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Breathtaking Linderman wows students

Students returned to Linderman Library for the first time in almost two years.

Roughly two years after the first hole was drilled in the Linderman Library renovation project, the books are back on the shelves, the coffee is flowing in Lucy’s Café, and the doors are open to students eager to return to the best place for serious studying on campus.

The renovated Linderman, which reopened Monday morning, has far exceeded everyone’s expectations—thanks in part to the almost $7.4 million generously donated by loyal alumni, parents, friends, faculty and staff.

"Yesterday's opening went very well. I was pleased to see so many students and faculty and staff coming from across campus to explore the building," said Lehigh President Alice P. Gast, who greeted the first early-morning visitors. "We are grateful to all of the Lehigh friends and alumni who have supported this historic project.

“This important transformation was made possible through the hard work and dedication of many, including the Library and Technology Services, facilities, and development teams,” Gast said. “We are also thankful for the dedication and leadership of Jean Farrington and Trustee Bradley Scheler ’74. We are greatly indebted to them and to all the members of the Linderman Project Advisory Committee for their tireless efforts on this project."

Bruce Taggart, vice provost for library and technology services (LTS), said: “When we started the process, we looked at it as renovation, preservation and transformation. Not only did we make it a better place for students to sit and study with better technology, heating and ventilation, now they can navigate the building like never before—you can go east, west, north and south without ever reaching a locked door.”

The venerable old building boasts some wonderful additions that were made during the library’s architectural transformation, which was orchestrated by Tony Corallo, associate vice president of facilities and campus planning, and MGA Architects of Philadelphia.

Lucy’s Café is nestled quaintly and conveniently in the lower level, giving students a place to socialize and rejuvenate in between study sessions. The new heating and air conditioning systems make the building a more comfortable place to read and study. The wireless Internet and cozy study alcoves make it the ideal place to get lost in a good book, magazine or laptop. And the new glass entryway draws visitors into the historical and breathtaking rotunda as soon as they walk through the front door.

“We had always thought that a glass wall would marry the 1878 rotunda building to the 1929 addition, but there are little things you wouldn’t expect,” Corallo said. “For instance, now you can look up and get a glimpse of the rotunda without having to go in. There are little surprises everywhere.”

Maintaining the architectural integrity

Rows of tables await students in search of prime study space.

One surprise is how well the building was preserved despite all the improvements that were installed as part of the renovation.

“Trying to put in all the systems without compromising the strong architectural integrity of the building was pretty difficult,” Corallo said. “For instance, we had to install all the air conditioning ducts behind the original wood panels—all the panels had to be removed, holes were drilled through the floors to reach the air conditioning units in the basement, and then panels had to be put back on.”

Throughout the renovations, one of the primary goals was to maintain the architecture that so many students and alumni love about Linderman. “All the alumni I talked to said, ‘Whatever you do, don’t ruin the 1929 reading room’—it is arguably one of the most beautiful rooms on Lehigh’s campus, and we did whatever possible to preserve it,” Corallo said.

In addition to keeping all the original wooden panels, the renovators tried 14 different kinds of gold paint before they found one that matched the original shade highlighting the carved ceiling.

Despite the early hour of Linderman’s reopening, students flocked inside, eager to check out what’s behind the walls that have been off limits for the past two years.

“I am pleased at how many students have come,” said Sue Cady, director of administration and planning for LTS. “A lot of first-year students have come in particular because they have never been in the building.”

Two first-year students checked out the library and then enjoyed a cup of free coffee from Lucy’s Café. “I will definitely be coming here regularly because it is so close to the freshman dorms,” said Amy Gould ’10.

“The library is breathtaking, especially the rotunda, and it is much closer than walking to Fairchild Martindale to study,” said Suzy Haas ’10.

Graduate student James Dailey said he was quite impressed in the mere 10 or 15 minutes he had to check out the library. “And I know I will get a lot of use out of the cafe,” he said.

Some fortunate students even got a sneak preview of the renovations the previous week. The Class of 2009 held a fundraiser and raffle for a Sneak Peek at Linderman, said Scott Wojciechowski '09, class president. The suggested donation was $1, and the Class of ’09 raised $250, with more than 400 students across all four undergraduate classes participating.

One winner from each class, along with a guest, was selected for a guided tour of Linderman by Corallo the week before it reopened.

Beyond the newcomers, there also were many loyal Linderman fans eager to get back inside.

“I came in just before 8 this morning and there was a student sitting outside,” Taggart said. “I thought it was a reporter from the Brown and White so I went over to say hello and he said, ‘I’m not from the Brown and White. I have a 9 o’clock exam and I know the building opens at 8. I have always studied here—this is my favorite place to study.’ I asked him what his major was and he replied, ‘Business and computer science.’

“This illustrates that Linderman may be the humanities library, but it is also everyone’s library,” Taggart added. “It is a historic legacy study space.”

Although Linderman is now open, the official rededication ceremony will take place on May 17 to coincide with the board of trustees meeting and the start of the Alumni Reunion Weekend. In the meantime, there are still many opportunities for alumni, parents, friends, faculty, staff and students to make a donation to the historic library that houses so many Lehigh memories and dreams.

The renovation project still needs to raise $2.6 million to reach its goal. For a full list of Linderman gift opportunities or to make a gift, please contact Susan Vengrove at (610) 758-6624 or sgv2@lehigh.edu. For more information, visit the Linderman Unbound Web page
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--Elizabeth Shimer

Posted on Tuesday, March 20, 2007

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