The Library of the Future

July 09, 2018

In today’s global society, collaboration is key – in the workforce, in communities, and in schools. As the University of Mount Union prepares students for success in this ever-changing world, the institution must help them hone their abilities to lead ably, communicate effectively, and think critically. Thus, Mount Union must provide students with spaces on campus that foster interaction and teamwork, while leveraging innovation and technology to do so.

In order to meet these needs, the University is working to create a library for the future; a library that incorporates today’s technology to support student research, learning, and collaboration. The challenge lies in transforming the current library facilities to meet today’s and future needs. Built in phases in the 1950s, 1980s, and in 2000, the Kolenbrander-Harter Information Center (KHIC) incorporates six decades of evolving and sometimes competing assumptions about the purpose of a library.


Parts of the KHIC reflect the view that a library is a warehouse for books and should provide quiet spaces for solitary study. Other parts of the KHIC reflect the fact that most library resources are available in digital form and that searching databases, accessing digitized documents, and creating visual displays of information ­— often as part of a group project — is what students do in libraries today. 

The University is tackling the transformation of the KHIC in phases. A 2014 renovation to a section of the KHIC changed an outdated area into an innovative learning commons and café. Creation of the learning commons, frequented by students seeking a bite to eat, meeting for a group project, or looking for an assist from the IT Helpdesk, was the institution’s first step toward building a library of the future. The learning commons is a busy place, particularly in late afternoon and evening. 

Students in DWOC

This summer, the University is renovating the third floor of the KHIC to provide new, quiet spaces for group projects and individual study. Conversion of book stacks from conventional to compact shelving will clear the way for this student-requested area. It will include five group study rooms, individual study pods, and soft seating. 

In addition, the facility’s mezzanine level will be revamped into a new home for the Department of Mathematics, complete with eight faculty offices, three group study spaces, and a classroom. A new Math Center, providing one-on-one and group tutoring services, will also operate in this space. Creation of the Math Center, which is adjacent to the Digital, Written, and Oral Communication (DWOC) Studio, will be the next step forward in providing a centralized location for services to support student academic success.

Communication-related fields remain popular majors at Mount Union, and a newly redesigned integrated media major prepares students for the modern media landscape they will enter upon graduation. The integrated media program, along with the others within the Department of Communication, provides graduates with the critical thinking and technical skills necessary for researching, writing, producing, directing, and marketing digital content.

Creation of new facilities for media production are essential for the continued evolution of communication education at Mount Union. Although the KHIC currently houses faculty offices and classrooms used by the Department of Communication, student media (WRMU, print, and video) are located elsewhere on campus. Plans call for locating student media and the Department of Communication in the KHIC.The University is also developing a digital media studio in which students and faculty can work collaboratively and creatively with technologies and software relevant to modern, converged media industries. 

Learning Commons

The KHIC renovation project will support communication of another kind as well – the enhanced cultural communication that comes via the Department of World Languages and Cultures. Students studying Chinese, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish will benefit from improved classroom and language lab facilities. 

Plans are in place for creation in the KHIC of an expanded academic success center, combining the Math Center and DWOC Studio with newly renovated spaces that will support tutoring in other fields, academic advising, student testing and evaluation, and other key academic support services. An innovation space, with “making” tools like 3D printers, is also planned. 

Timing for launch and completion of the third phase is dependent upon fund raising success. When the dust settles in a few years, the KHIC will have become the true “academic hub” of the Mount Union campus, a complement to the social hub in the Hoover-Price Campus Center and a wellness and fitness hub in the McPherson Academic and Athletic Complex.

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