GSU president is moving swiftly to transition library from academic eyesore to academic example
By WILL SUTTON
GSU Media Bureau
Grambling State University’s library was built in 1962 and an addition was added in 1986. With decades of use, and limited maintenance, the building is not what it used to be. GSU President Rick Gallot intends to change that – and as soon as possible.
A nationally known library design consultant met with Gallot; faculty, staff and student representatives and Louisiana Board of Regents and University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors members to start the process of replacing the A.C. Lewis Library with a 21st Century library with a much stronger focus on digital resources and technology services.
“I’ve told anyone who will listen that our students deserve better and more when it comes to a library,” said Gallot. “We can no longer accept that what we have is reasonable and good enough. Our students must have the best, and we can do this with reasonable financial costs if we do it right.”
Gallot is pursuing a library project that would downsize the size of the existing library while making it much more inviting and useful to students with more up-to-date resources and technology. The Lewis building is about 87,000 square feet. A significant upgrade with all of the current hardback, old periodicals and other content and databases might take as much as square footage in a new building with a traditional approach. But Gallot said he’s seen better used libraries with fewer books and periodicals housed on site and he’s convinced that today’s GSU students would more frequently use the right kind of library.
A group of more than 15 listened intently as Denelle C. Wrightson, a library planning and design consultant, shared the latest ideas among nationally recognized library facilities, including small libraries and mega libraries the size of a football field. During her 30 years of experience, Wrightson has assisted with the design of 1,000-square-foot library additions and new libraries of 160,000 square feet. She talked about the James B. Hunt Jr. Library at North Carolina State University, often referenced as the “library of the future” because it includes cutting-edge tools, hands-on interactive stations and large-scale technology, including simulated submarines, destroyers and aircraft carriers.
As a part of a transition plan, Gallot said the library books, resources and staff will move to the second floor of Adams Hall to start the process of moving toward a new library. The existing library has had a series of environmental issues, and the president said it is better, and safer, to close the building rather than to continue to invest money in a building that no longer serves students well. He said the library will be relocated for an undetermined period of time as the university pursues the type of facility needed.
The library operates on a limited schedule, closing at 10 p.m. most weekdays, closing at 12:30 p.m. on Fridays and it is open for four hours on Saturdays and six hours on Sundays. Meeting participants said they want to see a 24-hour library, one that online students can use from home or work no matter the hour, and a library that students want to visit regularly. Gallot wants to fast-track the process, aiming to get the project on the April 20 ULS board agenda for consideration.
Such a major project would require support from the UL system board and the state’s board of regents. Board leaders participating in the meeting said they are encouraged, and they want to find a way to make this idea reality.
Shawn Murphy, a ULS board member, liked what he heard during the presentation and the meeting, adding that this type of project is the right thing for Grambling State. “I’m just glad to be a part of this effort, and I look forward to getting this done as soon as possible,” he said. “Kind of like the commercial that says, ‘Let’s get this one done.’”
Longtime ULS board member Winfred Sibille has supported higher education during the decades he has served on the system board, carefully balancing financial requests with justifiable needs. “This project has been a long time coming, and we need to make this a shining effort and an example for other universities that need library facilities.”
Gallot said though Monday’s meeting was successful, next steps include a follow up visit by Wrightson to include more campus stakeholders and a draft proposal with a suggested financial cost and timetable. “This is just the beginning,” he said, “but no really good idea gets anywhere without involving the key players, getting the best reactions and suggestions and moving the concept forward.”
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