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Jack Siggins

The reception and help desks will be relocated to the entrance floor, from the basement floor. Sarah Ferris | Hatchet Staff Photographer

GW officially unveiled Gelman Library renovations Monday morning, showing off a glittering new entrance and expansive second-floor study space meant to modernize the 40-year-old building. A grand staircase now leads patrons to the building, instead of an opening that brought students downstairs into a “cave-like” atmosphere, as University President Steven Knapp had put it. As part of the $16-million renovations, students also will be able to find more space to work in groups, and new technology to aid research.

But the renovations are about six years in the making, after administrators, faculty and students pressured GW’s top brass to make Gelman a priority. Here’s a look back at how the Gelman renovations came to be.

Hatchet File Photo

2007: Plans outlined for library’s facelift

Gelman Library, built in 1973 during Lloyd Elliott‘s presidency, was flagged for renovations during GW’s sprawling 2007 Campus Plan. The plan, which also sketched construction for residence halls and the Science and Engineering Hall, put Gelman in a long line of GW priorities.

2009: Chief librarian says GW ignoring Gelman

Jack Siggins, who led Gelman until last summer,

Jack Siggins. Hatchet File Photo

admonished administrators and the Board of Trustees for failing to get specific on when they would begin dealing out funds to upgrade the library. He said library surveys had shown that students were fed up with a lack of study space and electrical outlets – and that Gelman had failed to keep up with GW’s expanded student body. “The senior administration of the University has other priorities,” he said. “This is not one of them.”

Plans for the renovations stalled again later that year because the library fundraising lagged.

The Senior Class Gift celebration. Hatchet File Photo

2010: Students step up to advocate for Gelman funding

Students began pressuring GW to accelerate efforts to refurbish the library – speaking up through student lobbyists, social media and their own wallets. About $31,000 of the money students raised for the Senior Class Gift was doled out to Gelman Library. Students took to Facebook to rally support for new library space, and Student Association leaders declared that advocating for more library funds would be their top priority.

2011: Board of Trustees allocates $16 million for Gelman renovations, blueprints unveiled

Renderings of Gelman renovations sat in the library in 2011. Hatchet File Photo

Gelman’s proposed renovations got an official green light in May 2011 when the Board of Trustees approved $16 million for the project. Administrators said they would pay for half of the project with fundraising dollars, though they would likely borrow and dip into their capital reserve fund to also pay for it.

Provost Steven Lerman said student demand for upgrades helped propel the project forward: “I wasn’t hearing from students or from faculty that we need a vast improvement in the collection. I was hearing the students say ‘We need better study space’ and they’re right. Gelman’s jammed, particularly around finals time.”

In fall 2011, GW revealed that the project would feature a new entrance in Kogan Plaza that would lead students up to the second floor of the building, which then housed administrative offices and event space. The work was done by Cox Graae + Spack Architects.

Gelman Library closed for two days in April due to sweltering heat. Hatchet File Photo by Delaney Walsh | Photo Editor

2013: Library continues to fight off funding issues, old age

As renovations to the new entrance floor of Gelman were winding down, the library still faced money woes in 2013. A pair of librarians from University of Virginia and Columbia University consulted on the library’s funding, telling a faculty committee that the library comes up short. Funding for the library’s collections has stayed at about $4 million for a decade.

“Apparently to objective outside observers, Gelman is in really, very bad shape and is in need of attention for funds for collections, as well as for staff, and so on,” English professor David McAleavey said at a Faculty Senate committee meeting in March.

In April, the library faced two days of shutdown, as temperatures inside soared to 90 degrees due to a failed cooling system.

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Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 10:56 a.m.

PHOTOS: Gelman entrance to open Monday

Gelman Library will officially close off its entrance Monday, with all visitors entering through Kogan Plaza for the first time in the building’s 40-year history.

The library’s refurbished entrance floor, which previously housed 17,000 square feet of administrative offices, now features hundreds of sleek chairs, tables and new computers. The offices now takes up just one corner of the floor – two-thirds less space than its previous spot.

Library officials will also clamp down on the building’s security with glass door turnstiles in both the entrance and exit areas and additional security cameras on the ground floor.

Jack Siggins, who served as the University’s head librarian for 17 years and remains a consultant for the building, said security was one of his “highest priorities” as he planned the overhaul.

“We hope what we’ll be able to do is strengthen security to avoid the kind of issues we’ve had in the past, when people have come off the street in some cases, and very surreptitiously been able to get past our current guard system,” Siggins said.

Staff have also installed a handful of new security cameras.

“Security in this building, in any library, is really really difficult because you don’t have many straight lines of sight,” he said.

