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Fall 2009 | Gateway to Learning

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Study area
The new Mulva Library is full of quiet, comfortable places for study, reading and reflection, all with wireless connectivity. Laptops and mini-books are available at the circulation desk.

Meet the Mulva
By Lisa Strandberg

Welcoming and wired: the flexible spaces of the Mulva Library illuminate new paths to learning

Enter the Miriam B. and James J. Mulva Library – now and forever the Mulva – before the morning dew has dried outside and you may catch a glimpse of prismatic rainbows dancing on the lobby’s white walls.Visit the central commons on the third floor at noontime and you’ll likely spot shadows of the Norbertines’ trademark fleur-de-lis cast upon the cork floor. Stroll past the library in the evening and you’ll see it lit like a lantern and humming with activity.

Indeed, the character of the new library, bedecked in windows from front to back and top to bottom, changes with the time of day. More than that, though, it changes with the presence of its patrons, morphing to meet their needs for information, collaboration and high-tech learning.That is its design’s intent: to serve its purpose with a grace and hospitality that will alter the way the college community gathers, studies and interacts.

“This is the first building ever on campus whose initial purpose was a library,” said Angela Schneider ’10, a student library employee since her freshman year at the college. “It’s really a gift to St. Norbert to actually have a library that’s supposed to be a library.”

But it goes beyond that, according to Terry Jo Leiterman (Mathematics), one of the Mulva’s earliest users. “For me, the new library faithfully showcases the academic spirit of the college.The space seems to inherently motivate learning and inquiry. I enjoy working there because it’s inviting and the scholastic atmosphere rouses my creativity,” she said.

The Mulva has many features that make such study easier than ever before. Join us for an early floor-by-floor tour of its amenities.

First Floor: the learning commons
The floor-to-rooftop glass of the Mulva’s main entrance – the library “is saturated with light,” said the Rev. Jim Neilson, O.Praem., ’88 (Art) – gives way to a lobby enhanced by skylights and intriguing angles. Besides being beautiful, the space provides an informal social setting, said architect Joe Rizzo, A.L.A., A.I.A., principal with RMJM, the firm that designed the Mulva.

On the library’s ground level, east and west entries beckon passersby into the building; a fully wired presentation room with an interactive whiteboard serves the entire St. Norbert community; Ed’s Cafe offers sustenance between periods of study; and a lounge with wireless access lets students congregate 24 hours a day, five days a week.

“All of those things were meant to be very welcoming, very active, very interactive,” Rizzo said.

“At the Todd Wehr, we really didn’t have a lot of ‘people’ space,” said library director Felice Maciejewski.That can’t be said about the Mulva, with its first-floor learning commons where comfortable, accommodating furniture invites spontaneous conversations and connection.

“Every day it changes. I see a space being used differently, and I think that’s so cool,” Maciejewski said. “It’s very flexible seating. You can pull a chair over and sit down and talk.”

Handles and casters on armchairs and tables throughout the library make it simple to rearrange a space to suit the needs of formal or spontaneous study groups. Meanwhile, natural colors and textures create a synergistic relationship with the lush outdoor setting of campus, encouraging patrons to linger amidst the calming browns and greens.

They’ll find all the technology they need ready to hand – a great treat for those who struggled to find an outlet, Wi-Fi hot spot or computer workstation in the Todd Wehr. “Our wireless in here is flawless,” Schneider said.

“With the Mulva Library, we wanted to be sure that whatever we planned for technology would bring us into the 21st century and carry us forward,” Maciejewski said.

To that end, the library’s computer count has nearly tripled, from 20 desktops and 18 laptops to 60 desktops and 30 laptops. A good number of those computers, including several dual-monitor workstations, reside on the library’s first floor, situated around a spacious information desk designed with patrons in mind.

“They took all the different desks” – circulation, reference and computer help – “and put them all in one so that a student can come to the desk with any question and get their answer, or at least get pointed in the right direction,” Schneider said.

Information literacy and instruction librarian Paul Waelchli added that the new desk layout makes it easier for him and his colleagues to help students succeed. So, too, does the placement of librarians’ offices, adjacent to the desk and behind a clear glass wall.

“All of us now become much more accessible. We’re able to address the needs of students when they have them and maybe even before they have them,” Waelchli said.

Muvla exterior
Second Floor: the stacks – and spaces for study
Just as patrons are more comfortable in the Mulva than in the Todd Wehr, so, too, are the books, said Maciejewski.The second and third floors each house half of the library’s quarter-million volumes, with ample room for growth.

With all those bookshelves on the second level, one might expect a more enclosed environment there. Not so, said Rizzo, “Anywhere you stand in the building, even in the stacks, you look to your left or right and you’re going to see natural light.”

A few factors ensure that. For one, central reading spaces, furnished with living-room seating, within both the second- and third-floor stacks let sunlight shine through from east to west. What’s more, the open, three-story entryway brings light to every level.

