Photo by Matt Hembree
By Alicia Wikner
DuPont welcomes students back with new technology, new study rooms and a new in-library cafe.
As classes resumed on August 30, the plastic veil inside the Jessie Ball duPont Library was pulled aside to reveal a brand new studying space for the awaiting Sewanee students, including a new cafe. The library renovations were an initiative decided upon after the library received funds from donors for a ‘learning commons’—these repairs and additions are the first to ever be introduced since the library was opened in April 1965.
Equipped with the technology to meet the need of any student it greets, the library now allows for students to study and practice in a variety of different settings: there are computers for research, closed rooms for group work, and presentation-focused areas along the northwest side of the building.
“These rooms have been outfitted as presentation practice rooms. Again, we’re tweaking those. But hopefully they will work so students can practice presentations and can work collaboratively in groups,” said Associate Provost for Library & Information Technology Services Vicki Sells.
Some details are still under construction, with some of study rooms missing doors, and the scheduling system for booking these rooms is currently unavailable. For these last technicalities, Sell said, “We’ll roll out more information about that.”
The Writing Center tutors now have a designated workplace and, as Sells put it, “a kind of home,” making it easier for students seeking help to to locate them. The new Writing Center is located in the former periodical room.
After 50 years of appreciation from the people of Sewanee campus, the library had earned itself a fresh look. Contrasting with the beige tile floor, the left half of the library now opens up to reveal pristine dark wood and a carpeted blue floor melded together into an open, tall room. Lining the walls are paintings of former Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors, gently illuminated by the impressive set of modern-style chandeliers strung above the assortment of study areas.
The years caught up with the building and when the financing was available, the library went through with the project, led by Construction Manager Jason Hamilton and the Director of Facilities Management Michael Gardner. The architectural firm McMillan Pazdan Smith designed the plans, and the contractor American completed the work with oversight from Hamilton.
When explaining the necessity for these changes, Sells honed in on a few specific points. “The roof, like above the big, beautiful windows, was going to need to be repaired. It had leaked… the wood was just discolored…the floor was also over 50 years old, it was getting really, really worn.”
The room itself was not the only thing receiving a major update. The wireless access points as well as the wiring in the ceiling had not been intervened with earlier since they were located in the ceiling, out of reach, but from today and onwards all students can enjoy a stable Wi-Fi connection with the rewiring upstairs.
“If there are changes we can make, or things that we can do, that students will let us know. We got a lot of input for students when we were planning what we were doing,” said Sells. She plans to send a survey to student e-mails in order to gather suggestions on how to make further improvements to the library as well as the opportunity to give general comments.
“That first day when students were returning, there was kind of this wow factor that made me very happy,” Sells noted, smiling, having emphasized her gratitude to the donors who made the renovations possible. “I am happy because this is for the Sewanee students.”