The Walsh Library, known as a common spot for students to study, research and socialize, is celebrating its 25th birthday this year.
Sarah Ponichtera, Assistant Dean for Special Collections and the gallery, said she finds great interest in the diversity of the library as well as its evolution. It succeeded the former McLaughlin Library.
“Basically, it was to replace McLaughlin Library, the previous library, which was one-third of the size,” Ponichtera said. “McLaughlin was a beloved institution, but it was just smaller, and it didn’t have these flexible spaces that we have now. The archives were there but I’ve seen photographs from exhibits we’ve done back then and it was in a hallway. It was not possible to do anything we do now.”
The proposal of a new library came in 1990 through Chancellor Thomas Peterson. In 1994, Walsh Library officially opened. “It was the vision of Chancellor Peterson,” Ponichtera said. “He really spearheaded it. He believed it should be as he put it, ‘the jewel of the campus;’ it should be the centerpiece where everybody goes that sort of draws people and it’s a place that we can be proud of.”
Sebastian Derry, Assistant Dean of Public Services, shared his desire for more students to be aware of the library’s offerings. “There’s a lot of students we don’t necessarily connect with,” Derry said. “It’s hard to figure out because every incoming class brings a whole new cohort of students with different expectations.
“Knowing that it’s there and taking advantage, that’s the challenge. And students, tuition helps pay for them and get all these resources. The ownness is really on the students to come in and see, come in and explore, see what we’ve got.”
With technology on the rise, Derry and Ponichtera explained how Walsh Library evolves to student needs. As the university obtains access to new tools, Derry said he would like students to be aware of “how to use them, how to work with data, and how to display data” in order to keep up with research methods.”
Ponichtera said smartphones and search engines allow easy research. “It used to be the one place where you would go to answer a question but now you can find that information anywhere you are, on your computer or cell phone,” Ponichtera said. “The draw of the library is not so much finding the information but processing the information with friends, faculty, advisors, librarians, making sense of the information that you do find, evaluating information. That’s a big focus of what we do now.”
Mariella Brillantes, a freshman biology major, shared what she believes to be the importance of the library. “I like how there are different spots where I can study alone and study with friends,” she said, referring to the silent upper floors.
Brillantes said she also does her best to take advantage of the space, as she visits the library once or twice a day.
Derry emphasized the importance of maximizing academic success through the library. “It’s a fact that students, if you spend time in the library and have resources and space you can go to, you’ll get more done,” he said. “If you get into a space that’s conducive for that without the distractions of a dorm, you’ll succeed.”
In 2012, Walsh Library welcomed the arrival of Dunkin’ Donuts on the second floor as well as a 24-hour study space this year. “Those two combined spaces give about 70 seats to work in after-hours,” Derry explained.
In the past 25 years, Walsh Library has established itself as a center for academic and social endeavors. Regarding the next 25 years, Derry and Ponichtera agree that Walsh Library will continue to connect knowledge with anyone who has a desire to learn.
“We’re always evolving,” Derry stated. “The ultimate goal of pushing content and resources out so people can discover them and make it easier for people to discover. That’s what we’ve always done.”
Catherine San can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.