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The Scarlet & Black

More construction to come

By Emily Bajet

This past Wednesday night, Janette Blackburn, a Principal at the Shepley Bulfinch Richardson & Abbott Architecture Firm, discussed a possible update to the College’s master layout plan of the buildings around campus with faculty and students.

The talk provided the audience with further updates on the master layout plan, created 10 years ago. Considerations involving Burling Library, built more than 50 years ago, were reviewed. Blackburn suggested that and some other buildings are in need of a renovation to better meet the needs of current student life.

“A lot has been accomplished at the College over these 10 years in terms of what that master plan
defined, including completion of the [Joe Rosenfield Center and] completion of the science center—but a lot of things weren’t done, and it’s time for the master plan to be updated again,” said Grinnell College Librarian Richard Fyffe. “One of the things that wasn’t done was a new library though there are a number of issues that are included in the current update including classroom and faculty office space for humanities and social studies.”

Blackburn, AIA, LEED AP, has been the lead architect and planner on over 30 higher education and library projects around the nation. Her clients have included colleges such as Colorado College, Occidental College, Amherst College, as well as larger institutions such as Duke, Columbia and Princeton. During her presentation, she discussed architectural trends in institutions over the past 20 years, indicating which projects have been the most successful and why.

“Collaborating the information commons, bringing computing and library spaces together, some social space like a café—this idea of active study space—that essential idea has expanded and changed in many different ways,” Blackburn said. “The library is not always this noisy active media consensus place, but it’s also this place where students have access to all these different resources and support mechanisms but can also do very focused study.”

Blackburn focused on the trend of collaborating different programs and creating multi-purpose spaces in one central location, similar to how the JRC works. However, the aim of the talk was largely geared towards Burling Library and how either a large renovation to the building or a completely new structure would best fit into student life at Grinnell.

“For…libraries like Burling that were designed before the library was the single place you went to get information, they need to have some different kind of purpose, some different reason to go there,” Blackburn said. “I’m talking about teaching that can really benefit from being in a library setting whether it’s because they’re using materials from a special collection or whether it’s because they’re using sophisticated technology and the library’s the place that supports that. Those places that have collaborated in this way have been really successful in terms of adding vitality to the library and making it a central place again.”

However, according to Blackburn, for any such renovation done to Burling or other buildings on campus to work, defining what the library means for Grinnell College and how it fits into campus life must be considered when planning things out.

“We need to look at partnerships on campus, other professionals that are providing academic support for students, technology support for students, and support the faculty as well,” Blackburn said. “The idea of what is common and really…understanding [that is]…is the most important piece, because I think you can throw a lot of functions together and if they are not all really connected in a bigger cohesive plan for how the academic programs are delivered they’re just occupying space next to each other.”

SGA Vice President for Academic Affairs (VPAA) Joanna DeMars ’10, who attended the discussion, agrees with the advice given by Blackburn and believes that collaboration between different programs on campus in the library should be considered in possible renovations.

“I know in conversations with different academic resource centers like the writing lab, the reading lab, ITS and academic advising we’ve had a lot of discussions about their proximity to the library and maybe it is a good idea for someone in the writing lab to have office hours in Burling,” DeMars said. “Blackburn knows what trends there are and what people are talking about, she also knows how well they’ve worked out at other places…it’s good to have her perspective.”

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