Ames Library Reveals New Space

By James Stein Sep 3, 2021
A student studies in the new “nook” located in the back of the first floor of Ames Library. Photo: Ames Library
A student studies in the new “nook” located in the back of the first floor of Ames Library. Photo: Ames Library

As Titans returned to campus this semester, the staff of Ames Library waited anxiously to unveil what they’d been working hard on all summer: the new CEL, or Center for Engaged Learning space. The CEL is now located past the library services desk, and across from the Writing Center and was officially opened for use on August 23. 


This new addition to Ames is an alternative space for students, tutors, and faculty to utilize as a place to work and interact. The first-floor space of Ames is now host to smooth, leather couches and chairs that look like something out of Star Trek. The new space also includes multiple technological overhauls like large, wall-mounted monitors to screencast your work. The furniture was selected with comfort, accessibility, and customization in mind with moveable furniture and different seating styles available. 


“The furniture is comfortable but doesn’t make you want to fall asleep,” IWU’s University Librarian, Stephanie Davis-Kahl, said. 


This engaged comfort is what the CEL is all about with its easy-on-the-eyes color scheme and plenty of natural lighting. The CEL also has large digital monitors, moveable whiteboards, and a serious amount of electrical outlets for charging devices. 


“The inspiration behind including all these power outlets was being at the airport and looking everywhere for somewhere to charge,” Davis-Kahl said. 

The new furniture prioritizes students’ needs when it comes to studying. Outlets can be found in the seating options, whereas students used to be limited by their need to charge because outlets could only be found at the tables that used to occupy the space.
Photo: Ames Library

There is also a new, semi-private seating option called “the nook” which has reportedly been a hit with students. Despite this being the only project involving Ames Library for the time being, there is still much excitement from both students and faculty. 


Even with all of these new features, the history of the Ames Library and the legacy of the Ames family is still very much celebrated. A display case has been placed in the Center for Engaged Learning that commemorates the contributions of the Ames family and other donors. 


The CEL is more than just a fresh coat of paint and new furniture, however, it is an extension of the Writing Center and a fresh bit of scenery for students. One can tell from the space that those who designed it wanted to put emphasis on the student and how students would utilize the space. Student artwork can be found on display, there are ample amounts of communal and private seating, and students can move furniture as they see fit. 


The main floor was not the only space given a new life, and the Illinois Wesleyan Writing Center + Tutoring Services room is basically unrecognizable. Director Anna Scanlon said that it was really important for students and tutors to be able to meet in a way that worked for them. 


The previous space, known as a cozy room with couches and crowded with several tables, made it hard for appointments to take place at the same time. The wall is now lined with booth-style seating, and tables are spaced out on the other side of the room so that everyone coming in can focus on their appointment without distraction. Mobile whiteboards have also been added to the space. 


“We got a lot of feedback from tutors and students and the thing that came up most frequently was whiteboards. So we got as many of those as we could,” Scanlon said.  

The seating in the new Writing Center space is reminiscent of cafe-style seating, which makes it easier for multiple people to cohabitate at the same time.
Photo: Ames Library

Scanlon also said that reactions have been positive as students have trickled into the library in the last week. Tutors who are physically tutoring students this semester, as opposed to the online option, have also praised the new space. 


“I have had multiple students I’ve never met pop into my office to tell me how much they love it, and we don’t even have all the furniture yet. I think after something like COVID, which has caused havoc and chaos and a continual need to adapt, seeing a positive change like this one just creates a good vibe,” Scanlon said. 


Davis-Kahl made it clear that students were the library’s priority in the design process. 

“Libraries are evolving to provide space for students. Different kinds of spaces for different kinds of students,” Davis-Kahl said. 


Scanlon shared Davis-Kahl’s feelings about the importance of the library as a central space on campus. 


“The library plays a vital part on this campus. It was important to honor that and celebrate that connection,” Scanlon said. 


The project was designed with the students of IWU in mind, but unfortunately, students will notice that seating at the CEL may be impeded by the current pandemic. Library staff have taken on COVID regulations in stride, and have made sure there is still plenty of room for students even under social distancing guidelines. The library staff also hope that after IWU gets through this phase of the pandemic, students will recognize the CEL as a space for them to make their own and see it as a welcoming, modern workspace.

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