UW News

December 6, 2007

Small renovation makes big difference in locker room turned library

UW News

After a recent makeover, the little Drama Library, tucked in the ground floor of Hutchinson Hall, is looking pretty good for an old locker room.

Hutchinson Hall, home of the School of Drama, started life as the UW’s first women’s gymnasium, and later was used for “sections,” or student class registration. The area now used as the Drama Library began as part of the women’s locker room and changing area for the swimming pool next door.

Angela Weaver, head of the Drama Library, oversaw the light remodeling in consultation with Paula Walker, director of space planning and assistant to UW Libraries Dean Betsy Wilson.

Walker said the idea for the makeover came a few years back from Dean Wilson, who decided to try and improve one of the smaller campus libraries every year or so. In recent years the East Asia Library, the Architecture-Urban Planning Library and the Music Library and Listening Center have all been given improvements — but this year was the Drama Library’s turn.

And the work was badly needed. “It was cramped and dark and the paint and plaster were peeling off the ceiling,” Walker said. “And there was no security gate so we had to keep a lot of items behind the circulation desk.”

Weaver, the library head, said, “Because the space was not originally designed to be a library, in the staff area we had all these power and data poles breaking up the space.” There were six, and Weaver had the wiring consolidated so only three such poles were needed.

The area was so worn, said Weaver with a lively laugh, “Our circulation desk had book tape holding on some of the veneer!”

A great deal of improvement was done for fairly little money — about $50,000 from the Allen Endowment was made available for the job. The work was part of Vision 2010, UW Libraries’ strategic plan. “One of the strategic directions is to enhance user services, and we believe that improving facilities is one way of accomplishing that goal,” said Walker of UW Libraries.

The upgrade also included new paint on the walls and ceiling, a new circulation desk and some comfortable new furniture. Weaver also examined student study patterns in the library before deciding to have four individual carrels removed and replaced with two group study tables.

A large number of acting editions of plays also were moved from the staff area to the public area, greatly increasing user access. And some older materials were sent to storage.

With the makeover mostly done and a good deal more room available for public use, Weaver is proud of the change. “I think it works really great,” she said, adding that the two study tables are perfect for students studying large books of costume designs. “Our costume students love it. I’ve noticed, there’s always someone sitting back there, flipping through a book.”

Walker said it hasn’t been decided yet which library will be the next to get a little facelift. Such decisions, she said, are made in consultation with Paul Constantine, associate dean of University Libraries, Research and Instructional Services; Gordon Aamot, head of the Foster Business Library; and Mel DeSart, head of the Engineering Library and acting head of the science libraries.

Users of the Drama Library seem to appreciate the improvements to the book-filled room, too.

“It was always tidy, well organized and thoroughly stocked. Now, it feels even more so — cleaner, and more spacious even though it’s the same space,” said Sarah Marsh, a doctoral student in drama, who also said she likes that reference materials are now out of the “main area of traffic, so I can wallow in The London Stage to my heart’s content and not worry that I am disturbing anyone.”

Marsh added that she also appreciates the new security gate. “I don’t feel like our materials are going to just wander off anymore.”