PITTSBURG — The Leonard H. Axe Library at Pittsburg State University has completed another phase renovations. 

This time it’s the first floor. 

Don’t worry, students, the Axe Grind coffee shop is still there, it just has a new look. 

Walking into the library people will notice the open space. The reception desk and surrounding area has been moved and is smaller in size, there is no longer a divider in main area near the old reception desk and all of the furniture has either been replaced or refurbished. 

A piece of history remains, some of the chairs from the ‘70s have been given a new “modern” look with new upholstery. 

The study area has flexible seating — including stand up desks over a treadmill where students can walk while studying.

The space has also been opened in the computer area with seating along the walls and a few long tables in the middle of the room with desktop computers. 

The changes continue around the first floor, with new seating options and it carries the same “modern” design as the rest of the floor. 

According to Axe Library Services Dean Randy Roberts all of this is part of the university’s mission to “create transformational experiences for students.” 

But the library’s main purpose is the students, he said. 

“One of the most fulfilling things for me today was when we opened the front doors at 1 o’clock by 1:05 we had two young men in the sitting room studying, three young ladies studying back there,” he pointed to the side of the room during a ribbon cutting for the renovations on Tuesday, “not just roaming around but sitting down doing their work.

“That’s one of the reasons why we do this in the first place, students.”

Roberts said academic libraries are reinventing their environments to “provide versatile spaces that support a wide range of users, learning, research activities while accommodating programing, socialization and certainly advances in technology,” he said during a speech at the ceremony. “Changes in academic libraries align with some dramatic changes throughout higher education, ranging to ubiquitous technology in the classroom, changing student demographics, rising number of operating costs and declining budgets, teaching learning efforts are more collaborative, more interdisciplinary and obviously infused with technology.”

According to a release from Pittsburg State University, the project included updating first floor finishes, ceilings, LED lighting, and space reconfiguration to meet the needs of 21st Century students and faculty based on a phased master plan.

In previous phases, the university has invested nearly $3 million to modernize the library, the release said. Starting in the lower level, and then on the third floor, state-of-the-art technology, multi-media labs, small group study areas, new ceilings, floors, doorways, and bathrooms were added, the release said. It also allowed for the east entrance of the first floor to be opened, making access from the large parking lot to the east of the library more convenient. 

The current phase, which totals $926,000, was funded by state rehabilitation and repair dollars, the release said. 

History of the library 

During the ribbon cutting event on Tuesday at the library, Director of Special Collections Steve Cox share some of the history of the university’s library.

In the early years, the library was in a public school building, a church, then Russ Hall. 

Following a fire at Russ Hall in 1914 all but 150 volumes were saved by students as firefighters extinguished the fire. 

“Books that were saved would smell smoke for decades,” Cox said. 

In 1927 a new library was constructed, Porter Hall, which was home for the library for half a century. In the 1960s it was decided that a new library would be built to provide more space and more plugs-ins for the technology which was emerging. 

For a decade they planned for the new building and in 1977, the year when the school received university status from the Kansas legislature, construction began and almost exactly 40 years ago on Oct. 6, 1979 the library celebrated it’s new library, the Axe Library, with a dedication.