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Terrell Library celebrates 25 years at heart of campus

Construction for the new addition in the early 1990s.
Construction for the new addition in the early 1990s. (Photo courtesy of WSU Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections)
Part one of a two-part series covers the history of Terrell Library. Part two will describe the changes in the WSU Libraries over 25 years.   It’s hard to imagine what the Pullman campus would be like without Terrell Library. On any given day, visitors stream through the atrium area on their way to Terrell’s study spaces and stacks, the CUB, or to Holland Library next door. Then there is the iconic Terrell skylight, which University Archivist Mark O’English said “serves as a backdrop for countless graduation photos, as a place to gather summer sun, a favorite place for young children to wave at those beneath (or above) them, and simply as one of WSU’s most picturesque features.” This year marks the 25thyear of Terrell Library’s existence, and to commemorate the occasion, WSU Libraries is holding an anniversary celebration from 2-3 p.m. Friday, Aug. 30, at the Terrell outdoor plaza. Speakers are WSU President Kirk Schulz; WSU Libraries Dean Jay Starratt; WSU School of Design and Construction Director and Associate Professor Phil Gruen; and retired Managing Principal Architect Stephen Hindley of ALSC Architects in Spokane and a WSU alum. Refreshments, including hot dogs and Ferdinand’s ice cream, will be served.

‘Jam packed in Holland’

Mary Gilles, retired business and economics librarian, remembers well how it was before Terrell Library was built. In the late 1980s, Holland Library housed not only books and periodicals, but also several library divisions and reference librarians. Cubicles were made of Masonite pegboard, offering little to no sound absorption. Three computers were shared among 13 librarians and staff. “We were all jam packed in Holland,” Gilles said. “It was noisy, and there was no privacy.” An independent library building consultant in 1987 concluded that the WSU library facilities were inadequate. Built in 1950, Holland Library no longer met current needs for seating, work and study spaces, storage, and modern computers and other related digital technology. The consultant recommended that 150,000 square feet of new space be added and that Holland Library be renovated. WSU initiated the Holland Library Addition and Renovation Project in 1988, a plan to construct a new building and then renovate and remodel Holland Library. But the Holland renovation never took place.  
“We were all jam packed in Holland…It was noisy, and there was no privacy.” —Mary Gilles, retired business and economics librarian

An underground library

In May 1989, the Washington State Legislature appropriated construction money for the new building. The architectural firms ALSC Architects and Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Partnership of Portland, Ore., identified two locations for the addition: the green immediately to the west of Holland Library and a small parking lot to the east of Holland between the library and the CUB. The latter site was chosen, Gilles said, but the university had several conditions: 1) no tall building could be constructed in the heart of campus; 2) parking had to be replaced; and 3) the new building could not block the scenic view of Kamiak Butte and the Palouse hills to the north. Other goals included creating a pleasing space for study and research; providing an environment that supported staff productivity; serving as a secure and controlled environment for the library’s collections; constructing an energy-efficient building; preserving and enhancing campus green space; reducing vehicle-pedestrian conflict; and creating a focal point that would define the campus core. The architects proposed a five-story structure with three levels of library space and two levels of parking. Only one level would be built above ground, with four below. “So instead of going up, the construction team had to dig down,” Gilles said.

‘A parade of dump trucks’

It took two years to excavate the 140,000 cubic yards of dirt and foliage between Holland and the CUB and to shore up both buildings before construction on the new addition could even begin. People subsequently dubbed the excavation the “The Hole to Nowhere” and “The Big Dig.” “There was a parade of dump trucks,” Gilles said. “Everything they excavated had to be removed. They took the dirt to a location on the edge of campus. They were running those trucks eight to 10 hours a day.” Graham Construction of Spokane, the company assigned to the excavation, hosted a “bottoming out party” with a catered lunch and informal softball game in the bottom of the hole when digging was complete, Hindley said. “The hole provided the equivalent of a regulation softball field,” he said.
Washington State University Library Addition Move, May 8-15, 1994.
Graphic created for Moving Week, May 1994.

