by Nicholas Langhorne
As William & Mary’s Earl Gregg Swem Library fast approaches its 50th anniversary in 2016, its ground floor is in the midst of a transformation. At the center of the change is the newly renovated, state-of-the-art Charles W. Reeder Media Center, which opened in the spring. A dedication ceremony was held in May.
“The Media Center provides a teaching and learning destination for faculty and students to explore their creativity with all things media,” said Lisa Nickel, associate dean of research and public services at the library. “We have built a one-stop shop for them to access a wide range of media production equipment as well as industry-standard software to edit and distribute their media creations.”
The new Media Center boasts 11,000 square feet of space and an open and vibrant media lab with enhanced hardware and software for specialized multimedia work. It has two classrooms with moveable furniture and innovative display technologies, a screening room, a collaboration lab and eight acoustically isolating studios for media recording, production and mastering. It also features robust equipment loan and training services. Spaces, equipment and even staff time are all available for reservation.
“There is no other space at the College like this that encourages collaboration and gets people excited about technology. At William & Mary, there are a lot of creative individuals who really excel and appreciate having the space to work with media like this,” said Troy Davis, head of media services at Swem.
“This is a wonderful place for students. They already loved and appreciated the Media Center, but this renovation kicked it up a notch.”
The Media Center is named for Charlie Reeder, who founded the Audiovisual Department at Swem Library and served as director of audiovisual services from 1965 until 1978. Coming to William & Mary aftera 32-year career in the U.S. Navy, Reeder realized decades ago that technology would drive the university library of the future.
Reeder’s daughter, Sharon Reeder McCarthy ’69, has established an endowment that will support the ongoing operations of the Media Center, which was renovated largely through the support of private donors. The total cost of the renovation — which began last fall — was $1.8 million, with $1.5 million coming from library supporters.
“Philanthropy made this renovation possible,” said Carrie Cooper, dean of university libraries. “The Swem Make a Difference Fund gives us the flexibility to be creative and responsive to campus needs. We are grateful for alumni who support our library.”
Campus needs are shifting as William & Mary implements its new liberal arts general education curriculum, which is designed to equip students with critical thinking and communication skills that will make them leaders in the workplace. An increase in demand for digital media training is expected as a result of the digital literacy requirements in the new curriculum.
The pre-renovation Media Center was a popular resource for William & Mary students and faculty, but it lacked the space to provide the innovative opportunities that are facilitated by the Reeder Media Center.
“The Media Center has been a point of pride on this campus — not so much as a space, but for the high level of service and the access to equipment,” Cooper said. “Through the redesign of space, we’ve created a destination that supports the new curriculum. We are better able to use our talent to assist faculty as they integrate media and technology into their teaching and student learning.”
Davis said the new Media Center allows for more effective teaching with media, including music composition, digital video editing and graphic design.
“Those are things we already teach people to do, but now we can be much more hands-on,” he said.
Cooper described the response from the university community to the new Media Center as phenomenal.
“Students appreciate the beauty and functionality,” she said. “As I walked through the space during finals, I met a student who had just discovered the Media Center the day prior. She returned to the media booth for the second time in 24 hours.”
When people think of technology in libraries, they often think of the technology that is created so they don’t have to come into the library, Davis said. Many of the library’s resources can be accessed without having to step foot in Swem, but media, he said, is most often a collaborative experience.
“In many ways, the Media Center and all of this rich technology is creating a renaissance of the library as a place to go. To me, that’s very exciting as well,” he said. “Space tells a lot about priorities. I think this renovation is a way of saying this is an important part of Swem’s future.”
Cooper noted that even more changes are in the works for the ground floor of Swem Library — which is also home to the original Lord Botetourt statue that stood in front of the Sir Christopher Wren Building.
“There is a renaissance taking place on the ground floor of Swem Library,” she said. “The Media Center is the first change in a bigger plan to energize the space surrounding Lord Botetourt. Planned improvements include the renovation of the Botetourt Theater, a new entrance for the Omohundro Institute and a dedicated faculty space that supports creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration.”