Transforming Gelman

February 6, 2011

group of people on floor reviewing plans for Gelman Library renovations

Students participate in a forum on how they would like to see the library renovated.

The George Washington University is gathering ideas for the future first-floor renovation of the Estelle and Melvin Gelman Library.

The university hired architecture firm Cox Graae & Spack Architects in December to help determine the scope of the renovation project. GW has also been working closely with library stakeholders, including Student Association President Jason Lifton and the library’s Student Advisory Board.

“We are excited that the planning process for this renovation is moving forward,” said Provost Steven Lerman. "We have worked with the Student Association to involve students in this planning. Once we have a detailed design for the renovation, we'll move ahead with this important project as quickly as possible."

Last week, Mr. Lifton and the library’s student liaison, Jenny Wiley, held a forum to gather ideas from students on how they would like to see the library renovated. About 50 students attended the meeting.

“We want to make this library a better place for students,” Mr. Lifton said. “Everyone…the president, the Board of Trustees…is excited about this right now.”

Gale Etschmaier, associate university librarian, said the university has considered several ideas for the first-floor renovation, including maximizing the available seating, using acoustic features to lessen noise, providing more natural light, incorporating “green” features, providing restrooms and increasing the number of power outlets.

Ms. Etschmaier said more than 5,000 people use the library every day. Therefore, it is essential for students, faculty and staff to be able to access all of the library’s services during the renovation, she said.

“We will need to plan the renovation thoughtfully and continue to maintain all the services,” she said.

Because the library does not have a fee structure that provides income over time, the university must pay for the renovations up front, rather than borrow money and pay it back over time.

During the forum, students suggested things like more individual study space, a second entrance to Starbucks, wireless printing and additional seating and meeting space.

Jonathan Chung, an architect working on the project, provided a large mock-up of the first floor and allowed students to move around elements of the renovation when talking about what they’d like to see improved.

“Right now, it’s set up to be a relaxing work space environment, but if you think it needs to be devoted to more individual study space, that’s another option too,” he said.