Worth the wait: Visionary renovation results in reimagined library

John Rogers

John Rogers cuts the ribbon during the ceremony celebrating the opening of the renovated William Knox Holt Memorial Library and Learning Center on Oct. 9, 2021.

University of the Pacific’s William Knox Holt Memorial Library and Learning Center is building new stories.

The recently renovated space has been reimagined to include a variety of contemporary spaces to reflect how students learn. The transformation features the John and June Rogers Atrium, a digital maker’s space, a meditation and prayer area, and a full-service Starbucks café.

Delayed more than a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the library dedication ceremony took place during Pacific Roars Back Homecoming on Oct. 9, 2021. Dozens of Pacificans gathered outside the building entrance to celebrate and tour the visionary changes.

 “The transformation of this library was intended to catalyze thinking and to create spaces that would allow for collaborative work among faculty, students and staff,” Maria Pallavicini, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said during the dedication. “This library is a vital part of the Pacific experience.”

“It took the dedication and vision of donors, students, faculty, and university and library leaders to alter the building from a repository of books into a student-focused venue,” said Chris Madill ’90, director of planning and construction management. “I believe other California-based higher education institutions will learn from our transformative renovation and aspire to do the same.”

The renovation improved accessibility throughout the facility and sourced sustainably responsible materials that met California Green Building standards and exceeded the state energy standards, Madill said.

Its intentional design features windows from Starbuck into the library to make learning and studying visible. Students can see the action happening inside, said Niraj Chaudhary, associate university librarian for organization innovation. It also will provide on-campus jobs for students, and Maria Blandizzi, the university’s new vice president for student life, is fulfilling her barista dreams by working one shift each week at Starbucks. 

“Our Starbucks location in the library is a beautiful space situated in the heart of the campus,” Blandizzi said. “I love it when the place is buzzing with folks meeting out on the patio, catching up with friends in the dining room, or picking up a drink and then finding a quiet spot to study around the corner in the library.”

Established in honor of alumnus and civil rights activist Rev. George Houser ’34, the Multi-faith Meditation and Prayer Area—found above the second floor on a mezzanine—was added in response to students’ requests. 

The space was made possible through the leadership of Dr. Mas’ood Cajee, the lead donor and advisor on the project. More than 70 donors contributed to the space, as well as for an ablution station—one of the first wudhu washing facilities in the U.S. inside an academic library—so Muslim students, faculty and staff can perform the ritual of washing before prayer.

The library’s community-wide participatory design process was designed to influence student success for generations to come. Pacific engaged students, faculty, staff, library representatives and campus planners, as well as schools and colleges on the Stockton Campus, alumni and the Associated Students of the University of the Pacific. The feedback was used to choose everything from furniture to technology, and it led to the creation of the Student Academic Success Hub, which brought together a collection of resources, including tutoring and research librarians.

Library image

Pacific’s William Knox Holt Memorial Library and Learning Center features the John and June Rogers Atrium, a digital maker’s space, a meditation and prayer area, and a full-service Starbucks café.

Philanthropists John and June Rogers pledged $1 million to the project to support the university's goal of facilitating student academic success and improving graduation and retention rates.

“We were particularly drawn to the Student Academic Support Hub,” said John Rogers. “The more we can intervene and provide students with the services they need to succeed, the more likely they are to stay in school, graduate on time and find success in their careers.”  
Chaudhary said the renovation project added more spaces and technologies to facilitate innovation, collaboration and experiential learning.  

“The library is about giving opportunities for projects through space,” Chaudhary said. “To be a resource for the Pacific community.”

The Four Commons:

The library’s first and second floors are divided into four commons—Innovation, Learning, Reading and Academic. 

Innovation Commons: Found on the first floor, this 8,000-square-foot space is for individuals to explore, experiment and exhibit using state-of-the-art technology. It includes The Cube—a glass-walled digital maker space featuring 3D printing, drone services and more—a 100-inch touch screen for presentations, production studios, editing suites, an experimental exhibition space and learning lab.

Learning Commons: This space on the first floor includes group study rooms, collaborative spaces, a Starbucks café, computers and includes the John Muir Experience, which is home to the naturalist's bookshelves, a digital touch screen, books and writing desk.

Reading Commons: Meant to be a quiet space, this second-floor area features floor-to-ceiling windows for students to study while enjoying Pacific's natural beauty. There are individual study pods, as well as study rooms.

Academic Commons: Visible from the library’s entrance, this second-floor space brought vital student success services together to make them accessible and convenient for students. Here you will find the Student Academic Success Hub—tutoring, learning skills, and writing and math help—as well as research librarians' offices, and the Center for Teaching and Learning where instructional designers and faculty collaborate.