Top administrator to push for more Gelman upgrades

Media Credit: Nicole Radivilov | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The new entrance floor to Gelman Library cost $16 million, but now is one of the most celebrated centers of campus. University Librarian Geneva Henry hopes to redesign other floors of the library in the coming years.

The head of Gelman Library is lobbying top leaders to overhaul the entire building over the next several years, with plans to ask the Board of Trustees to fund a design this summer.

University Librarian Geneva Henry said future renovations to the building would call for new labs and technology that could be used to lure donors, rather than asking for broader construction funding. A team of architects would draw up plans to redesign the building’s upper floors this summer, pending board approval, just a few months after GW unveiled $16 million-worth of upgrades to its entrance floor.

Henry, in her first year as the University librarian, said she knows full renovations will be pricey – and years away. Gelman administrators and students lobbied for several years before the University set aside the millions for entrance floor renovations.

A year ago, campus tours would not bring prospective students into the building. Now, not only tours see that redone floor, but Henry also uses it as part of a strategy to increase donations. That effort puts the library in sync with the University’s likely $1 billion fundraising strategy that will launch later this year.

Media Credit: Nicole Radivilov | Hatchet Staff Photographer
Gelman Library could become a lure for donors, falling in line with the University’s likely $1 billion fundraising campaign.

“You bring them into this space that is really a great space and everyone is awed,” she said. “When you start to walk around to the other areas, that’s when you can start talking about things we could do in here,” she said.

The rest of the library, which is 41 years old, houses stacks of books that more frequently get shipped out to a storage facility to make room for study space and technology.

In the latest renovation, administrators and students rallied around expanding collaborative study space. But the next facelift would also include naming opportunities for donors to put their stamp on research and academic programs like data visualization or multimedia.

Henry has said she wants to bring more faculty research back into the library by adding labs, such as GIS, and new equipment that will appeal to professors across disciplines.

“Donors will be willing to pay for these kinds of programming aspects,” she said. “Well, to do the programming that means we need to renovate the space.”

She may have a tough road ahead. The University has mostly kept the library’s operating budget flat for more than a decade while other research priorities were infused with funding. The University also has had a tough time bringing in donations for construction projects like the Science and Engineering Hall.

GW could move toward expanding library budgets in the coming weeks when it outlines the strategic library review. Those plans will also include more study space, she said.

Librarians are now reaching out to faculty to gather more information about their research needs.

“The really great ideas will be driven by the faculty themselves of just what’s your research,” she said. “And this is where the librarians are continuing to engage and get more engaged with the faculty on their research.”

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