Few second-floor spaces are more gloriously lit than the reading room, with its vaulted ceiling and eastern exposure. “It’s that respectful space you see in some of the grand libraries of the world,” Maciejewski said. “It just a beautiful, beautiful room.”

Within it, form and function unite, with outlet boxes set into the expansive tabletops. “This will be a very popular area because of the size of the tables and the openness of it,” Schneider said. Vying for patrons’ attention on the second floor, eight uniquely configured study rooms along the east wall offer space appropriate to any group work. Most have white boards; some have soft seating and monitors to which students can connect their laptops to share information; one even contains equipment that lets patrons record and review presentations – a tool that’s already proven invaluable for the college’s ESL students.

“That kind of environment is a real courtesy to our students,” Neilson said.

Finishing out the second floor are the curriculum and children’s library, a resource for both education students and local teachers; a technology-equipped, flexibly furnished seminar room; a column of individual study carrels along the west wall that’s repeated on the third floor; the impressive Center for Norbertine Studies; and the climate-controlled special collections area and college archives. When not in use for another purpose, all are open to students for study.

“Depending on the mood you’re in, you can find the right space for you,” Waelchli said.

Third Floor: space for instruction and reflection
As in the Todd Wehr, the third floor of the Mulva will likely prove the quietest in the house. Excluding the living room seating in the stacks, the group study areas on this floor all are enclosed. They include “the fishbowl” – a glass-walled room with two computers and seating for eight – as well as a larger room that can accommodate 10.

Separate third-floor reading rooms for active and retired faculty give professors a semi-private retreat. Students, meanwhile, can relax with a new novel or put their feet up by the fire in the library’s reflection lounge, situated above the Center for Norbertine Studies at the top of the Mulva’s signature elliptical window.

Such space apart is balanced by the third floor’s more collaborative facilities. For example, the instructional lab contains 20-plus desktop computers and an interactive whiteboard – “the John Madden stuff,” Maciejewski called it – so that library staff can conduct workshops for students without having to leave the library.

“We finally, as librarians, have a place where we can teach,” Maciejewski said.

“The tables in there and the computers are movable so it can be in linear rows, it can be in pods. It can be sectioned off in different ways,” Waelchli said.

This flexible setting allows for more creative pedagogy and teaching methods to be employed, he added. Often, the sharing of information becomes a collaborative, circular process in which the lines between teacher and student are crossed or erased altogether.

A similarly stimulating environment exists next door in the innovation studio.This space,intended as a training ground for faculty, offers the entire arsenal of technological gadgetry at a St. Norbert professor’s disposal – as well as the assistance necessary to master its use before deploying it in the classroom.

“It takes a while to get used to it, but you can do amazing things in there,” said Wolfgang Grassl (Business Administration).

With faculty well versed in technology as a result of easier access to training, the potential for virtual classrooms will grow. Grassl said, “We have the opportunity of softly, if you wish, to get students enrolled in courses who otherwise would never have been reached.”

Web extra
View a time-lapse video of the Mulva Library construction from start to finish. >>MORE
By the book
And that, after all, is what a library is about – connecting people with information in as many ways as possible. And that’s why the St. Norbert community is so excited about the beautifully lit beacon that is the Mulva.

As Neilson put it, “A library should be sort of illuminating, shouldn’t it? So this is perfect.”

Lined up side by side, the books moved from the Todd Wehr Library to the new Miriam B. and James J. Mulva Library span a whopping 3.6 linear miles, roughly the distance from St. Norbert College to St. Norbert Abbey and back. David Bosco (Library) knows this for certain because, as coordinator of circulation services, he oversaw the measuring of every inch.

How did he and his staff of students do it? With several tape measures. They had three days to complete the task. “It hit us real fast,” Bosco said.

Moving that much knowledge takes careful planning, precise execution and innumerable book carts.

Library staff members looked at the collection – nearly a quarter-million volumes – in several ways, crunched numbers and then crunched them again to quantify sub-collections, estimate growth and determine precisely what would go where in the new library. “Everyone really had to be involved in that and figure out how we were going to do this,” Maciejewski said.

With a plan in hand, staffers drafted dispensation instructions for the entirety of the Todd Wehr. Signs posted in every section identified shelf contents and the exact location in the Mulva to which they should be moved.

Porta-racks – wooden bookshelves on wheels – were systematically filled and and loaded in perfect sequence onto a semitrailer. The semi then drove the few yards to the Mulva, where everything came off the truck in reverse order.

Fortunately, the college had some professional help for the heavy lifting. C. Coakley Relocation Services’ employees swept in for the move June 22 through 26 – naturally, the hottest week of the entire summer. “It was in the 90s every day,” Bosco said.

Nonetheless, Maciejewski said, “It was like a very well-oiled machine, or like an orchestra.”

A few of our favorite things ...

Students using dual monitors
Students and faculty alike are enthusiastic about the dual-cinema LCD monitors that allow for comparison of many materials at a time, or for multi-media editing.