The entrance level will have one set of bookshelves, because as one of the project’s heads Jack Siggins joked, it has to still look like a library. Sarah Ferris | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Jack Siggins, who retired as head librarian last year but stayed on as a consultant for the project, said the revolving doors are designed to save energy. Sarah Ferris | Hatchet Staff Photographer


Visitors will pass through glass door turnstiles to enter and exit, which Siggins said are better designed to prevent unauthorized guests from entering the building. Sarah Ferris | Hatchet Staff Photographer.

In this multimedia room, each computer is equipped with video and photo editing software as well as computer coding programs. It will be open 24-hours a day. Sarah Ferris | Hatchet Staff Photographer

These benches, located near the front of the library, feature both electrical and USB outlets. Sarah Ferris | Hatchet Staff Photographer

One of the new classrooms, still under construction, features a 3-D television screen with surround sound stereo. Sarah Ferris | Hatchet Staff Photographer

The reception and help desks will be relocated to the entrance floor, from the basement floor. Sarah Ferris | Hatchet Staff Photographer

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Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 11:27 a.m.

GW hosts top candidates for head librarian

Correction appended

The University is holding town hall meetings this week for staff and faculty to help GW pick its next head librarian.

The four candidates vying for the post will each present their ideas and field questions from participants. The first meeting, introducing Martin Halbert, the University of North Texas’s dean of libraries, drew about 30 attendees Wednesday.

GW narrowed down the pool from 40 candidates, and will select the hire next month. The post will steer the library as it undergoes $16 million in renovations.

The three other contenders hail from Pennsylvania State University, the University of Miami, and Rice University. The rest of the meetings will be held Feb. 1, Feb. 12, and Feb. 15, respectively.

Each candidate will also be interviewed by a search committee comprising library administrators, IT staff, faculty, alumni, and a student. The candidates will also meet with top University leadership, including President Steven Knapp and Provost Steven Lerman.

Two-time alumna and former deputy librarian Andrea Stewart has led GW Libraries as interim leader since the retirement of Jack Siggins last August.

This article was updated Feb. 4, 2013 to reflect the following:

The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Gelman Library renovations total $17 million. The renovations cost $16 million. We regret this error.

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Thursday, June 28, 2012 2:59 p.m.

GW appoints interim head librarian

Updated June 29, 2012 at 12:22 p.m.

The University’s deputy librarian will take over as the interim head of the library system starting Sept. 1.

Andrea Stewart, a two-time alumna, will replace long-serving University Librarian Jack Siggins when he retires in August. She will remain in the post until a new librarian is hired.

As deputy librarian, Stewart was “responsible for GW Libraries’ planning and operations,” according to a news release Thursday.

Upon taking the helm of the University’s libraries, Stewart will also co-steer the Gelman Library construction project with  Siggins, who is staying on as an adviser for the renovation after retiring. The revamp, which will relocate the building’s entrance to Kogan Plaza, is slated to start this summer.

When asked about her priorities for the upcoming year, Stewart said in an email Friday that she plans to “work with library staff to bring our strategic plan into alignment with the new university strategic plan.”

“I also plan to continue improving the communication and collaborative culture of the Libraries which supports the University’s and Libraries’ mission,” she added.

A national search for the next university librarian will be launched “in the coming months,” University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said Friday.

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The latest rendering of Gelman's redesign, overseen by University Librarian Jack Siggins, features a new entrance through Kogan Plaza. The building will undergo construction to the first and second floor starting this summer. Hatchet File Photo

The University’s longserving librarian, who has overseen multi-million dollar developments to Gelman Library for nearly two decades, will step down this summer.

Jack Siggins announced Monday that he will leave his post August 31 after 17 years at GW. He will continue to serve as a special adviser to Provost Steven Lerman through December 2013.

“I deeply appreciate Jack’s skilled leadership as university librarian and his dedication to the university,”  Lerman said in a release Monday, citing accomplishments like acquiring the two-millionth volume for GW’s library system in 2001.

Siggins, who has most recently been spearheading the $16 million Gelman redesign project, did not immediately return request for comment.

Construction for the three-year project is slated to begin this summer on the first and second floors of the library, which will relocate the building’s entrance to Kogan Plaza and add more study space to these levels.

The librarian also headed up projects including the National Churchill Library and Center, an $8 million collection of books and research materials dedicated to former British prime minister Winston Churchill; the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Labor Research Center, archives that recount more than a decade of labor history; and the Global Resources Center, a research headquarters for political and economic records spanning the globe.

Siggins said he looks forward to spending more time with his family and focusing on personal research projects.

“I am confident that, under the leadership of President Knapp, Provost Lerman and the deans, the staff will be even more successful in service to GW and will reaffirm the rightful place of the libraries as the ‘heart of the university’” Siggins said in a release Monday.

