February 22, 2018 3:30PM
“Students today require and expect flexible, technology-rich learning environments that support their classroom experiences," said Randy Roberts, dean of Library Services, who was joined by Provost Lynette Olson and Student Government Association President Cassandra Ngo in making remarks during the ceremony.
When the library opened 39 years ago, computer networking was just beginning, the first PCs were just coming on the market and students spent long hours in seemingly endless stacks searching for research materials. That's changed — but the library remains the heart of the learning process.
Ngo, a junior, said that she has been coming to Axe Library since her days as a student at St. Mary's-Colgan High School.
"I thought it was a pretty scary place then," she said. "I remember dreading going to work on my paper, because the environment simply was not welcoming. As I prepared for college, and toured other campuses, it became apparent how out-of-date our library way."
Over the past two years, Pittsburg State has invested nearly $2 million dollars into the modernization of the library. Starting in the lower level, and now on the third floor, the University added state-of-the-art technology, multi-media laboratories, small group study areas, and created environments that foster student engagement and learning. The goal: transform a building constructed in the era of microfiche into one that can thrive in the age of instant information.
"Thankfully, our university leaders recognized that the Axe Library could, and should, be more," she said. "The third floor is now a destination point for students."
The third-floor renovation, totaling $1.1 million, was funded by state rehabilitation and repair dollars. In addition to new ceilings, floors, doorways and bathrooms, library patrons will notice a significant difference in the way the space is laid out. It now includes eight study rooms that patrons can reserve, along with 100 new seats at 10 large library tables with built-in electrical outlets and desk-style lighting.
Additionally, the space has a variety of soft seating options as well as bench-style seating in eight alcoves designed to take advantage of the natural light. The alcoves are equipped with electrical outlets and USB ports.
In 2016, the lower level was renovated, with long stacks crowded with magazines and bound materials being replaced with digital scanning equipment, rooms designed and equipped for collaborative student learning and video and audio spaces where students can produce and edit their AV projects.
Together, the two projects are part of an ongoing plan, expressed in the library’s strategic plan, to “develop new and innovative learning, instruction and meeting spaces” throughout the library.
Olson said that library faculty and staff began planning for the renovation more than a decade ago, understanding the revolution taking place in the digital realm and what it would mean for the facility.
"But how do we transform a building constructed in the era of microfiche into one that can thrive in the age of instant information?" she said. "We must have vision, and we must have courage...I'm happy to report that our library faculty and staff have both."
Roberts said that transforming legacy buildings like Axe into learning environments is challenging.
"It requires many partners, both inside and outside of the university," he said.
Those partners included Architect Clark/Huesemann and Contractor Crossland Construction, Senior Project Manager Matt McConnell, and Division Manager Tad Johnson, all of whom were present for the ceremony.
"In today's world, academic libraries are evolving, dynamically," Roberts said. "It has been said that the mission of today's librarians is to improve society through facilitating knowledge discovery and knowledge creation in their communities."
"From that perspective, it is easy to see that providing resources and spaces for imagination, creativity, and inspiration is crucial to the future success of libraries, and library users."
Olson described the results as "striking," but said the university isn't done.
"Over the coming years, we'll touch nearly every square inch of this building, updating technologies and adding amenities to ensure that the Leonard H. Axe Library continues to be an academic destination for our students and community," she said.