Students and faculty will soon be poring through stacks of books, examining paintings from West Virginia artists and simply enjoying the atmosphere of a refurbished Charles C. Wise Jr. Library.
The 70-year-old library closed for an extensive renovation project in January, as the new Downtown Campus Library opened its doors to welcome patrons. The result will be a library that is more conducive to studying and integrates new technology, yet maintains the historical character of the building.
“Preparing the Wise Library building for reopening, for me, is an exciting process because it is very different from construction of the Downtown Campus Library,”said Ruth Nellis, library construction coordinator.”I believe the users will really enjoy seeing how the public spaces have been transformed. A lot of work is going into matching the existing details of the building. The historic integrity is being preserved.”
Pending approval from the state fire marshal, students and faculty could pass through the atrium of the Downtown Campus Library into the restored Wise Library as early as their return from Thanksgiving break.
Greeting them will be a lobby fitting the original architects grand vision for the space in 1931. Workers preserved the set of majestic green marble steps that flank the lobby and lead to the two reading rooms. Above, multiple colors of paint bring out the intricate details in molding on the ceiling. The skylight in the atrium allows indirect sunlight to illuminate the room.
Significant renovations also were made to spaces that served as homes for reference, government documents, periodicals, the Rare Book Room and the Appalachian Collection.
The former reference room will become the James V. and Ann Pozega Milano Reading Room, and the space that was the government document room will become the James A. Robinson Reading Room. As with the lobby, renovation work returned these spaces to their original classical appearance.
Unlike in the new Downtown Campus Library, state-of-the-art technology will be hidden in these parts of the restored Wise Library. Both reading rooms will be filled with dark, wooden bookshelves, and antique reader tables, without a desktop computer in view. Patrons wanting to use the Internet and other electronic library resources will be able to connect via a laptop computer through network and power drops in the bases of table lamps.
The former periodicals room on the sixth floor will be the new home for the West Virginia and Regional History Collection. The WVRHC will also occupy the seventh through 10th floors of the stacks. Level five will hold the University Art Collection consisting of art integrated from the CreativeArtsCenter and the WVRHC .
John Cuthbert, WVRHC curator, said the renovated facility will be a tremendous boon to the West Virginia and Regional History Collection, particularly in resolving one of its needs for adequate and appropriate space.
“Our stack areas will enable us to consolidate our holding on site for the first time in decades. Our reading areas will include separate rooms for books, rare books, microfilm and manuscripts,”Cuthbert said.
Although the West Virginia Collection serves many of the functions of a state historical society, it has lacked exhibit space.
“Thanks to the James Hornor Davis Family, our new home will include two galleries which will enable us to display the treasures of our rich holdings for all to enjoy,”Cuthbert said.
Together, the Wise and Downtown Campus libraries comprise the Downtown Library Complex.