“Libraries have always been about … making opportunities and possibilities for people through providing access to things.”

—Angi Faiks, Associate Director of the Library


By Livvie Avrick ’19

Just in time for the start of the 2017-2018 academic year, the newly renovated second floor of the library is complete with comfy chairs, moving whiteboards, and a variety of group study tables topped with fabrics, Legos, and building blocks.

Set-up as a co-working space resembling that of many big tech companies, the second floor Idea Lab is a three-way partnership between the Library, Information Technology Services (ITS), and Entrepreneurship.

Above the crafts tables, colorful banners and geometric shapes hang from the ceiling. One recent afternoon, a group of students sat laughing and chatting while needle felting miniature animals. At nearby tables, other students were learning how to loom hats and scarves while yet others explored virtual reality.

Economics and applied mathematics major April Leclair ’18 (Silver Spring, Md.) was taking a break from homework to make a card for her boyfriend. “It’s really nice that I can take some time to refresh,” she says as she cut out silver glitter letters. “I am grateful to have this wonderful space where I can take a departure from my studies and express my creative side.”

From the moment it opened, the Idea Lab has been filled with students meeting for class, discussing ideas, and even working on personal sewing projects. “Libraries have always been social and community center spaces,” says Associate Director of the Library Angi Faiks.

However, the nature of how students use the library has changed with the increases in electronic publishing and multimedia projects and research papers. The Idea Lab is designed to promote collaboration and creativity, with access to additional group study spaces and design software.

One student demonstrated how to make a multimedia PowerPoint presentation on the new Google Jamboard, a 55-inch digital whiteboard. Multiple students can sign-in through the free Jamboard app to work on projects together. Here students can experiment with new technology outside the classroom in a low-stakes environment.

“Another thing libraries have always been about is making opportunities and possibilities for people through providing access to things,” says Faiks.

The library has long provided cameras, DVDs, textbooks, and even bicycles for check-out. Now, students, staff, faculty, and the community can have access to 3D printers, vinyl laser cutters, state-of-the-art Wacom drawing tablets, and a variety of art supplies.

“We want to expand on people’s inherent curiosity and think in terms of what might be possible,” says Library Director Terri Fishel, .

The renovation also included an instruction classroom space for archives and rare books along with a revamped reading room that now includes a fireplace on the first level. “We did not get rid of any books,” says Fishel. “We moved 100,000 books over the course of the summer to other floors of the library.”

There is no agenda for how the Idea Lab is to be used. “We want it to be student driven as much as possible,” says Faiks.

The renovation doesn’t just add better lighting and study spaces, it creates new opportunities. “I think we are most excited about who this is going to bring into the library, students who were never here before,” says Faiks. “That’s a huge win in my mind.”

October 2 2017

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