Tutt Library Opens to Many Students and Few Books

During first week, a steady flow of students moved in and out of Tutt Library as the campus adjusted to the new space. “The facilities and services are up and running but you still have to navigate around a bit of dust and noise,” said Library Director JoAnn Jacoby. “Despite that, the building has just been full to capacity.”

Photos by Josh Birndorf

Construction workers dot the library landscape as the building renovations reach the final stage. Books should be moved in by second week of Block One according to librarians, opening the garden level for browsing and senior thesis work in carrels. Construction will likely stretch into Block Two due to delays last academic year including more asbestos in the former structure than anticipated and the complications of retrofitting a new building around an existing frame.

Despite delays, the campus buzzed with excitement for the new facility. “Libraries do present the scholarly orientation of any campus and I’m really happy to see we have this library to open up for new opportunities in terms of scholarship and also to show that we are active in terms of research,” said Professor Ammar Naji. “This is the place for us, the edifice of the college. I’m really proud that we have it and I hope we all make use of it.”

Vice President for Information Technology Brian Young echoed the positive force the library will play in students’ learning. “It will truly be the academic hub for our campus and provide students both a place to focus, create, and work together on classes and projects” Young said. Librarians McKinley Sielaff and Diane Westerfield, who worked in the library over the summer, chatted about the liveliness of the building since classes started. “What came home on Monday, what really dressed this place up and just made it pop, was having people in it,” said Sielaff.

The potential the building holds, while in some ways inherent to all libraries, was also created specific to the Block Plan. “There’s a sense of accordion-ness in the flow of the day,” Sielaff explained. “There aren’t as many people in the library in the morning, there are some in the afternoon, and in the evening it’s packed. There was a lot of talk about accordions or this inhale, exhale sort of idea to the building, that it would be flexible that way. There are several rooms that partition, there are rooms that are open in the morning to be taught in but in the afternoon they become flex space for students to work in. We want to create flexibility around those spaces.” The spaces were designed to not merely accommodate but to facilitate the daily and blockly schedule, and Sielaff emphasized how the building must foster “all different activities over the life-cycle of a block.” Part of this effort was moving resources in the same building including the QRC, ESL office, Writing Center, the Colket Center, ITS, and the GIS lab. “There’s a lot of room for collaboration and helping students get the help they need all in one building,” said Westerfield.

Unlike the former Tutt Library, each floor of the new building houses a different attraction for students. “The garden level is the printed word and scholarly pursuits,” said Westerfield. “The first floor is technology and innovation. Second floor: academic success and collaboration. Third floor: café. Fourth floor: contemplation.” These designs shape but do not define how each space will be used. “It will be interesting to see how the students dictate the spaces that are here,” Library Administrative Assistant Patti Spoelman said. “We can plan, and think it through, and set it up, but it’s up to the students to decide.”

Staff and students added their hopes for the future of the library. “I’m hoping that the confluence of these wonderful spaces for either group work or contemplation, the coming together of the community, either in that conversation or in that solo exploration of the books here; that in both of those modalities there will be opportunities to strike off on paths that were serendipitous and unanticipated,” Library Director JoAnn Jacoby said. “Basically, that this will be a place for discovery.” Seniors and juniors on campus knew the former Tutt Library. “I think it has become the central place on campus,” said Audriana Santana Alvarado, who works at the circulation desk and in the café, as well as studies in the library. “Location-wise it has always been, but I think with the new renovations it’s bringing more people, it’s exciting, it’s new, we have alumni calling and asking if they can come see the building,” said Alvarado, comparing Tutt to its previous form.

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