They say you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Fortunately, it seems the new Miriam B. and James J. Mulva Library doesn’t need one. Here, an afternoon’s sampling of student, faculty and alumni reactions to the campus’s latest addition.

Samuel Sleger ’10, at work on one of the Mulva’s first-floor computers, already had concluded that he will use the Mulva much more than he did the Todd Wehr.

“I really like the feel of it with all the comfortable furniture,” he said. “It’s just going to make it a lot more conducive to my kind of study habits … especially late at night with the 24-hour area.”

His favorite feature: the dual-monitor computer workstations. “It allows me the flexibility to flip back and forth in terms of everything I’m working on, very easily,” Sleger said.

Across the room from Sleger, the Rev. Jim Neilson, O.Praem., ’88 (Art) was using one of the dual-monitor PCs to put several books on reserve for his students. He’s delighted that the Mulva offers easier access to information than did the Todd Wehr, especially for a professor like him who has an office nearby.

“I’ll be actually stretching the parameters of my classroom now and coming in here, which I’m thrilled to do,” Neilson said. “It’s basically across the street, so all of a sudden the classroom has gotten very, very big, which is fantastic.”

On the next floor, Danielle Partain ’04 was at another of the library’s approximately 90 computers. Now a student at Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa, she had returned to her parents’ home in northeast Wisconsin to study for her national board exams.

“It’s awesome,” she said within minutes of entering the Mulva for the first time. “I’m impressed.”

What struck her most was the space available throughout the library for collaborative study. “I just remember it was more difficult to do group projects in the old library, so we would always go to the Bemis Center and go in a conference room and work there,” Partain said.

Beyond that, she added, “It’s just really pretty and a great atmosphere.”

Felice Maciejewski
Felice Maciejewski (Library)
Reference desk to the rescue

Life-saving librarians set the course for Mulva director’s career

If her younger self had had her way, the director of the Miriam B. and James J. Mulva Library would be circling the globe as a diplomat. Instead, Felice Maciejewski moves in a world just as big and broad, populated by information and those who need it.

Though no one at the Mulva calls her Ambassador Maciejewski, she has no doubt that the work she does there matters. A formative experience taught her that librarians can, in fact, be flat-out heroic.

With a bachelor’s degree in Italian, with minors in international relations and Spanish, from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Maciejewski went to work in Madison, first at the University of Wisconsin’s Medical Sciences Center, a library serving the school of medicine and public health, and later at the Memorial Library.

“I had this very tedious job behind the reference desk checking in medical journals,” she said – a far cry from roving Europe in a sleek black car topped with an American flag.

Nevertheless, she saw that her colleagues in the reference department did exciting work – none of it more exciting than the search prompted by a call from an emergency room physician.

The doctor was treating a seriously ill child who had ingested minoxidil, at that time a new, topical hair-loss medication sold under the brand name Rogaine. The drug originally had been developed as an oral medication for hypertension and could have fatal effects; thus, the physician desperately needed to find the best course of action to take.

“The reference librarians were all in a tizzy and were looking for this information,” Maciejewski said.

Finding that information was a fairly Herculean task in a pre-digital setting. Back in the day, said Maciejewski, librarians retreated to a small room to develop their search strategy and then set about following it.That’s how her colleagues frantically proceeded that day.

After hours of searching, they had the information the doctor sought and, Maciejewski said, “pretty much saved the life of this child.”

After that, she was hooked. She enrolled in the University of Wisconsin’s master’s program in library science, and the rest is history – if not diplomacy.

Fall/Winter 2009 magazine

Web extrasLook here for web-only content that expands on topics presented in the current St. Norbert College Magazine (PDF).

Photo Gallery SNC Day
A gallery of images from the college's biggest-ever open house.

Video Miss Welnick at 103
The college’s oldest alum looks back on more than a century of memories.

Audio Hildegard of Bingen
A Center for Norbertine Studies symposium cast new light on the life of this influential medieval mystic.

Text Extra Game for learning
Paul Waelchli (Library) teaches information literacy through fantasy football.

Text Extra A legacy to celebrate
Meet three families whose ties to St. Norbert have endured across the generations.

Text Extra Adventures in Manila
Laurie MacDiarmid (English) and her daughter chronicle their semester in the Philippines.

Audio The “Twilight” phenomenon
Stephenie Meyers’ series is attracting scholarly attention from, among others, our own John Pennington (English).

Text Extra Keeping track
Jenny Scherer ’10 has been taking her insider’s view of varsity track and field to a national audience.

Photo Gallery The inside view
Gerry Diaz ’04 reports from his new job: covering the Green Bay Packers for

VideoFrom start to finish
The Mulva Library, now open, takes shape before your eyes in this time-lapse sequence of images.

Story ideas? Your ideas for future magazine stories are most welcome. Write to the editor with any suggestions or comments.

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