Funded by an anonymous donor, Converse College’s Mickel Library is undergoing an extensive, multi-phase makeover. The project has been underway since late 2016 and will transform the first and second floors over the next year.
“In recent years, academic libraries have been providing learning areas where students can work collaboratively on group assignments or projects, while continuing to support traditional study and research,” said Wade Woodward, Director of the Mickel Library. “Such facilities typically include a variety of computer workstations, portable whiteboards, conference rooms, and seating configurations. This is what we set out to accomplish at Converse.”
A group of classmates could give jointly to support the project and make a significant impact on the lives of the students here at Converse.
The main floor lobby area is the first section to get a face-lift. A recent grant proposal submission hopes to renovate five additional areas, including adding a multimedia computer room to the second floor, complete with Mac computers suitable for video editing.
New student collaboration areas and contemporary study spaces are now complete on the first floor, incorporating innovative designs and current technology to meet the evolving academic needs of students and faculty.
An Evolution since 1889
Originally housed in two rooms in Wilson Hall, the library had a few ‘homes’ before it finally settled into a permanent residence on the southwest corner of campus. In 1904, a $10,000 grant from Andrew Carnegie allowed for the construction of a separate building that held 25,000 volumes, four study rooms, and a general reading room. Today, Carnegie Hall houses the offices of Human Resources, Business and Finance, and Student Billing.
In the 1940’s, funds were raised to build Gwathmey Library. The 20,000 square-foot facility was one of the first libraries built at a women’s college following World War II. During the 1980’s, an addition was built onto Gwathmey, doubling the size and shelving capacity of the building and adding numerous study carrels, music listening rooms and a student lounge. The library was renamed for Buck and Minor Mickel, the primary donors of this massive renovation.
Today, Mickel Library’s mission is to provide high-quality information resources and to support the development of study and research skills in our rapidly-evolving information environment. Electronic holdings include access to more than 40,000 full text journals and upwards of 252,000 eBooks.
Reimagining the Library of Today
In early 2016, a student focus group was convened to help establish a modern-day vision for Mickel Library. Students expressed their desire for a more welcoming, technologically-supportive library environment with small group study spaces that would allow for interaction without disturbing other library patrons.
Dr. Emily Harbin ’99, Director of the Writing Center and Assistant Professor of English, contributed extensive research on trends in library design. “Modern libraries serve as a dynamic space where students access information, use technology to create new products with that information, and work collaboratively,” she said. “We started with the lobby so that it would send the message immediately to students and visitors that Mickel Library is changing for the better.”
Just inside the front entrance, where massive shelves of reference books and heavy wooden tables once lived, students are greeted by a welcoming, bright workspace housing comfortable chairs with flip-up desks, rolling dry-erase boards and group-friendly work rooms. Wider computer tables give them ample room to spread out materials and work alongside one another.
Students have responded enthusiastically, and library staff have seen a dramatic increase in their use of the new collaboration area.
Mickel Library is seeking funds to continue updating the main and second floors with flexible study spaces and technology upgrades. Lauren Ward, Converse’s Bequest and Research Manager, said everyone can make a difference, no matter the size of their gift. “A group of classmates could give jointly to support an aspect of the project and make a significant impact on the lives of the students here at Converse.”
Originally published in The Converse Magazine