Gelman updates technology

One common gripe among GW students is the $50 voluntary library donation, which some claim is tough to opt out of because it is often overshadowed by more expensive costs on the tuition bill. But Gelman administrators hope students, upon their first trip to the library this semester, see that their money has been put to good use.

Renovations to Gelman Library have placed 80 new Dell computers throughout the building and will bring a $400,000 smart classroom to the third floor and increased office space for newly hired library staff. The upgrades were prompted by the full implementation of the once-experimental University Writing program, which called for increased instructional space in the library.

While no new study areas were added, the library updated 65 percent of its public-use computers.

Funding for the work came from library revenue, the voluntary library gifts and two anonymous donors.

“This work represents how the library is working to support all aspects of the campus,” said William Mayer, associate University librarian for information technology.

Mayer organized the upgrading of computers to Dell SX280, which will have more memory than the previous machines.

“Between 80 and 100 computers were replaced throughout the building,” Mayer said. “This number includes staff computers as well as all of the public-use computers on the first floor.”

The compact machines each came with a $1,500 price tag, and in all, Mayer oversaw purchases of $45,000 in new computers.

Gelman’s third floor underwent the most dramatic remodeling and will be finished two weeks ahead of schedule in time for the first day of classes. After five years of planning, an electronic classroom overlooking H Street is fully equipped with an etched glass entryway, new white boards and a larger SmartBoard designed for computer instruction. The room has 24 new computer workstations and is outfitted for wireless connection.

“We’ve needed an instructional space like this since about 1985,” said Gale Etschmaier, associate University librarian for public services. “Our librarians were fighting over spaces to teach and hold classes – there just wasn’t enough room.”

A sleek design and synchronized software between the teaching podium and the classroom’s workstations allow for a teaching space that will primarily be used by library staff to familiarize students with Gelman’s resources. The room can also be used by other University classes.

“We tried to learn from B06, the interim room, and do it right,” said Etschmaier, referring to a wired classroom in Gelman’s basement. “(The third floor room) is a non-traditional room geared toward the latest and most effective teaching styles.”

Two librarian positions were also added to aid in teaching University Writing classes by familiarizing freshmen with the University’s databases and the layout of the building. A part-time librarian position was also expanded into a full-time position, and three new offices on the third floor were added to support the new staff that will be in place by September.

Jennifer Nutefal, a library instruction coordinator, is one of these specially trained librarians and has been teaching at Gelman since the writing program began two years ago.

Nutefal said having a library instruction-designated space is very important. More than 480 individual classes are already scheduled to be taught in the room this year, among them graduate student orientations, dean seminar classes and writing in development classes. About 360 of the classes are University writing courses.

“We’ve seen a 39 percent increase in our instruction over the last two years and expect another large increase this year with the full implementation of (the writing program),” Nutefal said. “The very practical benefit is that we needed more space to teach to accommodate the number of classes we’re teaching.”

The greatest obstacle in the construction was determining how to arrange the new classroom on the third floor but not to lose student-frequented areas. By condensing the microfilm storage space and the copy center, the new classroom was installed without affecting private study rooms, Etschmaier said.

The room will also be used for marketing purposes by demonstrating how donor money can be put to use.

“It’s hard to sell the need for new pipes or the upholstering of the furniture,” she said. “It is our hope that this room will serve as an example for future donors.”

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