“Our vision is to be the finest liberal arts institution, but to do it our way,” said Lyrae Williams, Assistant Vice President of the Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness. “We must build on and support our strengths, and our strength is the Block Plan.”
The unique advantages and demands of the Block Plan have underscored every aspect of the Tutt Library renovation.
Construction is slated to begin directly after Commencement of the 2015-2016 year, and so marks the apex of several years of careful listening, creative planning, and critical organization revolving around the revamping our library.
The Tutt Library renovation is currently in its third phase: design development. The design development phase drills down into the mechanical, electrical, and structural details of the building, exact specifications of floor plans, and final architectural features.
The locations of doors and windows are being finalized, materials are being chosen; what has, since the spring of 2014, existed in ideas and models is finally morphing into a fully-formed building.
“The new library will expand beyond traditional form and function into the intellectual hub of the whole college,” said Ivan Gaetz, the director of Tutt Library and member of the Library Renovation team.
Its most notable new feature is the Center of Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching, a centerpiece where students, faculty, staff, and alumni can collaborate in an innovative space around a wide variety of resources.
The center will support everything from undergraduate research and thesis writing to faculty development and field study planning to in-residence programs for artists, scholars, social entrepreneurs, and other experts in their field.
“The center is a space that encourages students and faculty to experiment, play, study, collaborate, and create, both intentionally and accidentally,” said Williams.
The Block Plan often condenses one’s world; student and faculty are immersed in an intense environment with a small group of people for several weeks, and thus a space like the Center for Immersive Learning and Engaged Teaching provides the space to engage with the rest of the college community.
The design and functionality of the new library reflects a larger trend among academic libraries on campuses throughout the United States. One of the biggest adjustments, in fact, will be the downsizing of the library’s collection.
Much of the non-circulating material will be stored off campus—complete with a quick and easy retrieval system—in order to create more spaces for student and faculty interactions.
Space will also open up for library collaboration with other academic services, such as ITS, GIS Labs, and innovation areas and experimental classrooms, in addition to the traditional services such as the Writing Center and Quantitative Reasoning Center.
The seating capacity of the library will be doubled, natural lighting will be improved in strategic spaces, and versatile outdoor spaces and decks will be added. The new library will also boast an entirely new addition.
While the list of changes is extensive, much of the historic aspect of the building will be honored.
The firm that built the original Tutt Library in 1961—Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill—has a significant architectural presence in the world; the firm has built three of the ten tallest buildings in the world today, and recently constructed the Freedom Towers in New York City.
The renovation, in its entirety, is projected to cost over forty-five million dollars, and the college has committed to fundraising twenty-five million of that total.
There will be two more gifts announced soon, in addition to the five million dollars that was anonymously gifted towards the library project last year. Another portion of the funds are bonded out from the college’s endowment.
The renovations are slated to be complete by Block 1 of 2017, a timeline that Gaetz describes as ambitious. Pfeiffer Partner Architects were hired under the charge that the renovation take two summers and one academic year, a truly stunning time frame that requires “a lot to be going on at once,” according to Gaetz.
Williams shies from the word “challenge,” but does describe the construction as a significant disruption.
“We will have to live without that space for an entire academic year, and the entire community is impacted,” said Williams. “The entire campus will have to come together for that year and be supportive of one another.”
The logistics of that transitional year are still being finalized, but the current plan is to move most library services into Tutt South, which now houses the Learning Commons, and to transfer much of the collection to a temporary off-campus storage facility. A retrieval system will be put into place to access the massive collection.
Various areas of campus will be converted into study spaces to ameliorate the loss of Tutt Library’s 550 seats; the conversion of the Fish Bowl and Gates Commons are one option, temporary trailer units are another.
“Our objective is to make the transitional year as user-friendly and welcoming as possible,” said Gaetz. “We’re keeping our eyes on the goal of a new, amazing building that, in my view, will be one of the more remarkable buildings on campus, a building that people coming to Colorado Springs will want to see.”