If a student were to walk into the John Clayton Fant Memorial Library right now, the first thing he or she might pay attention to is the sound of power tools as construction workers work on the interior of the building.
The current location of the library has been on the campus of Mississippi University for Women for 45 years. Built in 1969, the building has never been updated, until now.
Plans to renovate the library go back over a decade. A year after the 2002 tornado that caused severe damage to many of the facilities on campus, a master plan was put in place in order to preserve and update many of the buildings.
Nora Miller, senior vice president for administration and chief financial officer at MUW, states that it took several legislative sessions before the funding was in place to begin the project of renovating Fant library.
The library has been in the process of reconstruction and remodeling for nearly a year and a half, and the renovation process has only just begun. Anthony Bluitt said that there are four phases in the renovation process. He said that the first phase focused primarily on the exterior of the library. During this phase a new edition of the building was added and the façade of the old structure was given a complete makeover.
The building is currently in the middle of phase two, with work taking place on the east side of the main building. It will soon shift to the west side of the interior.
Gale Gunter, dean of libraries, has worked in the library for 40 years. She is excited about the changes that are happening, especially the new office area that the construction workers have been working to complete.
By Oct. 21, Gunter and her staff will all be settled into their new office areas on the east corner of the building.
But what Gunter is most excited about is the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) which will be one of the focal points of phase three.
MUW will be the first university in Mississippi to have a system of this kind, and Gunter believes it is the first one in the entire southeastern United States.
The ASRS is an automatic system with aisles of storage capacity that functions robotically. Books will be placed in plastic containers and will be retrieved automatically. When a student wants to checks out a book through the card catalogue, the machine will start to move toward the shelving where the container with the desired book is located. The system will then transport it to the desired location where a worker will retrieve the book and give it to the student to check out.
“It’s kind of science-fictiony and pretty cool, I’m really excited,” said Gunter gleefully.
Other features include a coffee shop and new interior furniture that will be included in phase four of the renovation process. The library will also include a fireplace both on the upstairs and downstairs floors, a computer lab that students will have 24-hour access to, smart rooms, and group study rooms, which is something Gunter said the old building was lacking.
“You know the nursing students and the art students need a place to get together and work on projects. And they need a room where they’re not bothering other students,” said Gunter.
At the moment there is no set time frame on when the project for the entire library will be completed, but Gunter believes that the building should be finished in roughly two more years.
According to Miller, there will be an estimated $19 million spent in renovating the building. What she is looking forward to the most is enjoying the fruits of this decade-long labor. She can’t wait to see the ASRS in action and sit down in the coffee shop with a nice cup of coffee and a book to read.