by: Michelle McKelvey
The Carol M. Newman library has been a staple of Virginia Tech’s campus since the very beginning. However, the library has undergone some massive changes since its early days. In 1872, the library held only 500 volumes. Today, the library holds more than 2,000,000 volumes of books located in the library itself and in three different branches, both on and off campus.
Various additions have also been made throughout the years. According to the universities website, “the original Carol M. Newman Library was completed and opened in 1955 with $1 million donated by the Old Dominion Foundation, headed by Paul Mellon, and another $1 million approved by the Virginia General Assembly. Renovation and a six-story addition were completed in 1981. The lobby was renovated in 2009 to accommodate a coffee shop.”
Fast forward seven years and the Newman Library is continuing to update and renovate different parts of its facility. The Associate Dean for Learning at Virginia Tech, Brian Matthews says “the library [as a whole] has not been renovated in a long time. Each year, we get a small amount of money each year to do incremental improvements. It’s taxing because there is always something in the works, but it gives us a chance to be responsive to needs.”
Matthews says that the changes happen in small increments because it “allows Newman to stay open.” If the library were to undergo one massive renovation, it would not only be inconvenient and expensive, but it would close the library for an extended period of time.
Some renovations even take students opinions into consideration. Every so often, the library brings in new furniture for students to test out and vote on before any bulk orders are made. Matthews says that because undergraduates are the main users of Newman Library, their say is important. “Our goal is to keep them comfortable in the library and feel like they want to study there and be productive,” he says.
If you’ve been to the Newman Library, you are probably familiar with the bright orange and maroon signs placed in different spots throughout the five floors. Just recently, some of these signs have changed to a much more pleasant blue color. Matthews says, “the communications team is experimenting with new colors. They wanted something outside of the typical maroon and orange that students are so accustomed to seeing. They figured a different color was more likely to grab students’ attention.”
Aside from decorative changes, the Communications Lab located on the second floor of the library has also undergone some changes. In 2014, the Communications Lab changed locations from the first floor to the much busier second floor. The advisor of the CommLab, Brandi Queensberry, says “with the new location, we have seen an increase in the awareness of our services as well as more traffic.”
Coinciding with the library’s experimental color changes, Quesenberry says the library is also planning to change the signs in the Communications Lab.
As for the future of Newman Library, Matthews says his team plans to bring “a little something for everyone” in the next few years – “improved quiet space, better group spaces, and some academic support and mentoring spaces.”