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Keeping Knowledge in Circulation

Falvey Memorial Library innovatively integrates academic life

Falvey Reading Room

Standing at the crossroads of campus, Falvey Memorial Library represents the academic heart of Villanova—a heart that grows more robust with age. For years, library staff and University leaders have pooled their wisdom and expertise to develop a plan that would make Falvey a center that pulses with learning, discussion, innovation, research and scholarship.

Today, that transformation is underway. Funded by For the Greater Great®: The Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change, Falvey is shaping up to be one of the most popular, versatile and collaborative academic spaces on campus.

An open invitation

Falvey seeks to be a place where minds meet and engage. Recent initiatives and renovations have reinforced this inclusiveness. “The library is an institutional anchor. It’s the ‘third space’ between classrooms and residence halls where campus life comes together,” says Outreach Librarian and Programming Team Leader Darren Poley, who served as interim director for a year. (Robert DeVos, PhD, associate vice president for Instructional Analysis, and professor, Mathematics and Statistics, succeeded him in July 2014.)

One gathering spot is the Learning Commons, the outcome of the 2013 renovation of the second floor. Large rooms divided by glass walls offer a centralized location for Falvey Research Center, Learning Support Services, the Math Learning Resource Center and the Writing Center. The space’s open layout and mobile desks support a community atmosphere and encourage collaboration.

The library’s programs echo the drive to engage the community in the intellectual life. Poley and his team have developed platforms for more formal opportunities, including displays and hundreds of annual intellectual, cultural and social events. The library’s robust website, which attracts more than two million visits each year, allows users to have live chats with a librarian, track events, search a catalog that uses software developed by Falvey staff and adopted internationally, and browse Falvey’s elec­tronic information.

Igniting innovation

As Villanova enhances its national profile, Falvey will be a central resource for scholarly research and new ideas. “It’s like a nontraditional laboratory,” Poley says. “People experiment with concepts and make discoveries while interacting with and learning from each other.”

Innovations support faculty and student research. Professional staff have been reorganized so that each student has a dedicated librarian with whom to consult, and each librarian specializes in a different subject. The library’s digital initiatives speed up knowledge sharing and provide open access to scholars worldwide. Such innovations led Falvey to be named a 2013 recipient of the Excellence in Academic Libraries Award by the Association of College and Research Libraries.

Under construction in Falvey’s basement is the Villanova Idea Accelerator, a hub sponsored by the Center for Innovation, Creativity and Entrepreneurship that will invite students, faculty and alumni to share ideas and expertise. Accounting majors can learn about creative processes in Theatre, while Astronomy majors can learn about product innovations in engineering.

Past and future made present

Amid the changes, the books endure. Worn volumes are steps away from flat-screen displays. Marble columns mingle with glass walls. These juxtapositions reflect the blend of history and vision.

Renovation plans for the basement include a place for special collections, which contain 15,000 rare or unique items that require special handling. The new location offers a more suitable climate for preserving the manuscripts but will have a modern twist: The team is digitizing collections to give more scholars access to these resources.

Perhaps the best marriage of old and new will be in the Reading Room, a 24-hour study space in Old Falvey slated for renovation. The room is home to a 17th-century Pietro da Cortona painting, which itself is being revitalized. The Reading Room still has the bones of its former glory—soaring windows, vaulted ceilings—and upgrades will enhance these features.

Having raised half of the funding needed for the Reading Room renova­tions, the University likely will begin construction within the next year. “With the library, we can do the renovations in phases,” said Patricia McGoldrick, executive director of Leadership Giving and Professional Development for Uni­versity Advancement. “We don’t have to wait for the entire building to be funded before we begin.”

If the library reaches its $10 million campaign goal, the crowning project will be the construction of an atrium to link Old Falvey Wing with Falvey Memorial Library, which have been attached but relatively separate structures since the new building was completed in 1968. The atrium will be a grand, unifying feature, deserving of the people and ideas that will move through its space.

Note: Article from Villanova Magazine