Siggins was hired in 1995 after serving as a deputy university librarian at Yale University, with experience also at the Library of Congress, the University of Maryland and the University of Chicago.

Aria Varasteh, the library’s student liaison who graduated this year, said Siggins often sought out his feedback on the redesign. While attending meetings about the planning process, Varasteh said Siggins made a point to give him the floor.

“Other people would cut me off, but he would say, ‘Listen to Aria,'” Varasteh recalled about the discussions. “Siggins would tell me, ‘I want to hear student opinion on the final draft of everything.'”

“Of all administrators I’ve met, I believe [Siggins] cares about students the most,” he added.

– Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.

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People outside of 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. wait and hope for cell service after Tuesday's earthquake. Michelle Rattinger | Senior Photo Editor

Updated Aug. 23, 2011, 4:28 p.m.

A 5.9 magnitude earthquake rocked D.C. at about 2 p.m. Tuesday, prompting University officials to check campus buildings for potential damages from the tremors.

Officials are “assessing the situation,” University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said. Mineral, Va. – the location of the quake’s center – is about 87 miles southwest of D.C. The rattling shattered potted plants at Gelman Library while bookshelves collapsed, shutting down the library for the rest of the day.

Gelman Library shut down for the day starting at 4 p.m., University Librarian Jack Siggins said. The building was temporarily evacuated around 2 p.m. and reopened almost an hour later.

“We got no information from the Office of Emergency Management as to what we should do in the library. All we got was something on their website, which everybody got,” Siggins said. “Their was no indication, in response to my questions, as to what we should do, except for one [University] police officer came over and told us to leave the building.”

A Global Resources Center employee and a patron sitting at a nearby computer were the first to hear a crash when a shelf holding statistical books from Asia gave way. Both the patron, who hid under the desk when he heard the crash, and the employee left shortly after the quake.

Cathy M. Zeljak, director of the center, said the bookshelf held references from China, Japan and Korea. Upon initial assessment of the tumbled texts, she said the damage wasn’t “anything that can’t be repaired.”

Siggins added that he sent a message to OEM to clear the fallen shelf.

University employees are not required to work for the rest of the day but can return to their buildings collect their personal belongings, the University said in an infomail. All events on the University’s calendars for the rest of the day are canceled.

GW will operate on a normal schedule Wednesday, according to a University statement. The statement also said no injuries were reported and damages are only minor.

The Vern Express is still running shuttles between the Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon campuses, but passengers can expect a slower commute, according to Campus Advisories. Cell phone and Internet connections are also clogged.

Director of the U.S. Geological Survey Marcia McNutt told The Washington Post the shaking could have been a foreshock and that an aftershock would be more severe. The National Park Service has also evacuated and shut down all monuments and memorials since the earthquake hit, according to The Post.

Metro Riders can also expect delays because trains will run at a slower speed, the transit agency said in a news release, while inspectors check rails.

Hatchet reporters Andrea Vittorio and Katherine Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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Alumna Bonnie Maslin speaks on behalf of her husband, Yehuda Nir, who was honored Tuesday evening at Gelman Library. Nir was unable to attend the ceremony because of health reasons, Maslin said. Elise Apelian | Hatchet photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Ana Buling.

As a child, Yehuda Nir learned to recite Catholic prayers at the request of Nazi soldiers.

Nir, a Jew who escaped imprisonment and death during the Holocaust, hid in plain sight from the Nazis by purchasing papers from a Catholic priest that said the Polish Jew was a Polish Catholic.

Students paid tribute to Nir’s life and accomplishments Tuesday, unveiling an exhibit as part of their course, “Remembering the Holocaust.” The exhibit, based on Nir’s memoir, “The Lost Childhood,”  is now on display on the seventh floor of Gelman Library as part of the Kiev Judaica collection.

Nir’s friends and family gathered for the official opening of the special collection containing 1,700 books and documents about the Holocaust donated by Nir’s wife, Bonnie Maslin, an alumna. Nir was unable to attend the event due to health reasons.

Maslin said the only way to prevent another Holocaust is to link history with emotion. Feelings, Maslin said, keeps humans from becoming bystanders.

“[He] made a difference,” Maslin said. “And he was never a bystander.”

Hannah Hamill, the exhibit coordinator and a second year graduate student in the museum studies program, said Nir’s memoir was “unlike any other Holocaust-era memoir” she had ever read.

University Provost Steven Lerman said the exhibit “illuminates some of the wonderful aspects of the human spirit.”

“Certain things are better understood through stories,” Lerman said. “One’s personal story is an enormously powerful way of understanding what happened.”

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