Renovated library opens at Modesto Junior College

01/30/2014 7:53 PM

01/31/2014 8:00 AM

The Modesto Junior College East Campus library has started a fresh chapter with a remake of its genteel 1935 front section and the utilitarian 1961 expansion.

With a ribbon-cutting Thursday, the building took its place on the “done” list of Measure E projects. The $9 million renovation gave it a facelift, as well as functional changes. But the 1930s oak paneling inside remains, along with the heavily outlined windows of the period exterior.

Waist-high bookshelves with lots of empty space replaced the high stacks packed with 75,000 volumes before the makeover. The light-filled rooms were designed to offer better visibility and a more inviting atmosphere.

“This the new philosophy of libraries. Now they’re sort of open gathering areas,” said Jillian Daly, dean of the Literature and Language Arts and Library and Learning Resources divisions.

Many of the library’s books went to the West Campus library, and an extensive culling of outdated works further trimmed the paper offering while it lived in the Morris Building basement during more than a year of construction. “That and budget cuts meant we weren’t adding to the collections while we were in swing space,” Daly said.

Staff moved into the newly refurbished building three weeks ago and started shopping. New materials should start arriving in March, she said – those airy, shorter shelves will be filling. Daly also pointed out that there are far more shelf units. “It may look like less, but it may not be as less at it looks,” she said.

The library’s 36,873-square-foot footprint is unchanged, but with upgraded Internet connectivity and fire safety. Wheelchair and walker users will find the library easier to navigate. The new facility was designed for 800 seats, up from 328 in the book-dominated older version.

Group study rooms and a tutoring space on the south side of the building shifted the library’s shush-shush space northward. Quiet reading areas still offer a break from communal chatter, with study carrels and countertop studying space for students with laptops. Magazines fill cantilevered shelves in a reading room full of upholstered armchairs and the sound of crinkling pages turning.

Banks of computers fill a large open area. Online access was a key component of the vision behind the newly dubbed Learning Resource Center. Those portals serve distance learning and online classwork, as well as individual research and reading.

“We are moving to more and more reference materials online,” Daly said, calling the remade library “a one-stop shop” for student learning resources.

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