Building on the library’s success

A message from President Steven Bahls


The sociologist Ray Oldenburg is credited with coining the phrase "Third Place" to describe that important place in our lives that is neither work nor residence, but is every bit as important if not more so. As Oldenburg describes it, a Third Place is a setting in which people can socialize and converse, or simply be alone in the community of a public space.

At Augustana College, we've had a very effective example of just such a space since 1990, when our Thomas Tredway Library was built. Before it was even known by that name, the president who saw to its construction, Dr. Thomas Tredway, had described it as Augustana's "living room." Anyone who's spent any amount of time there knows why that's such an accurate description. Not as formal as a family's dining room, yet not as informal as a rec room, it's a place where students and faculty come together over matters great and small.

When we started discussing how best to respond to Augustana's need for more and better space for student development, one suggestion kept coming up: make it like the Tredway Library.

In a matter of months, we will begin work on what I believe will be the most important contribution to the shared experiences of Augustana students for decades to come. The Center for Student Life will build-literally as well as programmatically-on the most important addition to the campus of recent decades, the Thomas Tredway Library.

How best to build on that distinction? Geoffrey Freeman is an architect with Shepley Bulfinch, the same firm that designed Augustana's library, which opened in 1990. In "The Library as Place," an article for the Council on Library and Information Resources, he wrote about what the academic library will need to do in the future to maintain its "dynamic life force":

To meet today's academic needs as well as those in the future, the library must reflect the values, mission, and goals of the institution of which it is a part, while also accommodating myriad new information and learning technologies and the ways we access and use them. As an extension of the classroom,

library space needs to embody new pedagogies, including collaborative and interactive learning modalities. Significantly, the library must serve as the principal building on campus where one can truly experience and benefit from the centrality of an institution's intellectual community.

By combining the library, dining services and student activities, we will create a place where thinking generated by quiet study moves seamlessly into ideas formed in conversation with friends. Where that dialogue is picked up with professors and enriched by other views and challenging perspectives. Where discussion, conversation, a project or plans can continue over dinner: here at an intimate booth, there at a table for a small gathering, or a dining area for a larger group.

As you'll see later in this magazine, the Center for Student Life represents boldness in architectural design and programming inspired by the building that in two short decades has become as much the intellectual as the geographic center of the campus.

I am grateful to my colleagues in the Tredway Library for modeling the kind of transformative student learning that's at the core of Augustana College and its mission. It's what won the Excellence in Academic Libraries Award for Augustana from the Association of College and Research Libraries in 2006, and it's what Augustana librarian Amanda Makula observed when she noted that since students already are using the library not only for research and study, but also as a student center, we might "formalize it and offer them even more avenues of collaboration and social learning."

This is the inspiration for Augustana's new Center for Student Life. I am confident it will transform the way we offer the outstanding out-of-classroom developmental programming that has long set Augustana apart. Together, alumni and friends of the college will provide Augustana's students with the margin of excellence they need to succeed in an increasingly complex and competitive world. And as have their predecessors, these students will go on to achievements that bring credit to Augustana and raise still higher its global reputation as a premier college of the liberal arts and sciences.

Steven C. Bahls is the eighth president of Augustana College.