Inside GVSU's $65M Mary Idema Pew Library's unbelievably cool 21st Century learning spaces

A four-story glass wall creates an intriguing attraction from the outside, but it's what's inside Grand Valley State University's new $65 million Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons that makes it unbelievably cool. The library opened to students on June 24.

A soaring atrium space dotted with inviting easy chairs in orange and mustard colors creates a common gathering space abundant with daylight and expansive views of the campus. Balconies on the upper floors overlook the atrium, giving students plenty of open, yet cozy, places to plug in, boot up, and lay down some learning.

The library replaces the outdated Zumberge Library, built in the 1960s for 5,000 students -- GVSU now has over 25,000. But the Mary Idema Pew Library is not your grandmother's no-talking-allowed library with its iconic matronly librarian. This library is the epitome of student-centered design for how students learn today and in the future, whether in energy-filled collaborative teams that depend on technology, or in sole endeavors that require silence.

"There's a tension between students needing to being alone, yet wanting to be together," says Dean of University Libraries Lee Van Orsdel. "The architects did a superb job of marrying the two, and the students are absolutely mesmerized."

Some highlights of the building, which is vying for the highest level of LEED certification, include:
•    A Knowledge Market, the only one of its kind anywhere, which provides students with trained peer consultants for tutoring on research, technology, writing, and presentation development.
•    Third, fourth, and fifth levels are half quiet-study area, half collaboration area with modular furniture and computer areas that accommodate groups around one monitor.
•    Quiet study "cubbies": upholstered daybed-style couches inset into the wall with dedicated lighting and power outlets where students can "hole up" to study in comfort in front of Michigan's longest indoor gel-burning fireplace.
•    Five outdoor study and/or patio areas, including a rooftop terrace on the fifth floor with a LiveRoof plant installation, and an upper level patio completely surrounded by the building -- glass walls allow the sun, rain, or snow to appear as if it's inside the building.
•    Print-on-demand services that allow students to send documents from anywhere on campus, then print them at any printer on campus. When they arrive at the printer location, they scan their student ID and their documents prints. No queue required.
•    Individual collaboration environments with full technology and white boards that can be reserved two weeks in advance from anywhere on campus.
•    A special website enables students to see which reserve-able rooms and computers are occupied at any time so they can plan group study locations.
•    50 percent reduction in energy consumption compared to traditional libraries of similar size.
•    150,000 books on open shelves.
•    A three-story-high automated book retrieval system with 600,000 books. Students can order books 24/7 through a website, then pick them up at the library or have them delivered to designated pickup locations throughout the campus.
•    A multipurpose room that seats 88 at tables.
•    A 100-person café featuring Chicago-based Argo Tea.

Architects: SHW Group
Construction: Pioneer Construction
Civil engineers: FTC&H

Source: Grand Valley State University site tour
Writer: Deborah Johnson Wood, Development News Editor

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Not your grandparents' library; thousands get exciting peek at $65M GVSU Mary Idema Pew Library
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