Student Success Commons and Library
A new multi-use facility in the heart of campus
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 multi-use facility that will foster community partnerships through expanded educational and cultural opportunities. Universal design elements throughout the building ensure a fully accessible space for campus and community members of all abilities.
An Albright team led by President Jacquelyn Fetrow, Ph.D., has been working since fall 2019 to re-imagine a 21st century library, one that immerses learning in collaboration, mixes traditional media with emergent media, and includes the wider community in educational and cultural initiatives.
PLANS FOR THIS MULTI-FUNCTIONAL SPACE INCLUDE:
A learning commons and café on the entry floor (lower level) combine key student success initiatives such as tutoring, the academic learning center, academic coaches, accessibility services, and career development, all in one location.
The plaza level will be a vibrant core for students and the community, supporting students from high school through alumni.
Staffed by our expert library team, stacks on the second floor include digital, media and print resources — creating a center for academic study and research.
Study and meeting spaces on the third floor are designed with multiple, flexible configurations, and with built-in technology and tools for digital scholarship, alongside the writing center and writing faculty.
A history and cultural center on the fourth floor, housing our history department, will welcome campus and community members to explore the library’s collaborative collections.
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.
Albright’s Student Success Commons and Library will be the cornerstone of Reading’s Innovation Corridor and a national model for the 21st century library.
Integrating the college and the community, the space will bringing together teachers, scholars and learners, and support entrepreneurs and science and technology research.
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 Student Success Commons and 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. It will support nationally-recognized academic programs and expand educational and cultural enrichment opportunities for Reading city and Berks County residents.
October 19, 2021
Dear Albrightians, Great progress continues to be made on construction for the Student Success Commons and Library. It has been a while since we provided an update, and I am very pleased and excited to be share developments on several aspects of this project. I realize it is difficult to see this progress from the outside, so this is a chance to bring you all inside for an update. Come with me! Exterior and interior plans complete. The Library Vision Team has been working with our architects at Kimmel Bogrette to develop internal and external plans, which have been approved, and now the development of construction documents is underway. We look forward to sharing the final plans with the community in the near future, and will announce opportunities to do so as we get them scheduled.Sorting and moving of the collections. Our dedicated library staff have also been busy sorting the library collection, designating materials to be moved into storage in the warehouse at the corner of Richmond and 11th Streets during construction, and deaccessioning other materials. Renovation on the warehouse is complete and we are waiting for final inspection. The mover has been contracted and the move will be completed by the end of November.What’s next? We have proposed a plan to the City to begin selective demolition once the building is empty. The permitting process for that work is also underway. Most of this early work will also be interior, so also invisible, but we will let you know when it is underway and provide some visual updates as possible.Fundraising. Supporting this work, Advancement has now raised over $9.5 million in written and verbal contracts. The team continues to work with donors on naming opportunities, like the Griffiths History and Cultural Center, the Schultz History Department suite, the Falcone Student Success Center, and the Patty Parker Molnar Center of Writing Excellence.Spaces for student study. One of the biggest issues during this time is student study spaces. The newly renovated student success center will have many study spaces of various sizes, but that does not help our students now. To solve this problem, we have opened a number of academic buildings for Study Rooms and Hours. Please share this information with students.Library services. Throughout all of this, our library staff have also worked hard to maintain library services for faculty, staff and students. The mini-library in CCM 100 is open daily, with library personnel available to help with research, and able to retrieve needed materials from the collection, or to help with inter-library loan. Library staff are also available to meet with classes, if you would like help in working with your students on starting and completing research projects.Beautification of the construction sites. You can expect to see more obvious signs of construction next year but meanwhile one of our donors has paid for student organizations to beautify the construction fence (which will remain in place throughout the project). This work is proceeding under the direction of Katy Mangold, so make sure student organizations with which you are affiliated don’t miss out on the fun!
Thank you to all the work that has gone into the planning and design of the new spaces by the Library Vision Team and our architects, Kimmel Bogrette. Full approval of designs and construction contracts will occur at the February board meeting. As noted above, we will be sharing more details of this work with the community in the near future.
Please let me know if you have questions.
