By Melissa Schill
Buswell Library looks to upgrade and modernize their services either through an addition or an entirely new building in the next few years. Though the project is in its preliminary stages — primarily research and brainstorming — this week the college hired an architecture firm and prepared a proposal for Wheaton’s senior administration cabinet.
Buswell Library was originally constructed in two phases. The south side of the library was completed in 1950 and the north side in 1975. “The campus administrators have known for a long time that we needed to work on the library. “It has finally risen to the top of the priority list,” said Dean of Library and Archives, Lisa Richmond.
Renovation talks have been ongoing since Richmond was hired 15 years ago. Wheaton’s architect, Bruce Koenigsberg, was assigned to co-lead the project with Richmond a year and a half ago.
There are four primary goals for the upgrade. The first goal is to create not just more places to study, but higher quality spaces. “We want to have a library where you can come in and find the nook or the open space or whatever your preferred study [spaces] are,” Richmond said. “We want it to be conducive for your studies.”
A survey was sent out to all students, faculty and staff on Feb. 1 to research what the Wheaton community desires in a study space. The survey asked questions about preferred seating, lighting and general environment. Richmond plans to release results from the survey to the Wheaton community after they have been analyzed.
The second goal is to bring the department of Special Collections, currently housed in the Billy Graham Center, back into Buswell. Rather than having to walk between buildings, Richmond hopes to have everything in one spot, making research easier and more convenient. “We would love to bring that back so we just have one library and everything is together. We can be a real center of research,” Richmond said.
The third goal is to have room to grow. Freshman Caleb Penney works for Buswell and has to commute to Wheaton’s east campus to scan bound journals due to lack of space in the library’s main building. He said that the upgrade would “help with our continuous expansion — we constantly get a lot of new books.”
The fourth goal is to create a collaborative space for learning and teaching. Services similar to the writing center, such as student advising, would be added to the library. The library would become a center for academic services. “It’s a way of being more organized about all the academic services that we offer students,” Richmond said. “Whatever your academic need is, come to this one location and you’ll have it available to you.”
HGA, a architecture and engineering firm based in Minneapolis, was hired this week and will help determine how to convert the needs and goals of the library into a plan of action.
Once a plan has been formulated and approved, fundraising will begin for the project. A building project like this must be funded solely through donations, not tuition dollars. Though it is too early to produce budget predictions, library additions and rebuilds at other similarly-sized liberal arts colleges ranged from $1 million to $11 million, according to data collected by Richmond from the Library Journal.
She says options will be drafted, each with a different budget. One option is to completely rebuild the library in a new, undetermined location on campus. Another option is to build an addition on the east side of the library where the road between Buswell and Wyngarden currently runs.
There is no concrete timeline for this project yet according to Koenigsberg. Because the project is contingent upon the generosity of donors, it can take years to reach fundraising goals. Years are also set aside for researching and designing, as well as for construction itself.
The first phase of the Armerding remodeling took seven years from initial decision to opening day. If Buswell follows a similar path, the library could break ground about five years from now.
“Whatever we do, we will make sure that students have access to the collection and have good places to study,” Richmond said. “The library is just essential.”
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