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Students explore new library for first time

January 16, 2014 : By Drew Menard/Liberty University News Service

Liberty students using the media wall at the Jerry Falwell Library.

A 24-by-11-foot media wall, equipped with Microsoft Kinect movement recognition technology, is a favorite attraction of Liberty University students at the new Jerry Falwell Library.

Liberty University students poured into the new Jerry Falwell Library on Wednesday, their first chance to explore the $50 million, 170,000-square-foot structure that will greatly enhance learning, research, and study opportunities. The doors officially opened at 1 p.m., a few hours after they watched a live broadcast of the grand opening streamed during Convocation in the Vines Center nearby.

“It was really cool to walk in with a huge crowd of people when the doors opened and to see everyone’s faces … to see everyone’s jaws drop,” senior Bekah Davis said. “It was really awesome because it is making history. To be here on the first day and to be one of the first people to walk in is a really cool opportunity.”

President Jerry Falwell, Jr. said he has received hundreds of emails from students expressing their excitement and appreciation for the new library. He said countless more are taking to social media, bragging about its innovative features.

“In every discipline the library will provide the resources the professors need to really go beyond the classroom and give students the tools that they need,” he said. “A big part of this building is creating the right atmosphere in different areas for different types of studies. It’s a new version of what libraries have become. They’ve done a good job of incorporating and addressing the changes in technology and still providing the traditional books.”

Whether students took advantage of numerous tours throughout the day, or simply surveyed the space on their own, there was plenty to see in the four-story library, which is the cornerstone of Liberty’s $500 million campus rebuilding and the university’s largest investment in any one structure to date.

From its Tinney Café — which includes Starbucks, Pizza Hut Express, sushi, and a French bistro — to a four-story book tower, the library is designed to accommodate all learning styles. It has study zones for peer collaboration and for quiet reflection and over 30 group study rooms with fully writable walls.

Library Dean Marcy Pride, who has nearly 20 years of professional experience in library work, said the most amazing part of the day was seeing students enter for the first time. “I have never seen students so excited about a new library and so looking forward to coming to the library,” she said.

Liberty students hang out and study in the new Jerry Falwell Library.
Liberty students hang out and study in the new Jerry Falwell Library.

The library also features an Active Learning Classroom that allows students and professors collaborate digitally using multiple shared screens throughout the room, allowing students and faculty to interact and learn in new and innovative ways. Research librarians will also use this classroom to host a number of interactive research workshops for students and faculty to help them utilize library resources more effectively and efficiently.

“We’re looking forward to the part that we can play in providing those kinds of environments and experiences for our students,” Pride said. “A library is not only about information. Information is a good thing, but a library is also about imagination and inspiration and even, for some, transformation.”

Students also tested out the touchscreen Perceptive Pixel tables and the 24-by-11-foot media wall equipped with Microsoft Kinect movement recognition technology.

“This is one of the most exciting days I have had here at Liberty,” said graduate student Amy Van Beek. “The energy is extremely charged and everyone is loving walking around and seeing everything. It’s fun to watch students (explore) the new technologies that a lot of other universities do not have.”

She said one of her favorite features of the library is the robotic book retrieval system, which has a capacity for 420,000 items.

“It's going to be a lot more convenient and a lot more user-friendly for us.” Van Beek said.

Inspired by Jeffersonian architecture and incorporating modern elements, the library is as innovative in design as it is in technology. With more than 80,000 square feet of interior and exterior glass, the building allows for an abundance of natural light as well as breathtaking views. Students have plenty of opportunities to take in the scenery from a floating staircase, terraces, or one of the lakeside balconies.

On Wednesday night, in the library’s terrace conference room, nearly 60 students and guests attended a special architectural design lecture by representatives from VMDO, the firm from Charlottesville, Va., that designed the library.

More than 100,000 hours were put into the design of the project, and Jim Kovach, VMDO designer, said the building is a reflection of Liberty’s commitment to ensure its facilities are second-to-none.

“When we started to work here we heard that Liberty doesn't do anything small, and you guys proved it.”