Dear Albright community,
In September we wrote to share an update on the work that has been accomplished since the library building had to be closed due to the issues with the façade. Today, we are excited to announce a significant step forward! Thanks to the excellent work of the Library Vision Team and an intensive RFP process led by our own Brad King, facilities project manager, an architectural and engineering firm has been selected. The firm Kimmel Bogrette will work with Albright College to transform the current library administration building into a re-envisioned Student Success Commons and Library. This transformed space will include a testing center, an academic learning center on the first (main entrance) floor, 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 there will be more meeting spaces and more room for student study spaces.Kimmel Bogrette has been providing extraordinary design solutions for clients like Albright College for almost 25 years. Not only do they work creatively within reasonable budgets, their experience in higher education is unmatched. Endorsed by the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Pennsylvania (AICUP), they have worked with institutions such as King’s, LaSalle, Susquehanna, Franklin & Marshall, Widener, Washington & Jefferson, and Penn State, just to name a few. Additionally, Kimmel Bogrette presented a deep understanding of our needs as an institution, how this project must align with our core values, and the importance of sustainability. We are delighted to have Kimmel Bogrette on board as a partner in transforming the current building into Albright’s very first Student Success Commons and Library, a space that will serve as a hub of learning, collaboration and gathering, and where our students will thrive.
So, what’s next?
Now that a firm has been selected, Albright will engage with our new partners to integrate our space planning, developed by the Library Vision Team over the past year, with preliminary design plans so that renderings may be developed.
Update on funding proposals coming soon
As we communicated in September, grant proposals to the NEH Infrastructure program and to the PA State RACP program have been submitted, and we are anxiously awaiting to hear about both programs. The NEH grant would provide $750,000 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. We are hopeful that we will be able to announce good news soon!
Thank you to all of you for your engagement in moving this critical project forward. We look forward to our partnership with Kimmel Bogrette and to working with the entire Albright community to create this state-of-the-art space that is so essential to our liberal arts college mission.
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.
In November 2019, President Jacque Fetrow convened a library vision task force to think about and envision what the requirements of a new library/academic building might be.Vision Team Charge: To envision and describe the requirements of a new library/academic building at Albright that would create academic and research spaces and display of Albright’s collections, to encourage students and faculty to engage with the collections, to provide the services of a 21st century library, as well as spaces for the library staff, faculty in Masters Hall, and study and teaching spaces. The goal is not to design a building, but rather to imagine what such a building would contain.
Library Vision Team Membership:
Former student members:
Dear Albright community,
Though it hasn’t been obvious from the outside, progress on the new Student Success Commons and Library (SSC&L) continues! Both exterior and interior plans have been finalized – they are available on the Albright website – hazardous material abatement has been performed, and selective interior and exterior demolition is about to begin.
Beginning Monday, March 14, you will start to see a lot of activity around this part of campus, including the removal of trees. Please be assured that we have been working alongside Project Manager Brad King, members of Cabinet and the facilities team, our architects, and others to help assess tree removal and the placement of outdoor sculptures near the SSC&L construction site. Trees right up against the building (mostly Sweetgums), must be removed due to their location. Several other trees must also be removed due to issues involving their roots and sanitary lines, firetruck access around the building, and the need for retention basins (i.e. rain gardens) to allow proper water infiltration.
Based on these parameters, there are nine large trees that will be removed, including two very large Copper Beeches on the 13th street side. Fortunately, we still have a healthy Copper Beech specimen near the Center for Computing and Mathematics (CCM)! And we have made certain that the Tulip Tree – our only specimen on main campus – will be spared, along with two swamp white oaks. These are all native trees. Construction plans for the SSC&L include new landscape plantings and rain gardens to enhance the beauty of the grounds in the center of campus.
The work to remove the trees will last approximately three weeks. During this time, there will be heavy equipment in the front of the building, and the walkway from the parking lot to MPK Chapel and to the west side of Masters Hall will be closed to all foot traffic.
Founders Walkway and the drive aisle around the east side of the library building, which links Selwyn Hall, Masters Hall, and the CCM building will remain open, as will the sidewalk on 13th Street. At times, there may be temporary detours to the entrance of Founders Walkway from the parking lot and people may be directed towards Selwyn Hall. We ask for your patience during this time.
Please stay tuned for more as this work gets underway. If you have any questions about the assessment of the tree removal or the plans for new landscaping, please feel free to reach out to us.