Reimagined Olin Library Unveils New Whispers, Research and Study Spaces

By Diane Toroian Keaggy

Olin Library will be unveiling new spaces and resources throughout the semester. (Photo: James Byard: Washington University)


Olin Library at Washington University in St. Louis will unveil two highly anticipated features on Tuesday, Jan. 16 — an improved Whispers Café and new research and study spaces in the Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration. And, for the first time, both the library’s south and north entrances are open, making the library easier to reach. The new spaces are part of Olin Library’s multimillion-dollar transformation, which is expected to be complete in May.

“The Libraries are thrilled to share these new spaces with the Washington University community and beyond,” said Denise Stephens, vice provost and university librarian. “Olin Library is at the center of the Danforth Campus, and this project increases its accessibility to users and helps foster collaboration among library staff, faculty, researchers and students.”

The new Whispers offers more single seating, power outlets and, most importantly, caffeine. New items include Kaldi’s Coffee Haya cold brew and nitro cold brew, which is infused with food-grade nitrogen to give the coffee a slightly effervescent, full-bodied flavor with a foamy head. Served on tap, Nitro cold brew is steeped for 20 hours and has more caffeine than brewed coffee. Whispers also will serve Firepot Nomadic Teas, including loose-leaf teas, and a selection of hand-crafted chais such as sweet matcha chai and chocolate chai. Whispers also will debut new menu items including pastrami with marmalade on rye, panzanella salad, roasted chicken, quinoa and broccoli bowl and java jolt cookies. 

Whispers Café Hours: 7:30 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; 7:30 to 3 p.m. Friday; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; and 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday

“We really wanted to focus on that coffee-shop experience and to be on the cutting edge of coffee,” said April Powell, director of operations for Bon Appétit at Washington University. “It also will remain the place for a quick cup of brewed coffee or a grab-and-go meal. Olin Library really is the Grand Central Station of Washington University, and Whispers is a terrific place to focus and people watch or to stop by on your way to class or a meeting.”

On Tuesday, Jan. 16, visitors also may access two new study spaces in the Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration  — collaborative study space Risa’s Landing (Level 2) and quiet study space in the Sky Room (Level 3). The exterior of the tower, which spans four stories through Whispers Café, features artwork from the Libraries’ Special Collections, including images from University Archives, Rare Books and the D.B. Dowd Modern Graphic History Library.

The library will roll out other spaces and resources throughout the spring. Features include:

Thomas Gallery: The gallery by the main pathway of Level 1 will feature a variety of rotating exhibits from the Libraries’ vast and distinct special collections.

Declaration of Independence: The Libraries’ rare copy of the Declaration of Independence will go on display in May in a climate-controlled chamber in the Thomas Gallery.

Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration:  The Newman Exploration Center is located at the base of the tower on Level A and is designed to celebrate exploration and research. Level 1 will feature a variety of unique exhibitions.

Instruction Rooms 1, 2 and 3: New and improved library instructional spaces on Level A are suited to a variety of teaching and learning styles.

A/V Studio: The studio on Level A supports audio and video recording, photo shoots and e-learning activities.

Research Studio: Located on Level A, the studio has computing stations with specialized software optimized for group and individual work involving large data sets and mapping data.

Data and Visual Exploration(DaVE): In this Level A space, users can facilitate data visualization and exploration in virtual reality and augmented reality environments.

Stephens said the new features will transform Olin into a center for 21st-century scholarship.

“As the semester continues, users will benefit from our expanded instruction program and studios supporting research and collaborative learning,” Stephens said. “Visitors will also have the chance to see unique materials from our special collections programs in the exceptional new exhibition spaces, including our rare copy of the Declaration of Independence.”

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