Library plans new renovations

Renovations to the first floor of the library over the last few years have provided students with the East and West Commons as places to study, hop on a computer or just pick up a quick snack. Now Tech is poised to once again renovate another section of the library, moving forward with plans to upgrade the second floor of the West Commons (2 West).

“One big reason [for renovating 2 West] is that this floor has already been cleared of the book stacks that used to be there. This gives us an open box within which to work with more flexibility than on the other floors. Also, it is one of the small floors… so any renovation efforts will not be as costly,” said Bob Fox, associate director for Library Administration and Public Services.

The planning and design phases of the area will take some cues from the efforts that went into the redesign of the East Commons. This includes getting student input and insight on what the space will look like and what it will contain during the development cycle.

“One of the things that we learned after building the West Commons is that we needed student feedback. The East Commons had students looking over the design, and it has turned out well,” Fox said.

Brian Mathews, the user experience librarian, is heading up efforts to acquire student input. His goal is to get perspectives ranging from the casual user to the students who make their way into the Library every day.

For the first task, Mathews sat down with the most frequent users of 2 West to get their insights and opinions about the effects of the change and ways of improving the space.

“I am a little concerned about [the changes]…but you can’t find out if something is going to be good or bad until you see it…. The library is someplace you go to do work, and… 2 West is something that I feel really works right now…. [I] hope they don’t change the setting too much,” said Adam Weiss, third-year Aerospace Engineering major.

Mathews began a series of talks with various student organizations and focus groups to get their perspectives on what changes to the second floor area would provide the best possible benefit for the students. The focus groups, in particular, tried to obtain a cross section of student leaders from across campus.

In a focus group moderated by Mathews last Tuesday, the participants consisted of Brandon Kearse, fourth-year Mechanical Engineering major, Mitch Keller, Ph.D. student with the School of Mathematics and Michael Warwick, third-year Management major.

Mathews posed a mix of general and specific questions to the focus group about the library in general and the space of 2 West. Some general questions asked of the group involved understanding how each person utilized the library, whether they would be accessing the Library’s collection or using the study spaces around the building. This was followed by asking what could be added that would make the library a better place.

“More moldable space. Something that… you can have [as] an individual work space, but if you want to combine,… it would be an effective use of space,” Warwick said.

Mathews also showed the focus group a slide show of room designs being used by other universities around the world to gauge their impressions and to discuss whether any of the design elements should be incorporated in the planning of 2 West. Wall color, furniture styles, lighting schemes and other topics were all discussed during the session.

“What I’ve seen is that [students] really want to maintain the group focus [of 2 West]. They like the combination of open space and barrier space…. and the importance of aesthetics, atmosphere and décor…. [2 West] is kind of sterile or dreary in some places. If [students] are going to study for a long time, [they] need something more inspiring,” Mathews said.

The series of focus groups will finish up at the end of February. At that point, prototype designs and sketches will be made.

The library will then display the sketches to ensure that they have interpreted the input from the students correctly and continue to make changes if necessary.

The library’s plan is to begin the 2 West renovation by the start of the summer semester and complete the entire project before the beginning of the fall semester.

This way, the renovations will pose as little of a distraction to the library’s users as possible, according to Mathews.

An open forum will be held Feb. 26 in floor 2 West as part of the process of gathering student input. Students are invited to bring thoughts, concerns, visions, drawings, photos and other ideas. More information can be found by going to