Happy birthday to Milner Library! Forty years ago, the new Milner Library opened its doors across the plaza from the relatively new Bone Center. A magnificent six-story facility intended to hold 800,000 books, the library far surpassed the capacity of the former building.  Many alumni will remember the old Williams Hall library with its beautiful reading room and large oak tables. As a strategy for saving space, that library had incorporated an innovative drawer-like sliding-shelf system.

Looking out onto Milner Plaza today, I think about the changes that have occurred since 1976 when this library opened. For instance, our book collection, now numbering 1.6 million volumes, is twice as large as the original designers had intended. Surrounded by computers and mobile devices, I realize that computers didn’t exist when students and faculty first used this library! What amazing changes.

At the same time, I look forward to the exciting developments of this anniversary year. Milner Library is entering another period of great change both physically and operationally. Perhaps most importantly, Illinois State will be repairing and renovating the first, and largest, floor of the library, largely located beneath the Milner Plaza. Closed for 10 years due to water infiltration, Floor 1 will be reopened to the public after this work has been completed. With this major renovation, Milner will significantly enhance its ability to support student learning and faculty research, with new spaces, resources and services. It’s worth noting that funding for this project will also provide much-needed upgrades for our restrooms.

The renovation to the Milner Plaza and first floor of the library will undoubtedly be the most visible change next year. However, in response to the rapidly evolving learning and research needs of our students and faculty, Milner Library will be changing in other ways as well. Among other projects for the coming year, we will continue to replace carpets and furniture, enhance learning spaces, and build both a state-of-the art collaboration classroom and a multimedia lab/makerspace.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. In the midst of a changing Milner Library, one aspect hasn’t changed over the years, and that is our commitment to service and to meeting the changing needs of the University Community. In 2016–2017, Milner Library will celebrate its anniversary by hosting a series of exhibits, receptions, and speakers highlighting past accomplishments and anticipating a library and information future at the heart of the University.

Stay well and stay connected. Feel free to contact me with any thoughts or questions you might have about Milner Library. I appreciate hearing from members of our Illinois State University community.

Dane Ward
Dean, Milner Library