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University Libraries Complete Olin Transformation Project

With the completion of the Olin Transformation Project, John M. Olin Library has greater accessibility, new study spaces, more areas for collaboration and instruction, and expanded exhibition spaces to highlight the University Libraries’ unique collections.

The Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration in John M. Olin Library.
James Byard/Washington University

The renovation that kicked off in May 2016 has added about 20,000 square feet to the library building. As part of the project, two additional entrances were created—one on the north side of building, and one on the east side through the library’s cafe, Whispers—that emphasize the library’s role as a hub to the Washington University community.

“This transformation is going to benefit students, faculty, and staff for generations to come,” said Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton at the John M. Olin Library Transformation Dedication on May 1 in Washington University’s Graham Chapel. “This is a time of great excitement and transition.”

The multimillion-dollar project responds to users’ needs for more quiet study areas, more group study spaces, and better access to technology and collections.

“In so many ways Olin Library is helping to advance one of the most important responsibilities of the university: preserving and building upon the intellectual and creative legacies of the scholars who have come before us,” said Denise Stephens, vice provost and university librarian, at the dedication ceremony. “At the same time Olin Library is enabling our users to expand on the horizons of knowledge in new and innovative ways.”

New Features

The Jack E. and Debbie T. Thomas Gallery in John M. Olin Library.
James Byard/Washington University

The Jack E. and Debbie T. Thomas Gallery: A state-of-the-art exhibit space located along the Level 1 pathway, the Thomas Gallery showcases the Libraries’ unique special collections, as well as loaned and traveling exhibits. The gallery’s current exhibit, “Lasting Legacies,” pays tribute to seven influential Washington University alumni, including Tennessee Williams, Mary Wickes, and Henry Hampton, and will be on display until fall 2018.

The exterior of the Declaration of Independence exhibition chamber.
The Declaration of Independence exhibition chamber in John M. Olin Library.

The Declaration of Independence: Located next to the Thomas Gallery, the exhibition features a rare broadside copy of the Declaration printed by Solomon Southwick in Newport, Rhode Island, and dated July 12, 1776. Only seven copies of the Southwick broadside exist. The Newman family acquired it and displayed it in their family home for more than 60 years before generously donating it to University Libraries in 2015. The Declaration will be on permanent display, although it will be removed periodically for conservation purposes.

The Newman Exploration Center at the base of the glass staircase in the John M. Olin Library.
The Newman Exploration Center on Level A of John M. Olin Library. James Byard/Washington University

The Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration: The tower spans four stories of the library and is home to a new study and exhibit spaces. Its exterior features several images of materials from University Libraries’ Julian Edison Department of Special Collections. The Newman Exploration Center is a special study space on Level A of the tower and is filled with vivid, exploration-themed decorations, pictures, and displays that tell the stories of explorers past and present—including Washington University students and alums. The dynamic space showcases the university’s broad and varied international activities and provides information related to international and national study, research, and travel.

Library Staff assist a student using Research Studio tools on Level A of Olin Library.
The Research Studio on Level A of John M. Olin Library. James Byard/Washington University

Research Studio, A/V Studio: Level A now houses a variety of new flexible, technology-rich spaces for consultation, collaboration, data visualization, and audio and video creation. University Libraries’ Data Services unit has been centralized on Level A and oversees the new Research Studio, a hub for collaborative learning equipped with computing stations that have specialized software for group and individual work involving large data sets and mapping data. In the Data and Visual Exploration (DaVE) room, located in the Data Services suite, users can experience data visualization and exploration in virtual reality and augmented reality environments. The A/V Studio, an innovative, technology-enhanced space on Level A, will provide tools such as video cameras, microphones, a green screen, lighting kits, and a podcasting kit.

Students using the Instruction Room, a space with ten computer terminals on desks set in an auditorium style.
Level A includes new and updated instructional rooms. James Byard/Washington University

Instruction Rooms: Three new and improved instructional rooms on Level A offer enhanced opportunities for partnership and consultation among librarians, faculty, students, and staff. The rooms support a variety of teaching and learning styles, from active to lecture. Created for library instruction, each room contains collaborative technology, allowing users to share their screens with the entire class.

Risa’s Landing on Level 2 of the Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration in John M. Olin Library. James Byard/Washington University

Risa’s Landing: Located on Level 2 of the Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration, Risa’s Landing is a collaborative study area with an open balcony that offers views of surrounding study spaces and Whispers Café on Level 1. The ceiling of this unique space features a NASA image of the Milky Way. The tables in Risa’s Landing display images of recreated desktops of prominent individuals with ties to Washington University, including Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton and his wife, Risa Zwerling, for whom the space is named.

The Sky Room on Level 3 of the Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration in John M. Olin Library. James Byard/Washington University

The Sky Room: A quiet study space with tables and lounge seating on Level 3 of the Newman Tower of Collections and Exploration, the Sky Room offers views of the sky both day and night through Olin’s lantern windows. It also features a color mosaic “selfie” of the Curiosity Mars rover taken in 2015 while the vehicle was perched on a hill. Ray Arvidson, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor at Washington University and the deputy principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers, selected the image.

The Planning Team

Libraries’ Project Manager: Sarah Laaker
WUSTL Facilities Project Managers: Brian Newman and Neal Schaeffer
Architect: Ann Beha Architects (Boston, MA)
Associate Architect: V Three Studios LLC (St. Louis, MO)
Construction: Alberici
Exhibits Designer: C&G Partners

The Olin Transformation project was made possible by the support of Adele Dilschneider; Hope and the late Julian Edison; Ken and Nancy Kranzberg; the late Eric and the late Evelyn Newman; University Trustee Andy Newman and his wife, Peggy; University Trustee Jack Thomas and his wife, Debbie; and the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society (EPNNES).