Driving past the Kenyon Athletic Center (KAC), you might be able to catch a glimpse of one of the College’s many current construction sites.
This project will soon become a new storage facility for resources from Olin and Chalmers Memorial Library, including the contents of the Greenslade Special Collections and Archives. The modular units will function as the archives’ home during the two years it will take to build a new, permanent space. “It is not ideal to transport things back and forth, but it’s also just a two-year period,” Special Collections Librarian Elizabeth Williams-Clymer said.
Because the books are often old and very fragile, Williams-Clymer recently began gathering boxes to hold them during transportation from the temporary storage space to the makeshift library on central campus. The librarians will further protect the books with tissue and foam. When students request certain materials, a vehicle will bring them from storage to the modular unit that will serve as a workspace for Williams-Clymer and Abigail Miller, College and Digital Collections Archivists. “It will be functional, it will still work,” Miller said. “It will just be a period of adjustment.”
The distance between archival storage and research space during construction also causes a time delay in transporting materials. Miller explained that she and Williams-Clymer simply will not have the staff or infrastructure to accommodate drop-in appointments. This means that students will no longer be able to show up for last-minute research. Instead, students who fill out the form already on the LBIS website can expect to access books and artifacts at the modular unit within 24 to 48 hours. According to Williams-Clymer, this appointment-based system is standard at other institutions, regardless of whether they are under construction.
The modular units located on Peirce Lawn will serve not only as an office for Williams-Clymer and Miller but as a transitory reading room for classes and independent researchers. “I think that’s the biggest thing,” Williams-Clymer said. “We have a space that is right here across Middle Path from where we currently are.” She recalls her feelings of anticipation upon seeing a construction worker walk into the space earlier this week. She and Miller both look forward to seeing the inside of the unit once it is structurally sound enough for them to do so.
Both Williams-Clymer and Miller wanted to clarify that the library, including the Special Collections and Archives, will still offer student employment during the construction. “There will be jobs. We are still functioning with staff,” Williams-Clymer said. “We will be hiring in the fall.”
In fact, some of the student employees will transport materials between the storage and research facilities using what will most likely be a Kenyon-owned minivan without back seats. Gund Gallery will use the space for permanent storage following construction.
When the library is completed, the archives and special collections will have about twice as much room as they currently do, as well as two separate spaces for researching and housing materials. This expansion will offer a much needed solution to the lack of space for students to meet with staff and browse materials when large groups come by. In the meantime, Williams-Clymer and Miller will do what they can to provide the same services to students as they do now.
“The interim is just that,” Williams-Clymer said. “It’s interim. It will be what it will be, and we will get through it.”