Ask A Librarian

It’s Not Just a Move, it’s a ‘Leap’: WVU Will Have its ‘Library of the Future’ Next Semester

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November 26th, 2001

By Brad McElhinny, Charleston Daily Mail

MORGANTOWN — Packing up the contents of a library and moving them to another location is not like moving the contents of your home.

Do your spoons have to be numbered and placed in order? And if you don’t unpack a box or two as long as you own your home, will anyone care?

But when officials at West Virginia University start transferring thousands of books and periodicals to the new campus library next month, you can be sure the movers will possess expertise in moving heavy objects and in keeping them in order.

“This is like throwing the contents of 20 to 50 households all together and having everything end up in the right order,” said project coordinator Ruth Nellis. “If everything gets out of order, it’s a major problem. We’d prefer to be able to find everything.”

construction photoPhoto: Craig Cunningham

Ironworkers Bob Birurakis, left, and Jim Wright install window frames in a new library set to open at West Virginia University. When construction is completed, students will be able to sit and study by the windows, which offer a panoramic view of the campus and Morgantown.

downtown library photoPhoto: Craig Cunningham

A new library at West Virginia University is set to open in time for the spring semester. The five-story, 124,000-square-foot brick building will integrate four branch libraries under one roof. The original Charles C. Wise Jr. Library is set for renovation, and the cost of both projects is $36 million.

University officials are promoting the new building as the library of the future. It is a five-story, 124,000-square-foot building that will integrate four branch libraries under one roof. More importantly, it will meet modern technological needs.

“We’ll have a librarian’s dream of new technology,” said WVU library dean Frances O’Brien. “Students are going to love it.”

The new library is being constructed right next to the old Charles C. Wise Jr. Library, which was built in 1931. A glass-encased atrium with a skylight is all that separates the two libraries. The atrium is symbolic of the transition from the old to the new.

Construction of the new library should be complete next month. Students should be able to use the new facility next semester while the old Wise Library goes through a one-year renovation. The cost of building a new library and renovating the old one is $36 million.

The new library will feature a primary service floor with a circulation desk and reference materials; one floor for periodicals; two floors of stacks that will hold 348,000 books; and a multimedia floor to house government documents, electronic classrooms and rooms for viewing videos or holding teleconferences.

Technology available to library users will include 180 computers, 35 media- equipped workstations and 32 wireless laptops.

The top two floors will feature reading tables with outlets for laptop computers, carrels with desktop computers, group study rooms and lounge seating. The two floors also offer a view of the downtown campus and Morgantown’s waterfront for studying students.

“When you see this view,” O’Brien said, “you might want to take your laptop and sit right there.”

The multimedia floor will include group study rooms with a 42-inch high-definition television screen, keyboard and Internet connections to allow users to participate in e-conferences, view films and prepare presentations.

Internet and cable connections on the floor will allow the library to deliver live video, network news and digitized video archives through its Web site.

“It’s a quantum leap from anything we’ve ever done before,” said Dennis Newborn, WVU’s head of library systems.

It’s a contrast to Wise Library, which was not built for modern technology. Actually, Wise’s stacks were not even built for comfortable browsing. The stacks originally were meant to be closed, so they’re confining, stuffy and hot.

Next semester, though, the university will embark on a renovation project meant to turn Wise back into an architectural beauty.

Wise will be restored as a facility that university officials are calling a “quasi-cultural center.” The old library will have space set aside for the West Virginia and Regional History Collection and WVU’s art collections.

The facility — which will retain its original limestone facade — will also house general book collections, “wired” reading rooms and offices.

“Wise Library is going to be restored to its former glory,” O’Brien said.

“The library system is going to be the best of both worlds.”

Writer Brad McElhinny can be reached at 348-1244.

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