Since construction on the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) began in July of 2018, almost all spaces in the library have been demolished, with wall framing and infrastructure currently under construction. The renovation is scheduled to be completed by this August, when the process of moving the library furniture back into the building will begin.
According to Larry Muench, Director of Facilities, who has been overseeing the reconstruction, the exterior structure of the building will stay the same. The reconstruction is primarily focused on improving interior spaces and equipping the building with air conditioning.
“The five levels of stacks have been removed and in its place we built three floors to match up with the existing three levels. This will allow for better circulation throughout the building and add much needed group study/classroom space. We’ve removed the building systems – mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection – so new updated systems can be installed,” wrote Muench in an email to The Phillipian.
While reconstructing the portion of the building constructed in 1987 has been straightforward, work on the original 1930 section of the building has been the most challenging aspect thus far, according to Muench.
“We are preserving the look of the historic rooms (such as Garver, Dole, and Freeman) but we’re adding new electrical wiring, lighting, outlets, piping, ventilation for heating and air conditioning, and building controls which requires us to remove the historic wood paneling and find ways to fit the equipment in the spaces behind so it all goes back together,” wrote Muench.
The project is on schedule for its completion before the start of Fall Term.
“The team is working on installing the systems behind the walls and in the ceilings at the moment, and the next steps will be to finish building the walls. Then there will be a many-months long effort in ‘finishes’ which is a term used for installing the fine trim, wall corners, ceilings, flooring, and other detailed work that make a space ‘finished,’” wrote Muench.
According to Josh Aisenberg ’00, lead architect for the renovation, once the framing and infrastructure are completed, finishes and fixtures will be installed, working up from the ground level. In the spring when the weather gets warmer, exterior work will resume.
“Construction will continue into the summer, and finally books, equipment, and furniture will be moved in over the course of the summer in time for the beginning of the Fall term,” wrote Aisenberg in an email to The Phillipian.
Aisenberg finds the project to be deeply meaningful and is honored to be able to preserve the OWHL, an aspect of Andover heritage.
“As an Andover alumnus, the OWHL is forever a part of my personal history, and this project is deeply meaningful to me. The OWHL, originally completed in 1928, is a significant part of the Academy’s history, and it is an honor to have a role in preserving that heritage, while also ensuring the OWHL remains a vital part of Andover’s future,” wrote Aisenberg.
Michael Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information, and Library Services, recently directed a meeting in the Smith Center to allow students to try out early choices for furniture.
“Since the library is a space primarily for student use, it only seemed natural to invite students to help choose the furniture… the feedback we received from the students who participated was invaluable,” wrote Barker in an email to The Phillipian.
Barker is excited for the new features to come, including an enlarged MakerSpace, woodshop, and a Computer Numeric Tool machine.
“I am excited about the new MakerSpace, which will be much larger than what we had before, with more readily available equipment. Flanking the MakerSpace are two classroom-like spaces that will support curricular efforts related to robotics, machine learning virtual reality, and data visualization. We will also have a working woodshop and a CNC machine –something we have not had the opportunity to provide students in the past,” wrote Barker.
Barker is also eager to implement improved study spaces and move the Tang Institute Team into the OWHL. The Freeman Room will act as the cozy chair room during the day and a space to host speakers during the night.
Barker wrote, “The Freeman Room [will] be fully equipped for A/V sound and more suited to host speakers during the night…I am also excited to have [Andrew] Housiaux, [Curie Family Director of the Tang Institute] and his Tang Institute team in the building as I think they bring a tremendous amount of creativity and good energy to any space they inhabit.”
Barker doesn’t only think of the renovation as a way to improve the building, but also as a center for ideas and innovation. According to Barker, the library is a wonderful place for creative exploration.
Barker wrote, “I look at this effort as a means to create a physical center for innovation on a campus filled with ideas…this project gives us an opportunity to harness the energy of this creativity in a new way…I think the new space gives us the opportunity to share the wonderful ideas students have, and tell their amazing stories.”