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Widener Reading Room Reopens

After five years, renovations reach final stage

The Loker Reading Room in Widener Library reopened on Saturday after undergoing renovations.
The Loker Reading Room in Widener Library reopened on Saturday after undergoing renovations.

The penultimate stage of Widener Library construction over the past five years was completed this weekend, opening the second floor reading room and reference services.

Before this phase of construction began about a year ago, Widener had one main reading room space. As of Saturday, there are four main reading rooms, the focal point of which is Loker reading room, which formerly housed both study space and reference desks.

“The most important thing about the second floor is that it really illustrates how we reorganized the spaces in the library,” said Beth Brainard, director of communications for Harvard College Library.

“We’ve demoted the Loker reading room to study space. Its been cleared out, and its been replaced with soft seating, so the entire room is a really dedicated as a reading room,” she said. We’ve also taken the old catalogue room and that room has become reference services.”

The old catalogue room will now house the references services with new Hollis terminals and a reference desk with reference librarians.

“We’ve created more room adjacent to reference services for the research services staff,” Brainard said. “That whole staff has been brought together. They are very busy and they do a great deal of work with staff and faculty.”

New furniture for the second floor has been delivered into these new reading rooms giving the space a very polished look.

“It looks good,” said David M. Boyer, a student at the Graduate School of Education. “It has more of that collegiate library feel to it.”

The reference services area, prior to the completion of construction, was temporarily located in the Rotunda. With the reference area finding a new home, the Rotunda, along with the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Room and the Stacks Reading room on the Memorial room level are now closed.

“We’re closing the rotunda and the memorial room, and that will be the last part of the renovations,” Brainard said. “They are turned over for construction on Monday and they will reopen in July.”

Over the next few months additional changes will be made in these two rooms to finish off the Widener project. The collection of rare books has already been moved to Houghton Library, and additional projects—such as refinishing furniture and floors as well as repairing plaster and installing a new security system.

The cases that hold the Harry Elkins Widener collection are being modified so they have the same temperature and humidity as the other stacks in Widener.

“They will be in an atmosphere that will significantly lengthen [the collection’s] life span,” Brainard said.

The large construction fence that had been up at the West Door has also been removed and over the next few months, crews will reinstall the light pole, replant a new tree and regrow grass, all in preparation for June’s commencement activities.

“Its cool to finally see the people sitting on the steps and on the side of the building,” Boyer said.

With much of the construction inside Widener completed, artwork that had been removed for preservation during construction will soon be returned to their original locations.

The George Washington sculpture in the Loker Reading Room, the Henry Ware Wales sculpture in the ground floor and the John Elbridge Hudson sculpture on the landing in between the second and third floors will all be returned during the week of May 10.

“Widener has always been chopped up, now everything will be open,” Brainard said. Most of the hindrances to patrons during past construction will now be open, and with exception of the remaining activities done in the last stage until July, the library will be more open than in past years.

One student noted that the changes had quite an effect.

“It’s unbelievable,” said William B. Tully ’06. “They did a great job with the renovations. It’s been going so fast and now it’s completely updated with new technology.”

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