can just go to my dorm without worrying about a 10-minute walk from my dorm to my next class.”