A sign at the entrance of Woodward Library warning of potential disruptions as renovations continue. Photo by Abigail McKenna | THE ALL STATE

Things have started to change in Austin Peay State University’s Woodward Library. Furniture has shifted, signs have been put up and walls repainted.

Yet this is only the beginning, as the Woodward Library is set for a complete revitalization in the coming months, stretching into the summer of 2024. 

According to Special Projects Manager Adam Shelton, Woodward needed an upgrade.

“The Library was long overdue for updates to enhance the user experience and we hope these changes will lead to even more progress in the future,” Shelton said.

Sizable updates in multiple facets of the library are planned, from technology to accessibility.

Among these updates are new floors and pathways, an assistive technology room, and a maker space and virtual reality (VR) lab. 

The focus of these changes is to support the evolving needs of library visitors. Library Communication and Outreach Specialist Katie Pendleton explained the need for creating a welcoming and inclusive environment.

“The addition of cutting-edge resources and amenities not only reflects the institution’s dedication to academic excellence but also ensures that the Woodward Library continues to play a central role in supporting education and research for future generations,” Pendleton said. 

Just how will the library become more accessible? Director of Library Services Martina Malvasi gave a few examples.

Notable improvements include new adjustable-height desks to enhance comfort at workstations and high-visibility pathways to make the library more easily navigable to visually impaired patrons. 

“These updates underscore our commitment to ensuring an inclusive and accommodating environment for all users,” Malvasi said.

Malvasi elaborated, explaining how improving accessibility to library resources is a key motivator for these renovations.

“Knowing that we are actively removing obstacles and opening doors for individuals who may have previously felt excluded brings us closer to fulfilling our library’s fundamental purpose: to serve as a beacon of knowledge and opportunity for all,” Malvasi said. 

The assortment of new technology in the library is said to allow the community access to cutting-edge STEM resources they might otherwise not have access to. The VR lab is planned to feature several educational apps to enhance learning on campus.

“We’re incredibly excited about the potential these new features hold for fostering creativity, exploration, and academic achievement,” Malvasi said. 

Of course, these renovations come with changes to the layout of the library, both temporary and permanent. Woodward staff intend to keep the library open and available throughout the process, although with slight adjustments. Mainly, this could mean changes in entrances and exits throughout the flooring renovations.

“We will have alternate means of ingress and egress should the main entrance be closed for flooring installation. We will communicate these methods so as not to disrupt services,” Shelton said.

More permanent changes will come as rooms and items are shuffled around to make room for new labs and innovative spaces. According to Malvasi, while the core layout will remain largely unchanged, some things will still be moved around.

Shelton detailed how the library will change. The alcove in the back of the main floor is set to become the makerspace and VR lab. As such, the study cubicles there are going to move downstairs.

While remaining on the main floor, the computer lab will experience quite a few alterations. The computer lab on the main floor will be reoriented so as not to be as spread out. According to Shelton, the long computer station tables are moving toward the front of the building to open the back area for group study tables, cubicles, and lounge seating.

Major renovations have begun already, with the carpet on the main floor beginning its transformation over spring break. They are far from over, and Woodward staff expect renovations to continue into mid-summer. However, Malvasi said that disruptions will be as minimal as possible.

“Rest assured, we are committed to maintaining the highest service standards throughout the renovation process,” Malvasi said.

While there are sure to be disruptions in the meantime, the renovations are expected to enhance user experience in a range of ways. According to Malvasi, “For in the wake of these renovations lies a promise—a promise of a brighter, bolder future, where the library stands not just as a repository of knowledge, but as a beacon of possibility for all who dare to dream.”