End of Year Update: Oliver Wendell Holmes Library Renovations

The renovations on the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) have continued during the spring, and are still on track for completion by the first day of school in the fall. In the past few months, most of the infrastructure has been installed, as well as the new elevator. In the meantime, library staff have been working on digitizing copies of the books for distribution during the library’s closed hours.

According to Josh Aisenberg ’00, the lead architect for the project, interior finishes and exterior repair work still needs to be done over the summer months, before equipment and books will be moved back into the building.

“Interior finish installation, including ceilings and flooring and exterior repair work, have begun and will continue into the summer. Over the summer, exterior repairs and interior finishes will be completed, and equipment and furniture, including the makerspace equipment, bookshelves, and books, will be installed,” wrote Aisenberg in an email to The Phillipian.

The construction has been an exciting experience for Aisenberg, as an alumnus who wants the best for the community.

“My favorite part about working on the OWHL project has been partnering with Andover to reimagine the OWHL as a place to better support collaboration and innovation. And I love coming back to campus to check in on the OWHL construction—I still get excited every time I see the Memorial Bell Tower as I drive up Main Street; it takes me back to my time as a student returning to campus from breaks,” wrote Aisenberg.

While the renovation has been very smooth, only hindered by cold and rainy April days, it was challenging for the team to install modern equipment without damaging iconic spaces, according to Betsy Davis, Associate Director of Facilities, who has been helping with overseeing the construction.

Davis wrote, in an email to The Phillipian, “The hardest part of the OWHL renovation was the challenge of designing and installing modern systems that fit and function within this historic structure. The team had to figure out how to provide the most current and efficient HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and AirConditioning) systems without adversely impacting the iconic spaces within the building.”

The previous stacks area in the center of the building, allocated solely to storing books, has been changed into other work areas. The shelving spaces have been dispersed across the library, with a large portion of the collection being moved to the attic, accessible only by library staff.

“While the renovated library will house the entire book collection, much of this collection will be located in the attic space, and accessible only by library staff. The History and Social Sciences collection, along with select other parts of the collection, will be shelved on the ground level, the second level and in the Freeman and Garver Rooms. Space that had previously been devoted exclusively to books (the old “stacks” area) has been repurposed for critical program needs: classroom space, group study rooms, and MakerSpace, among others,” wrote Davis.

According to Michael Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information, & Library Services, librarians are working on creating digital copies of existing books to lend out when the library isn’t open.

“The overall goal of the project would be to digitize more of the in-copyright books that the library owns through a new legal framework called a fair use doctrine of controlled digital lending. What that means is if you have a digital copy and a print copy, you could circulate the digital copy so long as the print copy doesn’t go out as well. You can actually own these two things in parallel but you can’t give them out simultaneously. We want to digitize some of it and make it accessible to students when we’re closed, which would be a great benefit, and rely more on the digital copy and less on the print,” said Barker in an interview with The Phillipian.

Ultimately, Barker feels that this renovation and building are dedications and invitations for the innovation and productivity of students and faculty on campus. With so many resources available, Barker believes that the library is a place for people to work on many different tasks.

Barker said, “I think this building and renovations is a giant investment in the creativity and innovation of the community, and it’s an open invitation to innovate. I’m excited on so many levels. The Tang Institute will be there, the MakerSpace will be a lot more robust and bigger, and we’ll still have our core, more traditional library services that are just as important on campus to others, and I think it’s a building that will meet the needs of many different students and many different faculty of all the disciplines, and it will be a powerful place on campus to work every day.”