KANKAKEE – Even if you can’t judge a book by its cover, can you judge a library by its entrance?
At Kankakee Community College, you should.
The college’s Harold and Jean Miner Memorial Library is now open after a nine-month renovation.
“The library is more inviting than it was before, and it catches the eye of anyone walking by the front glassed entrance,” said Faith Keller of Bonfield, a KCC sophomore. “I love how bright and open the library is.”
Glass walls define several spaces and plenty of seating is all around. Books are on display in the entry area, and the staff are close by as well. The nearby stairs and elevator invite visitors to continue inside.
The 21,070 square foot space is a hub for gathering and enjoying information.
“Our newly renovated library space was designed specifically with student needs and success in mind,” said Jennifer Hays Huggins, associate dean of KCC’s Humanities and Social Sciences Division. “It offers not only a place where students can collaborate, but the opportunity, whether in groups or as individuals, to use state-of-the-art technology to achieve their academic goals. We’re excited about all this space has to offer our students.”
“The technology is compatible with a variety of devices, so people can plug in or wirelessly use interactive display screens, participate in webinars and conference calls, and use wi-fi while meeting or studying solo,” said Tracy Conner, director of the Miner Memorial Library and academic support services for KCC.
Because there is so much focus on collaboration, some of the library’s best features will remain in the background until after the pandemic subsides, Conner noted.
“I like the quiet study room on the lower floor,” Keller said. “Though not currently open to students due to COVID, the room is full of different seating and tables to have a peaceful place to get work done.”
Keller has already explored the library more than most because she is also a student worker, now starting her third year working for the library.
“One of my favorite parts is the computers on the main floor and the printing station right next to it,” she said. There are supplies and a large counter within reach. “It is the ideal place to get work done,” she noted.
There are additional group study rooms which allow for project work or practicing presentations on wall-mounted screens.
“Throughout the design process, our team’s goal was to transform the existing Library into a new, highly collaborative and engaging Library/Student Success Center by focusing on how the space is organized, how it feels, how it functions, and how it incorporates technology,” said Dominick Demonica, project principal for Demonica Kemper Architects. “Ease of access, physical and visual connectivity, and enhancing the views toward the Kankakee River were key considerations in the design of the new space.
“The design uses color, texture, glass, light and massing elements that establish overall sight lines and connectivity, inviting patrons to discover and explore the resources available to them throughout the new space,” Demonica continued. “Our team is thrilled with the final product that has created a true destination on campus for students and staff to collaborate and learn. We hope that the new space will serve Kankakee Community College well for many years to come, and we were honored to be able to work with KCC on such a significant project for the campus.”
For Demonica Kemper Architects, the project was also lead by David Sikorski, architect, and Rebekah Wightman, senior interior designer.
“The furniture throughout the library was chosen and arranged to foster the ability to work together,” Conner said. “Even though these uses aren’t available now, I hope to see the culture of the library shift towards collaboration when it is once again safe to do so.”
Near the entrance, the circulation desk and research help desk are connected. Anyone starting a research project or needing information can begin there.
Of course, there are books, too. There are now around 22,000, a significantly trimmed number compared to more than 40,000 which were present when people relied more on paper-based information.
“We concentrated on removing older material and subjects that aren’t part of the curriculum any longer,” Conner said. “When we take out the books that are no longer being used, the whole collection becomes more attractive, and it makes room for newer, more relevant materials.”
The collection can still satisfy those seeking to do research or enjoy a book. Most fiction and new books are near the entrance. The lower-level has children’s books, classics, non-fiction/research, audio books and legal reference.
The college’s array of free tutoring services now operates from the library’s Student Success Center. Virtual tutoring is offered as well.
“The Student Success Center, on the top level of the library, houses tutoring services and an active learning classroom, providing students an opportunity to play an integral part in their success through interaction with tutors and faculty, who will work to create authentic learning opportunities,” Huggins said.
In addition to their own research and sharing its resources with students, college faculty will get a lot of use from the new library. The library is the new home base of KCC’s Instructional Technology department, which assists faculty with delivery of online courses, facilitates faculty as they teach online, and assists with other teaching technologies, such as videos.
The library is located on the KCC Riverfront Campus and open 9 am to 1 pm Monday through Friday.