Two female college students sit under an umbrella outside of at the library.Wingate’s weather took a turn to the cool side late this week, but not before patrons of the Ethel K. Smith Library got a chance to try out new patio furniture and other amenities funded by a Board of Visitors grant and installed this fall.

Some 6,000 people pass through the EKS doors during a typical academic week, and many students use the library as a gathering space. But library employees who sought the grant early this year say the outdoor venue was not very inviting.

“A visit to this high-traffic area reveals chipped tabletops, cracked and rusted railings, broken table legs, and tattered, rusting chairs,” wrote Kaitlyn Helms, a former library administrative assistant who now works for the University’s Office of Advancement. Her description of the patio facing Church Street also included the fact that there was only one electrical outlet available for students looking to use their laptops or other devices in the great outdoors.

Three college students study while sitting on patio furniture outside of the library.In the grant application, the library requested $10,000 to buy rust-resistant furniture, weather-blocking and shade-providing umbrellas, new railings, additional power outlets and weather awnings over two entryways.

As of mid-November, additional outlets and new railings had been installed, and the furniture was in full use. Unseasonably warm weather on either side of Thanksgiving made the patios even more popular. All that remains to be done for the upgrade is awning installation and the addition of planters also bought via the grant.

Library staff say the changes have not only improved the facility’s curb appeal to visitors, students, employees and community members but are helping to create a safe, low-maintenance, year-round “third space” for the University community to collaborate, relax and learn.

The BOV grant was one of nine handed out last spring. In addition to library upgrades, the Board of Visitors funded improvements to the sound system in LaVerne Banquet Hall, helped start a reading center in conjunction with Wingate Elementary and helped bring monks from Tibet’s Drepung Monastery to the Batte Center for a five-day residency. Grant funds were used to buy a 3-D printer and send a professor to a related workshop. Three other professors attended training funded by the BOV, and the Wingate Investment Club was awarded money for needed software and website upgrades.

Next month, the Board of Visitors will once again be taking applications for grants to fund ideas that could “greatly enhance the Wingate student experience.” Faculty, staff and students can submit applications from Jan. 16 to 28, 2018. Each grant is a one-time-only funding opportunity. Maximum funding will be $50,000.

Dec. 7, 2017