Re-imagined Library One Step Closer to Reality

This past weekend, the Wilson College Board of Trustees voted to approve construction documents for the Wilson College library renovation project. Brian Ecker, Vice President of Finance and Administration, feels the Board of Trustees members voted in unanimous agreement to approve the next phase of the library project.

During this phase, Murray Associates Architects, a Harrisburg architecture company contracted to design the new library, will draft more specific floor plans and schematics based on their previous designs. Baxter Group Inc. will also address asbestos and lead paint concerns in the old library building before RS Mowery and its subcontractors will begin demolition on the annex and part of the original building this April or May.

Ecker hopes that the new library will open for student and faculty use by July 2015.

The new library will follow modern design principles for college libraries and will include a large learning commons area. The new space will house a lounge for commuters to gather, relax, and store their belongings. According to Vice President for Institutional Advancement Camilla Rawleigh, the new library will feature state of the art technology as well as electronic smart classrooms. Wilson College will also move all academic support functions to the library, which will provide extensive space for tutoring and learning resources.

“The old library was built for books. The new library will be built for people,” said Wilson College President Barbara Mistick.

The project will likely cost between $10 and $12 million. So far, the Office for Institutional Advancement has raised roughly $9.66 million from 522 donors including an $82,000 donation from the Wilson College Class of 1963, a $3.6 million gift from Marguerite Lenfest ’55, and a $2.3 million from Sue Davison Cooley ‘44.

Student Alumni Representative to the WCGA Elizabeth Heyer ’10 also organized the Miles of Pennies Campaign, which allows students to donate their loose change to the library fund. Heyer has even agreed to match student donations for the library funding project.

“Everyone I talk to thinks this is a really important project,” said Heyer. “One question we get all the time is when the library project will start. If everyone just gives a penny or a couple pennies, it will really add up,” said Heyer.

“I have no doubt in my mind that we have the donors to do this project,” said Rawleigh.

Rawleigh and Ecker emphasized that they believe donors and friends of the college want to support such a large campus project which has the potential to positively impact the entire campus community. Rawleigh remains confident that she will raise the remaining funding by reaching out to alumnae and friends of the college through donor luncheons and other events.

Rawleigh also believes that President Mistick has the necessary skills and qualifications to oversee a successful library project.

“President Mistick was the past president of the Carnegie Library System. She has overseen ten library projects. I could count on one hand the number of administrators with that much experience in building a library,” said Rawleigh.

Rawleigh also mentioned that the Wilson College community did not anticipate the challenges in the library when they choose Mistick as the new Wilson College president.

“It was just fortuitous for Wilson College to have a president with such enormous expertise in libraries,” said Rawleigh.

Both Ecker and Rawleigh opposed taking out loans or using the college’s savings to fund the library renovation project. Ecker mentioned that Wilson College recently spent roughly $100,000 on mold remediation efforts in Warfield Hall, and roughly $3.1 million on renovations to the MacElwain and Davison dormitories.

Ecker also mentioned that the college owes roughly $31 million, largely due to the construction of the Harry S. Brooks Science Complex. Wilson College currently makes interest-only payments on the debt incurred through the construction of the science center.

“We need to be really prudent. We need to hold our savings for rainy day projects,” said Ecker.

Ecker and Rawleigh agreed that they would not begin construction on the new library until they had raised roughly $8 million or 80 percent of the funding required, – a common practice in project funding for educational institutions.

Still, Ecker and Rawleigh say they understand the urgency of the situation. “Students and faculty have been enormously flexible in a tough time. We understand the current situation is not ideal,” said Rawleigh.

Ecker understands that the current situation could negatively affect student recruiting and retention, and that the Middle States Commission on Higher Education could issue a warning to Wilson College if the college does not make continued progress on the library project. This information could become public knowledge and could also negatively impact student recruiting and the college’s reputation. Ecker does not believe, however, that the Middle States Commission on Higher Education would revoke Wilson’s accreditation.

Deanna Elgin ‘14, a transfer student from Shippensburg University, worried about coming to a college without an official


Students discuss proposed plans for John Stewart Memorial Library Photo by Marissa Feldberg
Students discuss proposed plans for John Stewart Memorial Library
Photo by Marissa Feldberg

“I have also never really looked in our library for books or other printed material just because I knew the library wasn’t very big. I’ve used other libraries, said Elgin.

Adrienna Rowe ’15 regrets that she will likely graduate before the new library opens.

“I’m sad that my entire time at Wilson I didn’t have a library to open my eyes to new learning,” said Rowe.

President Mistick expressed sadness that students have had to make do without a library and that some students will graduate before the new library opens.

“I am very sad about that. I spent so many years in my career in the library- it is so important. I invite students to come back often in the future and visit the new library,” said Mistick.

For more information regarding funding or other information about the Wilson College library renovation project, contact Camilla Rawleigh at

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