It seems that the lights in the lobby of the William Allen White Library will never go out again. As soon as September rolls around, the lobby will reopen – and stay open. Literally. Students will discover a remodeled lobby and learning commons space that they can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Cortez Gray, sophomore computer science major, said he spent a lot of time in the library in the spring, but that he doesn’t know very much about the construction that has been going on at the entrance.
John Sheridan, dean of University Libraries and Archives, said serious talk about changing the lobby hours started in November of 2012 after they saw the success of pushing closing time back from 11 p.m. to midnight. An electronic counter recorded 5,000 exits from the library during the additional hour.
After Sheridan managed to get a budget for a remodeling project, the first order of business was to rearrange the space on the second floor. For students, the most noticeable change is a circular desk where circulation (check-out), research and reference, and IT and have been consolidated.
Bethanie O’Dell, night supervisor for the library and senior English major, said the change has made life simpler for students.
“I cannot tell you how hard it was when (circulation and checkout) were down there, and reference was up here,” she said.
A more difficult adjustment, O’Dell said, was for the faculty at the desk, who had to learn each other’s jobs when their stations were put together. On the plus side, O’Dell said, they learned to be more flexible. With all faculty removed from the lobby, the area was cleared of all desks, chairs and unnecessary walls.
“We said, ‘Let’s just see what happens as we open it up,’” Sheridan said.
As a result, students will get to take advantage of a space more than two times larger than before. According to Sheridan, a lot of new features coming to the lobby were student suggestions. While the second floor was under construction, whiteboards were placed near the entrance with markers for anyone with ideas.
“It really was like crowd-sourcing,” Sheridan said.
Already, students can see carpeting, new tables and new furniture in the south area. Bean-bags and computers will be added, while a microwave and quality vending machines will replace the Circleview Café.
Sheridan contrasted the mindset of today’s library faculty with the more rigid chair-lamp-and-table design of the early 20th century.
“We’re long past shushing people,” he said.
With the newly renovated lobby, Sheridan said he hopes William Allen White Library will be able to accommodate many different study styles.