The first thing most people notice is the light. Many alumni of The John Marshall Law School in Chicago step off the elevators on the 6th floor and exclaim that they don’t even recognize the library. The tall bookshelves that lined the entryway and blocked almost all natural light are gone. The massive and unsightly chandelier that hung over the entrance has been removed. Thanks to increased security at the building’s street level entrance, the noisy turn-styles in the library are no longer needed. These are just a few of the changes that the Louis L. Biro Law Library made as part of its recent renovation project.
One of the main goals of the renovations was to create a more welcoming environment in the library. Removing the chandelier and installing shorter bookshelves in the library lobby allow for more natural light to enter from the floor to ceiling windows that we are so fortunate to have. Even though the library occupies the 6-10th floors of a building in Chicago’s busy business district, the abundance of natural light and the new furniture create an environment more conducive to studying than the previous layout.
After consulting with the students and testing several options, new seating options were selected. The main floor of the library now has clusters of comfortable chairs gathered around low tables in addition to the more traditional long study tables. This floor also houses 24 frequently used computer terminals. The printers have been moved to a small room just outside the library entrance that also contains the Lexis & Westlaw printers which has cut down on the noise levels in the library.
Floors 7-10 of the library contain a mix of study carrels with new ergonomic chairs and clusters of low chairs with built-in desk panels. At the request of the students, the library has also increased the number of study rooms from 3 to 8 and installed electrical outlets near every seat. However, the addition that the students seem to enjoy most is the installation of a coffee machine on the 6th floor. We can barely keep the cups in stock…and more importantly the lids!
The final touch on the renovations was the installation of a new combined circulation & reference desk last fall. With the help of Roediger Corporate Interior Planning Inc. the library selected a custom desk built by Hale. After a few delivery set-backs due to the increased security in our area created by then President-elect Obama’s temporary offices across the street, the new desk was installed over the Thanksgiving break. Combining the desks allowed for additional space to be devoted to open seating and has enabled the circulation and reference staff to work more closely together.
In celebration of National Library Week, the library held an open house on April 14th to show off all the beautiful renovations. John Marshall faculty, students, staff and librarians from neighboring law schools all gathered to celebrate the wonderful changes that have been made.
Jamie Sommer is reference librarian at John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Illinois.