Mary Idema Pew Library named one of five ‘landmark libraries’

GVL / Sara Carte
Callie Spytman (left) and Lee Hewson (right) study for their exams in the Mary Idema Pew Library on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016.

Sara Carte

GVL / Sara Carte Callie Spytman (left) and Lee Hewson (right) study for their exams in the Mary Idema Pew Library on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016.

Dylan Grosser

The Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons was named one of five “Landmark Libraries” for 2016 by an online library-based publication, Library Journal. The panel of five judges brought in by Library Journal surveyed 14 different newly renovated or newly built libraries across the country, and elected five of them to be “Landmark Libraries,” one of them being Grand Valley State University’s Mary Idema Pew Library.

To be considered for the “Landmark Library” honor, a library had to have been renovated or built after 2012. The libraries also had to meet a series of standards centered around a library’s impact on campus. The judges considered several factors when determining the winners such as the quality of the materials used during the construction, how the library is able to adapt to cultural and technological changes on campus, how the design is effective in delivering the library’s services, environmental efficiency and a sense of beauty.

One of the judges, Lisa Peet, associate news editor for Library Journal, said the Mary Idema Pew Library was a great example of a “Landmark Library.”

“I just think it’s really imaginative and innovative,” Peet said. “It chose its materials smartly with a lot of thought to the future, and I think it was built to be used really, really well.”

Dean of University Libraries Lee Van Orsdel said the reward represents the hard work and effort put in by her and her staff for the creation of the library.

“I think this award is exceptionally important because it indicates the degree to which our project here at Grand Valley will have impact on other libraries, and puts Grand Valley in the minds of academics all over the country and around the world,” Van Orsdel said.

Emily Puckett Rodgers was the project coordinator for the award series. A University of Michigan graduate, she said she knew Van Orsdel and the Mary Idema Pew Library before the award was handed out, and was pleased GVSU got recognized.

“I think it’s an excellent example of some of the trends we identified in this series where libraries are really being leaders on campus in the pursuit of understanding the academic process,” Rodgers said.

Construction on the Mary Idema Pew Library began in 2011, although its conception can be dated back to 2008 when Van Orsdel and her team of staff set out to find inspiration across the country for a new library in hopes of replacing the old one, which she said students called “the dungeon.”

“It was awful,” she said. “The architectural style used to make it is literally called brutalism, a 1960s style of using concrete on the exterior of buildings with little embellishment. It was drop-dead ugly on the outside, and dark on the inside. Everybody hated it.”

After spending two years searching the country, she said she found little luck finding what she wanted to be built, meaning when the university gave her and her team the go-ahead to design it seriously in 2010, they had to start from scratch.

Van Orsdel said she is grateful for the university and their various donors for helping getting the library built, and said the award of “Landmark Library” goes to them instead. After all the hard-work, Van Orsdel said certain things made the process all worth it.

“I think most of us that have been along for this adventure would say it’s a highlight in a career and in a lifetime to take a big dream and realize it,” Van Orsdel said. “Our thrill comes to us everyday all over again when we walk outside our offices and we see you guys out there, it literally never fails to thrill us. It was the dream of the lifetime to do this.”