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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Opinion-- A list of regrets before I graduate
Sal Wiertella March 1, 2024

Harden Hall to receive two-year renovation

Everything you need to know about the upcoming library renovations and temporary services.
NEW FEATURES — The plan for what the new Harden Hall should look like. Renovation should take about two years, and the library will be updated with many new features. Photo courtesy of NMU Facilites

After a decade of discussions, proposals and attempts to secure funding, Harden Hall is scheduled to undergo significant renovations starting Dec. 16, 2023.  

During the renovations, the Lydia M. Olson Library in Harden Hall will be inaccessible to the campus community and many library services will be offered from Gries Hall, where the old Health Center was located. 

“[Harden Hall] is a little over 50 years old,” said Leslie Warren, interim associate provost and dean of library and instructional support. “If you look around in the building, there are a lot of obvious signs that libraries were expected to be something different when this was built 50 years ago.”

The current lighting is designed for floors packed with printed materials, not the group study spaces and extensive computer work now done in the library. Additionally, there are very few power outlets and, despite many windows having been replaced in the last five years, some of them are still single pane glass and frost in the winter. 

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“We’ve been having these discussions for a long time about where’s the point where we stop [fixing small issues] and renovate,” Warren said. “We needed a major overhaul. Libraries aren’t what we had built this space to be, and so those conversations have been going on for a long time.”

In December 2021, NMU issued fixed rate General Revenue Bonds to fund several facility projects, including the Harden Hall renovations, as well as the WellBeing Center and upcoming science building expansion. 

The current budget for the Harden Hall renovations is around 31 million dollars, which covers the renovation of the library spaces and the addition of a fourth floor that will house the academic departments currently in Gries Hall, such as history, philosophy and economics. 

Student feedback has played a large role in the planning and design process for the new library. The student feedback sessions have taken many forms, including in-person events and online surveys, and were started prior to COVID-19. 

According to the student feedback received by the library staff, increased and more accessible power outlets, better lighting and more consistent climate control are some of the main priorities identified by students. Study spaces, both group and private spaces, have also been identified as an important issue. 

“The study rooms are very popular. We also know that noise management is important,” Warren said. “Unfortunately, [group study rooms and individual study rooms] right next to each other are currently incompatible, because the wall between doesn’t go all the way to the deck above it.”

The renovated library will have study rooms with a solid wall between them that will help improve noise management for those looking for group workspaces as well as individuals searching for a quiet place to study. 

Another major change will be the creation of a Learning Commons on the main floor of the library where all the tutoring areas — the Writing Center, Language Lab, All Campus Tutoring, Math Tutoring and Digital Media Tutoring Center — will be co-located in one main space. Each tutoring center will have their own desk, but the main tutoring area will be open to allow for larger groups and the variability of attendance at each tutoring center. 

“Right now, students have to be very deliberate and committed to finding the Writing Center and the tutoring center,” Warren said. “I don’t want them to have to be deliberate and committed, I want them to stumble upon the Writing Center … I want it to be as convenient for them as possible.”

Additionally, the Archive’s reading room will be moved to the main floor of the library along with the Beaumier Heritage Center’s exhibit gallery. Warren hopes these new locations will make the Archives (which is currently located on the first floor of Harden Hall) and the Beaumier Heritage Center (which is currently located in Gries Hall) more accessible to students, as well as provide a more collaborative space for the two historical divisions.

Photo courtesy of NMU Facilites

While all of these renovations are happening, the first floor of Harden Hall will still be operational. This includes the Archives, Fieras, the Writing Center, the Help Desk, the Center for Teaching and Learning and many classrooms. The current construction plan is cognizant of the ongoing activity on the first floor of Harden Hall, so the most disruptive construction, such as the cutting of concrete, will be done when classes are not in session. 

The main services of the library, such as checking out books, study spaces and virtual reality (VR) will still exist, but within the old Health Center in Gries Hall and in cramped quarters. 

The library’s collection of approximately 250,000 books will be stored in the basement of Quad II and will not be accessible to students. Instead, a request will have to be submitted online for a specific book that will be retrieved by a library staff member and available for pick-up at the Gries Hall location. 

The old Health Center lobby in Gries Hall will be open to students and the former Health Center check-in desk will become the temporary library circulation desk. Study spaces and VR will exist on the floor directly above the Health Center, where the current food pantry is located. 

These study spaces will not have doors since the current doors in Gries Hall are solid metal with no windows and the library staff need to know who is in each study room for safety purposes. To help with noise, the rooms closest to the main hallway will be designated group study rooms and those further back reserved for individual quiet study. 

“We’re trying to provide those balances,” Warren said. “It’s going to be uncomfortable for my staff and for the students. It’s a pain that we have to go through in order to get some good, but we’re going to try to do what we can to ease it as much as possible.”

The library is currently working on a construction update website that will be accessible to the campus community to check on the progress of the renovations and also to provide information about relocated library services. Notices and updates will also be sent out via email and can be viewed on the current library website as the semester comes to a close and the construction begins.

“We are going to be sending out all sorts of notices as we get closer to [moving into] Gries Hall about what to expect,” Warren said. “We will have to close for several weeks during the semester break while we make our move. We will be sending out notices to campus [and] we will be keeping everybody informed.”

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About the Contributor
Katarina Rothhorn, Features Writer
The first message I ever sent from my Northern Michigan University sanctioned email was to the editor-in-chief of the North Wind asking if there was any way I could join the staff. Classes hadn't even started yet but I knew if there was one place I was going to be in college, it was going to be in the news room helping create an archive of campus life. Being a part of the North Wind has shown me a sides of NMU that I would not have known existed otherwise and has given me a platform to raise up the stories of those who are often overlooked. After being a copy editor, features editor and now the editor-in-chief, I feel so grateful to be a part of an excellent staff and have the opportunity to learn, grow, and make mistakes along side a great support system.