The Mary Norton Clapp Academic Commons is undergoing renovations that include new floors, fresh coats of paint, new study spaces and a new system of signage to help students navigate the library.
In addition to the carpet removal and new wall paint on the second (entry-level) floor, the Writing Center and Peer Subject Advising Center — located on the ground floor — received a new workspace for writing tutors and peer subject advisers. The Peer Subject Advising Center now operates adjacent to the Critical Making Studio, with a dedicated help desk to display which tutors are available at which hours.
Brian Chambers, user experience specialist, said that the aim of the renovations is to change the way students communicate with the library space, paying particular attention to the glass vestibule in the entryway of the second floor.
“We want it to be welcoming and inviting, but we also want to make the walk-in area intentional,” Chambers said.
Chambers said that he has observed the second floor’s role as a space where students meet and spend time before finding an appropriate workspace. The second floor renovations are aimed towards creating a space for congregation. According to Chambers, the addition of tables, chairs and an improved signage system is meant to guide students to the circulation desk and various sections of the library.
According to Daniel Chamberlain, director of the Center for Digital Learning and Research, renovations have been ongoing since the start of the semester. The installation of a new floor on the second level, which constituted the bulk of the work, is already completed. A new bookcase displaying Occidental and community authors will be erected in the place of the old bookshelf adjacent to the staircase.
“There’s a lot of wear and tear on the carpet and it’s been a while since we’ve done aesthetic renovations,” Chamberlain said. “We’d like to streamline the visual environment so it has more of a modern feel.”
The library has not seen major changes to its aesthetic structure since the 1970s. The older wing, home to the Ahmanson Reading Room, is as old as the campus. Aside from an expansion in the 1950s, it has seen no major changes.
“We tend to think of it as the ‘historic’ and the ‘new wing.’ Even the ‘new’ wing of the library is forty-something years old,” Chamberlain said.
According to Chamberlain, the administration obtained funding for the renovations through the College’s Maintenance, Repair and Renovations Fund — the same fund used for fixing classrooms, repairing residence halls and maintaining building facades. Chamberlain said that this fund is part of the college’s yearly operating budget. Projects like the library’s renovations go through extensive review processes before approval, according to Chamberlain.
Robin Pounders (junior), a circulation desk worker, said that she spends many hours in the library and is happy with the modernization plans.
“I love the look of the older section of the library. The wood paneling is nice and the furniture is classy,” Pounders said. “The rest of the library is very ’70s in its style, considering the carpet and the colors, so I think changing up the look of it will make it seem more inviting.”
According to Cléo Charpantier (junior), a philosophy peer subject adviser, the Writing Center’s glass expansion has impacted the Peer Subject Advising Center’s space. Charpantier said that the addition of dedicated desks is a first step toward curating an area for peer tutoring. According to Charpantier, further changes, including the removal of computers to create more working space, are intended to produce a shared working area for both centers. Charpantier said she is optimistic about future changes and hopes that there will continue to be open communication between staff and students to meet the needs of the space.
“It’s gotten quite crowded [on Tuesdays] and our bosses are trying to add more tables so we have more room for subject advising,” Charpantier said. “I think what we have so far is a good change, but it’s not a finished change.”