A Vision for a New Learning Commons and Cultural Center
As part of its strategic vision, Albright College is committed to developing and strengthening community partnerships, and is excited to contribute to a vibrant vision for the future of Reading and Berks County with a new library/multi-use facility that will foster community partnerships through expanded educational and cultural opportunities.
PLANS FOR THIS MULTI-FUNCTIONAL SPACE INCLUDE:
A 21st century college education demands a 21st century library that immerses learning in collaboration, mixes traditional materials with new media, and supplements student initiative with expert support.
The current Library has served students, faculty, and community members since 1964. Since then, the College’s undergraduate population has nearly doubled, resources have changed radically with the rise of audiovisual materials and new media, and studying and learning have evolved to keep pace with technological enhancements and pedagogical modifications.
A new Library will give Albright an inviting and comfortable learning environment designed to bring together students, faculty, skilled professionals, information resources, high-end technology resources and student support services.
September 16, 2020
Hello Albright community!
Many of you are asking, “what is going on with the library?” and we realize that it is time to provide an update on the significant work that has been accomplished in the past nine months, since we had to close the library building due to the issues with the façade. We wish to reiterate that the structural bones of this building are sound. All structural engineering studies done to date indicate the soundness of the building. It is the façade that is losing bricks and is in danger of crumbling more completely.
What has the Library Vision Team accomplished to date? This was a key first step – The Library Vision Team created a first draft of the space plan for the new library, which includes a testing center, an academic learning commons on the first (main entrance) floor of the library, a history and cultural center on the second floor, and a complete writing center and writing program on the third floor. Books and library resources will be located throughout. And, the new library will have more meeting spaces and more room for student study spaces. This was the first step towards submitting RFPs to firms.
What do we do with all the library materials during construction? During this first part of our work, we realized that no previous plan for the library (and there appear to have been three “false starts” to this project) had never considered where and how to move all the library resources, as they cannot remain in the library during construction. Our wonderful Facilities Team identified and obtained costs for three potential sites and one was selected. The detailed work for this site is now being accomplished (and will be part of the work that the architectural, structural and civil engineers will accomplish.)
Brad King, facilities project manager, has created and sent out the RFPs (request for proposals) for the Gingrich Library Renovation Project, requesting bids for architectural, civil, and structural engineering. All proposals will include work on the library and on the proposed storage facility. This stage will allow us to identify any issues early, and will allow us to more accurately cost the entire project. Bids are due Sept. 30. Once bids are returned, a subgroup of the Library Vision Team will interview the firms and make recommendations for selection.
Julie Sweitzer, director of grants and sponsored programs, spearheaded the submission of grants to the NEH Infrastructure program and to the PA State RACP program. We hope to hear about both programs in late fall or early winter. The NEH grant would provide $750K and would require a 3:1 match. The RACP grant would provide significantly more funding, if we are approved. For RACP, both the Mayor of Reading and Senator Judy Schwank have provided strong support letters.
In addition, Wendy Parsons, vice president for advancement, and her team have begun to put together the next round of fundraising for the library, and are preparing to begin that fundraising campaign, both with donors who have already supported the library, as well as others who have not yet engaged in this project. Part of that work is the development of a webpage that will keep our communities apprised of the work, and which will be part of the fundraising messaging: https://www.albright.edu/give/library-initiative/.
And lastly, our library staff has continued their work to identify those books and resources into the three “buckets:” to be deaccessioned, to be placed in long-term (but accessible) storage, and to be returned to the library. Those books are being “turned” so the movers will be able to identify which books go where. The goal is for deaccessioned parts of the collection to be removed before the collection is moved to temporary storage. Note: Items to be deaccessioned have been identified in consultation with faculty on the Library Vision Team as well as other faculty. These items are either available by electronic means or have never been accessed or utilized since they became part of our collection.
So, what’s next? A state-of-the-art library is essential to Albright’s educational mission — and we will get this done, we will get it done right, and we will do it within what we can afford. During construction, the micro-library, set up in the Center for Computing and Mathematics, will continue to function. In addition, all other non-deaccessioned materials will be available within some time frame from the storage facility (which is very close to Albright’s campus).
We have very much appreciated the engagement of the Library Vision Team — their time and effort last winter and spring, as well as effort in some more recent aspects of the work, has been appreciated and valuable. We look forward to working with the entire Albright community to create the state-of-the-art library that is so essential to our liberal arts college mission.