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Welcome to the Panther Caucus, an initiative that engages alumni, students and friends working to increase public and legislative support for the University of Northern Iowa. Periodic emails will be sent to Panther Caucus members about some of the great things happening at UNI. Sign up for the Panther Caucus mailings or follow Panther Caucus on Twitter through @nipanthercaucus.

November 30, 2016

Thousands of UNI students pass through UNI's Rod Library daily, wrapping up final projects and studying for exams as their semester comes to a close. The UNI campus community utilizes the many resources that the library provides, including an excellent intellectual and social collaboration center.

UNI Library

The library on campus today is much different than it was back in 1911 when the library was located in Seerley Hall's Great Reading Room. The Great Reading Room was shrinking as UNI's campus was growing, and the book collection was becoming too large to fit in a single room. In 1960, Marshall Beard, who was in charge of campus planning, decided that a new library building would benefit the campus and students. After fighting through the challenges of winter weather, the brand new Rod Library was completed in 1964.

The demand for student workspace in the Rod Library increased with growing enrollment. Expansions began in March of 1973 and were completed in 1975. “Nothing appears to have missed the designers' eyes - aesthetics, acoustics and comfort are more than abundant in every corner,” said Iowa author Frederick Manfred, keynote speaker at the dedication of the new addition in 1975.

The evolution of student needs over the last 41 years has acutely affected the Rod Library, requiring several technological and service updates. Some of the recent changes include the addition of the Digital Media Hub, a maker space complete with 3D printer and the addition of a bistro cafe area - which is quite the turnaround from years past, considering food wasn’t even allowed in the library at one point.

The Rod Library is committed to helping students learn and promote scholarship. The Digital Media Hub, replacing the card catalog, supports student digital media creation providing laptops, desktops, software, cameras and green room technology. While the learning commons on the first floor acts as a social center where students and faculty can actively engage in intellectual discourse, the library also offers quiet study spaces on the upper floors, furnished with everything from more traditional study carrels and tables to upholstered furniture.

Renovations and the building of a Crossroads Complex are included in UNI's capital projects request for the next five years to ensure the Rod Library is able to continue to adapt to the changing needs. The Rod Library renovation project is needed for several reasons. The mechanical systems and utilities are past their lifespan. The library needs appropriate climate control and security - which are currently unavailable - for the preservation of valuable archival and museum collections. The layout and furnishings do not meet the learning and technology needs of today's students.

The university is conducting a study on the concept of a Crossroads Complex, incorporating the fused facility of a student center with the Rod Library. The vision for the Rod Library is to enhance the student experience from prospective student to alumna/us, provide a state-of-the-art resource for community and external audiences, and create a facility that intentionally blurs the lines between curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular aspects of the UNI student experience. This will help serve the university's efforts with recruitment, retention and engagement.

November 23, 2016