Campus News

Renovated Hawthorne-Longfellow Library Is Being Unveiled

Story posted August 21, 2001

If you haven't visited the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library since the beginning of summer, "Don your sunglasses before walking through the door now," says Librarian Sherrie Bergman. "You will be dazzled!"

And if you haven't been in the Library in the past couple of days, make a point to drop in immediately to see all the changes since your last visit. You're in for even more surprises. Indeed, part of the fun has been in watching a myriad of improvements unfold before our very eyes.

Over five years in the planning, and begun in April 2000, the renovation (by Ann Beha Architects, Boston, Mass., and contractor H.P. Cummings Construction Co., Winthrop, Maine) is now near completion. Among the project's primary goals were to improve aesthetics, lighting, comfort and technology.

A tour of the "new" Library reveals...mission accomplished!

Aesthetics and Lighting
Bowdoin wanted to update and transform the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library into a more welcoming, comfortable, and attractive campus center for studying, research, and cultural activities. One way to make the Library a more appealing space was to bring more natural light into the main floor interior areas, a feat accomplished through the installation of reduced-height shelving. These shelving units, with a height well below eye level, make the space considerably brighter and appear much bigger.

A new reference desk (which can accommodate two librarians and two students) and expanded display cases are welcome upgrades as well. Furnishings and wood paneling throughout are stained a light shade, adding to the space's newfound brightness. New soft seating provides comfortable reading, studying, or meeting spots for all visitors; in fact, you might be more comfortable here than in your living room.

Technology Upgrades
A key element to the renovation was a substantial upgrade to accommodate technological advancements. The Library will now offer computer connections from every workstation and seat. Wireless computer connections will be available, as will a new technology reference commons providing 24 new computers. The electronic classroom in the basement has been doubled in size (seating 25) and also been equipped with new computers. When not in use as a classroom it will serve as a computer lab, adjacent to the 12-seat computer lab right outside. The basement also now houses a multi-media drop-in production facility.

Relieve Collection Overcrowding
Another goal of the renovation was to relieve serious collection overcrowding, and create new book and periodical storage capacity. As mentioned, new first floor shelving has been reduced in height from seven feet to four feet to increase natural light and open up the space. To make up for this "lost" storage space and still increase capacity, compact shelving has been installed in the basement. Old, non-functioning mechanical (electric) shelving has been refurbished, and is now fully functioning mechanical (manual) compact shelving. Visitors will be delighted to discover that bound periodicals are now all housed together on one floor and easily accessed by a few quick turns of a crank to open the appropriate compact shelving unit.

In the meantime, to help relieve collection overcrowding, the Library is seeking adequate off-site storage for some library materials. Librarians continue to work closely and actively with faculty to determine which materials to withdraw (unneeded, duplicate, or superseded titles) or move to a storage facility (the Library will provide prompt turnaround for requested items stored off site). No items are being selected for relocation or withdrawal without appropriate faculty consultation.

Furnishings and an Eye-Catching Mural
While such inadequate fixtures as the old reference desk and display cases required replacement with new pieces, much of the existing furnishings needed no more than a cosmetic upgrade through reupholstering or refinishing. When the Library was first furnished back in 1965, only the highest quality pieces were purchased. That furniture is as durable today as it was then (not a single original soft lounge chair has broken down in 36 years!), and the Sixties' modern design is now back in style, making the Library as hip as any space out of the pages of Architectural Digest.

One highlight of a tour of the refurbished Library is the basement mural designed by Mark Wethli and 27 students enrolled in the Painting 1 class. Wethli, the A. LeRoy Greason Professor of Art, and his students originally designed the mural to brighten the temporary construction partitions in the reference area. On February 7, the campus community was invited to a painting party to help create the mural. Though intended to be temporary, the finished mural impressed all who viewed it, and has been installed in the basement as a permanent part of the Library. Its multicolor design has been incorporated into a nearby column to brighten another section of the basement.

Others Will Benefit
Bowdoin students and faculty are not the only beneficiaries of these improvements. The Library has always maintained an open-door policy and encourages and promotes active use by everyone. The greater Brunswick community has long enjoyed and appreciated the valuable resources offered by the Hawthorne-Longfellow Library. Hawthorne-Longfellow (and its branches around campus) is open to the public, and adult area residents may acquire a library card and borrowing privileges for just $25 per year. The community has continued its longtime support of the Library during the renovation, and several of the attractive new furnishings and artworks were purchased with donations to the Friends Fund.

The Library is also a center of activity for researchers from nearby, from across the country, and from around the world. Special Collections and Archives, on the third floor, has acquired all new reading and reception rooms. Air conditioning makes for a more comfortable work area and provides a safe storage environment for rare books and unique manuscript collections, and expanded staff space allows for quicker and more secure customer service. New display areas allow many of the Library's interesting treasures to be easily viewed by visitors.

What's Ahead
Students and faculty returning to campus in the coming days will discover that the renovated Hawthorne-Longfellow Library has taken its rightful place as one of the jewels in the campus crown. It has become not only a comfortable, attractive and modern campus center, but is poised to accommodate the ongoing and changing needs of students, faculty and researchers for many years to come.

Among the events planned for the Library's official unveiling are an open house for students on Friday, August 31, and an open house for the Bowdoin Community during Common Hour on Friday, September 14. In the meantime, visitors are encouraged to drop in frequently during the coming semester to see more "surprises," including new artwork, carpeting and furniture, make their debuts.

Click here to visit the Library Web site.

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