Grant money leads to renovations at Gardner-Webb University Library

Since December 2021, facilities and maintenance staff have worked to significantly transform the third floor of the John R. Dover Library at Gardner-Webb University.

The floor has recently opened to the delight and surprise of the students.

“They love the space,” said library dean Pam Dennis. “The expression on their faces as they arrive at the top of the stairs is priceless.”

Extensive renovations began as a result of requests made by the GWU Student Government Association. “The SGA spoke to the president (Dr William Downs), and the president messaged me saying these are the things students want in the library,” Dennis said. “I said ‘Yes’ because it was the exact same things we wanted.”

Built in 1974, the last update to the first and third floors of Dover Library was repainting and carpeting in 1998. More recently half of the ground floor (the building entrance and the second floor) underwent a major renovation in 2010.

Initially, the plan for the third floor was brighter paint and carpet squares, but after meeting with SGA, Downs suggested the staff apply for state and federal grants and imagine larger-scale renovations. This is in line with the university’s plan to increase engagement with external sources of grants and funding.

Dennis consulted with library staff and student workers and wrote grants for new technologies. David Wacaster, facilities and maintenance manager, offered COVID relief funds to provide monetary support for structural improvements. Dennis and staff began offering ideas, and Wacaster offered feedback and developed plans to meet their requests. Students also mentioned that they would like to have more dining options at the library, which is still in the works.

The first task was to “rescale” the library’s collection, which involved working with faculty to preserve books that support the university’s curriculum.

“We believe this is the first time it’s been done at this library to the extent that we’ve done it,” Dennis said. “A lot of resources were purchased from this library in the 1950s and 60s.”

After retaining books relevant to the curriculum, the library’s entire collection, except for its religious studies section, is now located on the first floor. The religious studies section will remain on the third floor. Moving the majority of the collection opened space on the third floor for an archival reading room, large and small study rooms, two conference rooms, and an event space that can accommodate 100 people. The rooms are soundproofed, so people using them will not be disturbed.

Dennis and Dr. Natalie Bishop, Associate Dean and University Archivist, envision the open event space could accommodate not just library programs, but various campus events, such as guest authors, dinner theaters, series of conferences and other events. The conference rooms, with a capacity of 15 to 30 people, can be used for club meetings.

In addition to common areas and laboratories, private study rooms have been created for students to study.

Wacaster said the theme for the renovation project became “not your grandma’s library”.

“When most people think of the library, it’s a place to be quiet, with no food or drink, no talking, etc.,” he said. “The spaces we’ve created will allow students to work together and bring that same energy that we find at the Tucker Student Center on the third floor of the library. We have also created spaces where those who need to be alone and study can do so without the disruptions they find in accommodations.

The new technology purchased with a grant from the State Library of North Carolina includes a plotter, 3D printer, laminator, people counter and archiving technology. Another grant will create a 3D printing laboratory with a 3D printer and a 3D scanner, for professors and students in the humanities. This award, presented by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, was made possible through a collaborative effort between the Library and Dean Shawn Holt and the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences. After the grant period, the lab will be open to all students in all disciplines.

“We have already printed a Bible temple for the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy and are in the process of printing room numbers in Braille for the library,” Dennis said. “We plan to work with the Department of Communications, Arts and Design and others to create resources that provide students with hands-on experience to enhance traditional learning.”

Bishop will keep his office on the third floor in the existing Archives Processing Room, but will have a new Archives Reading Room adjacent where guests can use archival materials without disrupting preservation work in the space of treatment. The room will also be available as meeting space for local clubs, such as the Broad River Genealogical Society or Daughters of the American Revolution.

Bishop explained the need for an archive reading room.

“We have more and more people interested in using the archives – community members, donors and alumni who come and want to see the collection,” she said. “We have classes that make reservations to have an archival research day for the whole class. We really didn’t want alumni and researchers and guests coming into the preservation and treatment room, because every archive has one, every museum has one, that’s the nature of the work we do, but that doesn’t look attractive. Now, whenever friends and university guests visit, parts of the collection can be brought into this new space, where objects can be properly displayed.

The wall outside the Reading Room features the stained glass model that was made as a sample for Dover Chapel in 1961. This beautiful piece of university history, which was in storage, is now on display. Display cases will also be placed along the wall to hold items from the university archives as well as items on loan from the Cleveland County Historical Collection.

Grants received by Dover Library in the past year:

  • COVID-19 Mini Grant, $1,500 from the State Library of North Carolina in April 2021 for hand sanitizer holders, digital signage, and a contactless thermometer.
  • Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Grant for Small Rural and Small Libraries, $3,000 from the American Library Association in April 2021 for discussions with the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Association and event on October 21 and to launch the Ebenezer archives digitization project.
  • NCPC (National Preservation), $1,234.50 from the NCPC Preservation Society in May 2021 to preserve Boiling Springs High School diplomas and to preserve old Bibles in archival boxes.
  • LSTA EZ-1 Grant, $37,525 from State Library of North Carolina in June 2021 for new plotter, 3D printer, laminator, people counter, and archiving technology.
  • NC Adapts EZ Grant, $23,176 from the State Library of North Carolina in July 2021 to furnish new third-floor study rooms and a lecture hall and make way for new university archives.
  • American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grant, $10,000 from the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities in January 2022 to create a makerspace (print lab) in the library in conjunction with an interdisciplinary course, includes a 3D printer , a 3D scanner, a teaching allowance and Provisions.

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