Extensive renovation of the Joseph Anderson Cook Library on the University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus is nearing completion, a project that will transform the 60-year-old facility into a state-of-the-art resource center.
The $12.1 million renovation project began in the spring of 2019 with an estimated completion date of January 2021.
The work is supported by state bond funds as well as $1.7 million in private gifts toward the Bower Academic Center, which will be located inside the library.
The project involves the total renovation of the first and second floors of Cook Library to create a University Academic Advising Center, along with upgrades to other key service areas located on those floors.
Some upgrades and additions to the library include:
• New administrative offices.
• A computer lab.
• One-on-one tutoring space.
• New LED lighting.
• Program space for student support services.
• Career advising and student retention.
• Technology help desk.
“The transformation of Cook Library will mean users will be able to better access resources to help them progress successfully in their studies,” said Dr. John Eye, dean of libraries at USM. “I am very excited that our library faculty and staff will be able to work much more efficiently in these newly designed spaces, and the library as a whole is much more inviting with the new flooring and finishes.”
Eye points out that a new “collaboration zone” is located next to Starbucks along the first floor’s north windows.
It will provide an inviting space for students to study and interact with each other.
Health and safety issues are being addressed through upgrades to the outdated fire alarm system and sprinkler system on all five floors as well as modification of the mechanical and electrical systems to bring them up to code.
The roof also is being replaced on the 234,882-square-foot building.
Another dynamic feature of the renovation project is the Bower Academic Center, named in honor of Jeff Bower, a former player and longtime head coach of the USM football team.
The center, funded entirely through private donations, is designed so that USM’s Athletics Department may offer greater assistance to Golden Eagle student-athletes in the pursuit of their educational endeavors.
Dr. Chris Crenshaw, senior associate vice president for facilities planning and management, notes that the driving force behind the Cook Library project is the university’s desire to create an academic advising center and to enhance the support system that helps students matriculate through college.
“This is a landmark project for Southern Miss. Its completion will allow us to maximize our ability to provide academic resources that assist students in their journey to graduation,” said Crenshaw.
Some fall 2020 programs and services provided by University Libraries at USM have changed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the university has implemented numerous new safety protocols. Included among these:
• University Libraries will be implementing safety practices.
Those practices include increased spacing between seating and work areas; use of barriers at service points; availability of hand sanitizer; regular cleaning of high-touch areas; one-way directional flow in hallways and stairwells; and limiting capacity in accordance with university protocols.
• In cooperation with iTech, library computers will be available for remote access so that students will have access to programs such as Office 365, Gmetrix, SPSS 26 and Matlab 2019 (soon to be 2020) without having to enter a library building.
• The libraries’ vast array of e-books, e-journals, streaming media and other online content will continue to be available to students 24/7 from anywhere with an internet connection.
• University Libraries will continue to provide a robust suite of virtual services.
These services include personalized research assistance; online guides and tutorials that offer students DIY assistance; pre-recorded lessons integrated into the Canvas learning management system; and live guest lectures for face-to-face and virtual course delivery.