Pacific Union College Builds to the Future

By Brydon Marks on December 18, 2007

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In the summer of 1982, bulldozers advanced on Old Irwin Hall, the signature building on the campus of Pacific Union College. The building—whose construction began in 1912—housed the chapel, administration offices, and classrooms that were the heart of college activities for several succeeding generations. Though beloved, the edifice was declared structurally unsound. It was condemned to demolition. When the wrecking crews finally withdrew, only a clean-swept garden lawn remained at the head of the campus mall.

Today, nearly 20 years later, PUC has begun raising the funds required to build a new library on the site of Old Irwin Hall—a library that will not only provide a needed facility, but that will socially and visually resurrect a treasured campus icon. PUC is asking its constituents to prayerfully consider helping with this project as the college rises to the challenges of education in the 21st century.

Though incorporating the best elements of contemporary architectural design, the new library will carry a look reminiscent of Old Irwin Hall—a look featured most prominently in a campanile, modeled after the distinguished face that looked across PUC’s campus for 70 years. The new library is also expected to become a center of student life, containing space for study, exploration, and collaboration as well as housing for the physical and technological library resources required for higher education.

The Association of College and Research Libraries recommends that a residential college library seat 25 percent of the students it serves; however PUC’s current library meets only 50 percent of that goal. The coming library is 70,000 square feet, over twice the size of the current library, providing plenty of room for PUC’s expanding library collections. It will rise three stories and project from the top of the hill, over the existing drive and walkway, to the campanile at the head of PUC’s campus mall. The structure centers around an open staircase and atrium that ascends through the library to a large skylight above. The interior of the building is built on a modular design that will allow the library administration to reconfigure classrooms and learning space, adapting to the changing needs of education.

Addressing the demands of modern education, PUC’s new facility will provide space for computer equipment, for collaborative study between students and professors, and for using a variety of teaching and research tools. The library’s learning support services—such as student computing, media services, tutoring, reference librarians, and circulation—will come together in the Learning Commons, an efficient center for information accessing and processing. There will be areas for quiet individual study, equipped with electrical outlets and network ports, as well as areas for informal discussion with faculty, for group study, and for multimedia and videoconferencing. Areas of the new library will also provide space for special collections such as the Heritage Room, which archives historical information about the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Pacific Union College; the Pitcairn Study Center, the world’s largest collection of information about Pitcairn Island; and a museum of PUC history.

Plans for the new library began under former PUC president Malcolm Maxwell who said, “This new library is key to Pacific Union College’s ongoing mission to provide quality education. It’s construction will allow us to meet the standards demanded of college libraries today, and its built-in flexibility will help us to meet tomorrow’s standards, as well.”

Soon a new structure will rise from the empty lawn where Old Irwin Hall once rested. Soon incoming classes of students will be introduced to a library of contemporary function and classical form—where learning and community meet and fuse. PUC is looking ahead to those students—those who have not yet arrived—as it draws inspiration from the past and builds to the future.