McHenry Library was once not nice enough for students to want to go anytime other than final exams and too small and cramped to handle all those who did at every quarter’s end. Students often scrambled for whatever open real-estate they could find.
“I’d just sit on the floor to study,” said undergrad Tierney Baum, seated in the library’s new Global Village Cafe. “It’s a much nicer spot just to come to now.”
The 10-year, $100 million project, that added a wing and significantly renovate McHenry Library, completed construction in time to greet the new freshmen class this September. Located just inside the library’s main entrance, Global Village Cafe is just the first change in store for students, faculty, staff and Santa Cruz community members when they head to the library.
McHenry Library now has increased study areas, a digital media center, and reading porches, while other renovations and furnishings drastically deviate from traditional library design. Oversized comfy chairs, restaurant-style booths, and long, high tables for students’ to set-up their laptops, provide a wider range of studying options.
“The goal is to help people find and interact with information; stimulate their thinking, develop new kinds of ideas and think creatively overall,” said university librarian Ginny Steel. “So we’ve tried to put in a mix of kinds of furniture that will help people who have different patterns for studying and reading, to have places to go that suit their preferences.”
The changes are about more than just cosmetics. The library's physical renovations follow a philosophical one made a few years ago—increasing collaboration and cooperation between library staff and patrons. One big change was allowing food and drinks into the library. It might not seem like much, but according to Steel, it shows her staff’s focus on working with people and not policing their actions to preserve their collection’s integrity at all costs.
“It shows that we mean what we say,” Steel explained. “We’re here to help people with the work they’re trying to do and if we can eliminate a layer of that rule keeping then that’s a good thing.”
Now, according to Steel, the library comes closer than it ever has to the original vision for their main campus library
“Dean McHenry, the founding chancellor of the campus, one of the phrases he used to describe the library was he wanted it to be the intellectual heart of the campus,” said Steel. “And I think that’s really what we’ve tried to do in renovating and adding on to McHenry Library.”
Now, Steel that vision for the library even extends beyond the City on a Hill’s borders.
“This is a resource for all of Santa Cruz. It’s not just for the campus community. We have an open door policy. Anybody can walk in and use the resources we have in the building,” said Steel. “That’s something we think is really important.”