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Long awaited renovations modernize Ely Library

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  • Dr. Dobelle and Tom Raffensperger cut the ribbon at the ceremony on January 23, signifying the opening of the newly renovated campus library. Photo by Janet Garcia

With all of the renovations happening on Westfield’s campus, the most recent one is definitely worth talking about. Ely Library, the largest academic space on campus, has undergone a serious and well-received transformation.

According to Thomas Raffensperger, the library director, the library had not received any substantial renovations since it was built in the 1970s.

“There had been many upgrades over the years in small pieces, but not an integrated renovation,” Raffensperger said. “Libraries are changing and so are student needs, so it was time for an update.”

Raffensperger, along with member of the library staff, WSU Facilities and the architectural firm, began working on the renovations nine months ago.

“It’s like working on a Rubic’s Cube with a lot of people involved,” Raffensperger said. “We relied heavily on a survey of students, student comments, our observations of student work in the library, visiting other recently renovated libraries and experience with other library projects.”

According to Raffensperger, some of the groups that were presented with the plans for input and/or approval included the Library Advisory Committee, the President’s Cabinet, Student Government Association and the Board of Trustees.

“After approval came the actual work, which was all done over three weeks during winter break,” Raffensperger said. “It was a busy place in January!”

And in January of this year, the project began with what is being referred to by the University as “Phase One.” The walls and floors have been given a makeover with paint and carpet on the first floor. New furniture and an increased number of electrical outlets allow for more students to use the space, especially in the new study rooms.

The most noticeable change, at least for students, has been the workstations. The computers, which were once clustered into one corner of the first floor of the library, have been spread out. Students can now put their books on the table next to them, a luxury that was not available with the previous computer set up.

“I love seeing that there is enough room for two students to work together at the computers, along with books, a laptop, and a cup of tea,” Raffensperger said. “They can spread their things out and feel at home.”

However, this change has left some students wondering where all of the computers went.

“I know other staff [members] have overheard students saying that the library did away with some of the computers, but that’s actually not true,” said Oliver Zeff, associate librarian. “We actually gained three computers!

“There are no computers on the mezzanine anymore and this probably led to students thinking that we have fewer computers,” Zeff continued. “There are more computers than before and they are all spaced out on the first floor of the library.”

Raffensperger stressed that the students were an integral part of the process, emphasizing that “their needs were central.”

He said that data from a survey, student comments, ideas from the library’s student employees and SGA were all involved in the process.

“I tried to get as much input from as many corners of the university as possible, but the main design elements came out of the expressed needs of students.”

“Speaking for students, I think it really was necessary for the library to receive a face lift,” said Lou Cimaglia, president of SGA. “A lot of people on this campus will tell you that the library is the heart of any academic institution, and I think the library we had didn’t really do that idea a lot of justice.”

He continued, “The renovations added light and really brought the entire space to par with the rest of our new facilities.”

Renovations to the library, however, are only half completed. “Phase Two” will begin this summer, with plans for more new furniture, three more study rooms, new lighting and more.

“The mezzanine area was not finished in phase one, so it looks a little out of place, but we’ll fix that,” Raffensperger said. “One great part about a two-phase project is that we can see how things are going and make adjustments as necessary.”

Raffensperger continued, “I think it has turned out very well so far. Students are using the group study rooms and have been very happy with the new workstations.”

Zeff said that his duties haven’t changed, but that he is pleased with the renovations.

“For what it’s worth, the first floor of the library does have a more modern look and it feels good to have new and modern furnishings,” he said.

“As SGA President, I advocate for students on all campus issues and when I see things like this happening, it is encouraging,” Cimaglia said. “Every student should take notice that the administration here feels passionately about this university.

“The quality of our school is improving daily,” he continued. “And there are even more good things to come.”

A ribbon cutting ceremony in front of the library was held on January 23.

“It [was] a way of thanking everyone who helped, everyone who brought their ideas to make this shared vision a reality,” Raffensperger said.

“Lots of people were involved in the project, from the architects to the subcontractors, but the Westfield State maintainers and tradespeople were especially dedicated to making sure the project went well. I can’t thank them enough.”

 

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