Extensive renovation blueprints unveiled for Gelman Library

Long-awaited upgrades to the first floor of Gelman Library are inching closer to becoming a reality with the release of detailed design renderings for the renovations.

Marking another step toward quelling student complaints about the outdated facility, the newly drafted designs, created by architecture firm Cox Graae + Spack Architects, show more group study spaces rather than individual cubicles on the library’s first level, in hopes to facilitate social learning.

Design of the space will continue throughout the spring, and construction, which will begin in the summer of 2012, will occur in several phases over the next three years.

Numerous technological upgrades to existing study areas are included in the designs, such as laptop bars with outlets, wireless networks and printing capabilities. Gelman has cut its reference collection in half, as library resources become increasingly digital, freeing up study space on the first floor for clusters of tables and couches.

After years of student griping and administrative delay, Forrest Maltzman, senior vice provost for academic affairs and planning, said, “The renovations are occurring because the library no longer meets the needs of students and researchers.”

“It was a state-of-the-art facility when constructed in the early 1970s. But libraries today are used in a very different way than they were 35-years ago,” he said. “The impetus to do the renovations was that students expressed the need for an updated library.”

Administrators first developed a $5 million plan for renovations in 2006 to alleviate problems of overcrowding, limited electrical outlets and a generally outdated appearance, but these plans were never carried out due to a lack of funding.

The University recently pledged $16 million to support Gelman renovation plans as part of its fiscal year 2012 budget, including $31,000 of last year’s Senior Class Gift.

Over the last year, the architectural firm held several campus-wide forums to gather ideas for the renovations, offering students a role in the process.

“The purpose of these exercises was to ensure that the final design will reflect the needs of the GW community,” Maltzman said.

He added that student organizations played key roles in articulating student views on the renovations, especially Student Association leaders and clubs like Get Gelman Going that advocated passionately for improvements to the library.

“When they are complete, renovations will create a library that facilitates student access to both printed and digital resources and creates a space for both individual study and collaboration,” Maltzman said.

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