Preparing for the big move

Construction of the new building continued over the next two years. Librarians and other staff working next door grew accustomed to the sight of giant cranes in the hole and the sound of pile drivers shaking the ground. But it was, as Gilles put it, “for a good purpose.” “It was an exciting time for the libraries,” said Susan Lundquist, director of administrative services. “We needed the space, we needed the facility. Those of us who worked in Holland could see the progress of the building construction as it went on.” By spring of 1994, the new addition was finished, ready for books and people. Now came the herculean task of moving half of Holland Library’s book collections—more than 400,000 volumes—to the new addition in five working days. The goal of the move was to transfer all of the Dewey collection, all of the compact storage collection and the Library of Congress classed collection A-H. Some parts of the move, such as the compact storage materials, began earlier than the designated move week on May 9-13. Daryl Herbison, retired library computer specialist, was put in charge of moving logistics. It took him a year to plan out the details beforehand: calculating the number of shelves in Holland, mapping sections in the new building where the volumes would go, installing new shelves and temporarily marking them with starting and ending call numbers. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me,” he said. “I didn’t have the right background, but I did have certain skill sets that lent themselves to the project.”

Keeping spirits high

Once the new shelves were in place, Franklin Elementary School fourth-graders helped to distribute some 18,000 bookends throughout the addition’s stacks in preparation for the book move.
People unload books from a cart and place them on a bookshelf.
Shelving books in the new addition, 1994. (Photo courtesy of WSU MASC)
In all, 180 library staff and university-wide volunteers split into teams, loaded carts and transferred books from Holland to the new library for four hours a day. A Move Spirit Committee kept spirits high during the move by giving away prizes, printing a daily newsletter, creating commemorative buttons and t-shirts, handing out awards and organizing daily lunches and breaks. “The biggest highlight of the move was the camaraderie,” Lundquist said. “What a tremendous feeling to be surrounded by the libraries staff to accomplish the huge task of shifting books from Holland to the new library. It is amazing when there is a common goal and everyone is working toward a common task that brings life to our organization.” “Everybody I talked to felt a great deal of pride at what we accomplished in a short amount of time,” Herbison added. “It was teamwork extraordinaire.” “It was masterfully planned,” Gilles said. “I cannot say enough good things about Daryl’s work in planning the move.”

Naming the library after Terrell

For 12 years, the new building was referred to as the Holland Addition or, quite simply, the New Library. That changed on May 4, 2006, when it was named after WSU President Glenn Terrell. It was a fitting way to honor the man who often stopped in front of the future site of the new library to talk with students and others during his daily walk from the President’s House to his office. According to O’English, Terrell was a longtime supporter of the libraries; Owen Science and Engineering Library was built during his tenure. “Even with that, after his retirement, he said that he wished he’d been able to do more for the libraries while in office,” O’English said. “When he wrote his memoir, The Ministry of Leadership: Heart and Theory, in 2002, half the proceeds from sales were designated to the Library Excellence Fund.” Terrell passed away on Aug. 30, 2013, and the celebration of his life took place in the Terrell Library atrium Oct. 10, “with students and co-workers from his WSU days returning from around the country to remember him in the space that bears his name,” O’English said.  
Aerial view of Terrell Library on the WSU Pullman campus.
Aerial view of Terrell Library in 2003. (Photo by Robert Hubner, WSU Photo Services)

Adapting to changing times

Twenty-five years after its construction and dedication, Terrell Library has more than met the expectations Hindley had for the facility he helped design. “Terrell Library was designed to accept and adapt to the changes of the future, although no one could then predict how far those changes would take us,” he said. “Today, we see minor changes in the library, primarily driven by program changes, but the building has adapted well and remains true to the original design as a beautiful asset on the WSU campus, one that remains a great source of pride for those of us that had the privilege to work on it.” Gilles derived great pleasure from working in Terrell until her retirement at the end of June. Gone were the noisy cubicles. Librarians had their own offices with windows and a computer that didn’t need to be shared with someone else. “It’s a beautiful building,” she said. “Working here just buoys the spirit.”   Support the next 25 years of Terrell Library by making a donation to the Glenn Terrell Endowment for Excellence in Student Services. Your gift will help provide crucial funding in a number of areas, including the acquisition of cutting-edge technology; design and implementation of collaborative learning spaces; and access to a rich array of electronic and print resources.