As fall semester heads into the homestretch, Auraria Library, heart of the Auraria Campus, pulses with life and learning. Construction is ongoing in a few places, but you can almost hear the 40-year-old building exhale. The six-year renovation project is drawing to a close.
Inside, students draw a human brain and various notes on the Writing Wall, while, on the flip side, a video flashes upon a huge interactive screen – the Discovery Wall. Other students write on laptops, study in quiet zones, learn in collaborative classrooms, sip coffee in Library Café and chat on the terraced patio under afternoon sunshine.
The reconfigured and upgraded library, whose Lawrence Way entrance faces west under a colorful cayenne canopy, is now bright, roomy, innovative, study-friendly, artsy and still flexible enough to meet the changing needs of 21st century college students. “The space will evolve over time – it depends on the direction students and faculty want it to go,” said Jane Hood, the library’s marketing and communications director. “Good libraries are always evolving.”
In the past week, both a ribbon-cutting and Homestretch Celebration took place to usher in the library’s new era. The overall $32.8 million project – $26.8 million in state funds and $6 million in cash contributions including donations – resulted in a slew of new amenities and design features in the nation’s only tri-institutional academic library. Judging by the crowds filling the library on any given day, the changes have been heartily welcomed by students, faculty and staff.
Students at all three institutions were surveyed about improvements they’d like to see in the library. The library was also re-imagined by engaging with faculty and students of classes such as marketing, architecture, landscape architecture, and human factors. Students resiliently rolled with the many phases of construction – none of which even temporarily caused books to be unavailable.
“If you talk to any of the students from any of the three institutions, they will say it’s their school’s library,” said Cynthia Hashert, interim director of Auraria Library. “They have a real sense of ownership.”
Besides the enhancements of new tables and chairs throughout as well as fresh carpeting and paint, and an expanded cafe, here are 10 highlights of the new-and-improved Auraria Library:
1. Creative Technology Commons
This still-evolving portion of the library includes the Writing Wall and Discovery Wall. The Commons services also features a MakeLab (3D printing and scanning) as well as photography apps and a cluster of Macs. “Academic libraries are still repositories for information,” Hashert said, “but they’re also growing as places for creating and sharing knowledge.”
2. Knowledge Market
Campus partners provide services including the Writing Center and Open Lab Tutoring. The market also features a “Fun Reads” section – a tri-institutional student government initiative providing recreational reading, including books from bestseller lists. The Knowledge Market is located on the first floor, along the 10th Street side.
3. Classrooms/study alcoves
Twelve enclosed group study rooms can be reserved through an online booking system. In addition, two first-floor classrooms are used to teach research skills, information literacy and using information ethically. The William Sharpless Jackson Enhanced Learning Classroom (being remodeled) and the new Collaborative Classroom offer flexible furniture, high-definition projectors and layouts conducive to active learning. The first floor features nine study alcoves that are available first come, first served.
4. Double dose
- Doubling of electrical outlets.
- Two floors. The first floor is designed for collaboration, group work and technology use. The second floor is designed for quiet study and research.
- Entrances – Lawrence Way and 10th Street. The Lawrence Way entrance features a cayenne canopy made of 100 5-foot-by-10-foot, 296-pound aluminum panels, whose grade is similar to that found on jumbo jets. The renovation project’s carbon footprint was reduced by the equivalent of 54 tons of CO2 by recycling 5.9 tons of circles (2,000 circles of aluminum were cut out of each panel).
- Courtyards – north and south, featuring art, furniture and wifi.
5. Acoustics and Wayfinding
Three open staircases have been wrapped with acoustical materials to keep the sounds of collaboration and group study from drifting from the first to the second floor. Digital signage and an easy-to-follow system, using columns throughout the building to display signs, have been installed. Bright colors convey distinct services: Yellow=help services and the “Ask Us” desk; blue=collaborative space; and green=technology/discovery.
6. Windows, Wifi and LEED
Auraria Library was originally built with no air conditioning. Now 3,000 double-pane windows (non-opening) have been installed, as well as new, energy-efficient HVAC, lighting and landscaping. Library staff expects the renovated structure to receive the environment-friendly LEED Gold certification. The network infrastructure is being updated to meet the demand for more bandwidth. The upgrade will improve wireless access in the library building as well as the courtyards and new terrace space.
7. A stone runs through it
Actually, a straight line of stones, quarried in Lyons by Chevo Studios, bisects the library. The large stones are spaced in pleasing intervals – even placed in a courtyard and running into the landscaping on opposite sides of the building. Because the renovations are a state project, 1 percent of the state-approved $26.8 million was devoted to art. “The concept pins the library to the landscape,” Hood said. “This grounds the library to its roots.”
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Still to come in the near future are the Innovation Garage, which will include workshop space and equipment for do-it-yourself projects, robotics, and other maker activities, and the Deep Quiet Study Area, which will feature unobstructed views of downtown Denver. Also coming soon is the renovated King Faculty Room, an area for faculty to focus on their work and research.
8. Distinguished history
Designed by internationally recognized architect Helmut Jahn, Auraria Library received a 1978 Excellence-in-Design award from the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). In 2009, the library received the 25-year award – recognizing enduring quality – from the Denver chapter of AIA.
9. Steady growth
When the library opened in 1976 it was designed to serve a maximum of 15,000 students. Today, it is the intellectual home of nearly 51,000 students in the same 180,000 square-foot space and welcomes nearly a million visitors each year.
The resource collections are as robust as ever, including a new Special Collections Reading Room and a growing digital repository. The library also offers thousands of ejournals, ebooks, media, streaming music and video, and the Fun Reads Collection.