Visualizing a vibrant future for Irwin Library

Discussion to revamp Irwin Library has begun. Photo by Faith Delamarter.


Dean of Libraries Josh Petrusa and other library staff have worked with a team of architects from RATIO Design to begin revamping Irwin Library. 

In an email to The Butler Collegian, Petrusa said RATIO Design was chosen to help envision a future for Irwin because of their experience with higher education buildings and academic libraries. Similarly to Irwin, DePauw University worked with RATIO to renovate their Roy O. West Library to provide students with the educational tools they need, and a more accurate reflection of DePauw’s mission. 

Butler Libraries strategic plan 

During Petrusa’s first year as dean, he developed a plan to increase engagement with Irwin Library. The Butler Libraries strategic plan proposes improving four segments: marketing, awareness and outreach; services and collections; archival work; and space considerations. 

Through marketing, awareness and outreach, Butler Libraries will aim to increase awareness of their services and resources, as well as create connections across campus. Services and collections will work to diversify collections, integrate with the curriculum and campus life and add other desired services. Butler Libraries also wants to expand the university archives by both adding additional collections as well as improving the recording of current history. In terms of space, Butler Libraries will work to enhance the environment while still maintaining the architectural importance of Irwin Library. 

According to Petrusa, the library has not planned any definitive renovations yet. To ensure Irwin can reach its full potential, they will first carefully design a vision of what is feasible, as well as when it is possible. Although Irwin Library has served Butler for many years, it has not been carefully updated to what today’s students need. 

“Irwin was built in 1963 to be the kind of library Butler needed back then,” Petrusa said in an email to The Butler Collegian. “I want us to be thoughtful about what the library building can do for campus moving forward.” 

Petrusa plans to grow Butler’s Special Collections & Archives department, which includes organizing, preserving and digitizing Butler’s history. He will also bring attention to promoting 60-year-old Irwin Library’s architectural importance while hoping to improve aesthetics and utilize spaces effectively. Petrusa is also interested in ideas for how Irwin can become more accessible. 

Student input 

Student library staff members were invited to the meeting with RATIO architects on Jan. 26. Elizabeth Reed, a junior finance major and library staff member, attended the meeting in hopes of learning more about the potential future of Irwin, as well as making a few suggestions herself. Reed is hoping for a more convenient and welcoming library experience by potentially moving the Information Commons desk and improving signage to library facilities such as bathrooms. 

Hannah Howard, a junior environmental studies major and library staff member, also wants the library to be a more welcoming environment. She would like to see more art on the walls in study and common rooms, as well as more emphasis on Irwin’s windows and natural lighting, to make the space more inviting to students. 

“Increasing and updating amenities, study space and the overall tone of the building will help students find their new favorite spot on campus or fall in love again with their old one,” Howard said. 

What to expect 

The student-involved meeting included about eight students with various staff titles for Butler Libraries. With no plans for renovation at the moment, this meeting functioned as a brainstorming session. According to Reed, nothing is set in stone as library staff and RATIO Design continue to develop an idea before creating a plan of action. Some recurring ideas included utilizing the library’s natural light, updating study rooms and adding a variety of seating. Along with these updates, there are hopes to preserve Irwin’s unique architectural nature. 

“I’m an advocate for keeping Irwin’s mid-century modern architecture and design,” Howard said. “[I want to make] the building feel more unique and different in comparison to the recent renovations with other buildings.” 

Although future plans for the library are in their infancy, Irwin has been going through changes for years. According to Petrusa, a project to improve student spaces around Irwin began 10 years ago. This involved adding more seating and improving furniture. Since this project, other spaces on campus were renovated, meaning students had other new places to study instead. Petrusa aspires to bring students back to the library. 

“Irwin is right in the middle of everything,” Petrusa said. “We want it to be a thriving hub for both serious academic and social, informative activities.” 

Petrusa is interested in engaging with Butler students in an ongoing conversation to transform Irwin into a hub that students frequent regularly. “I encourage individual students or groups to reach out to me with any wishes, goals, desires, etc,” Petrusa said.


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