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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 22, 2010

WCC breaks ground for library

Lance Sabado and Victor Siliata
Reader Submitted

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The college broke ground March 19 for its new Library Learning Commons.

Theresa Worden

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A long-awaited dream moved a step closer to reality with the March 19 groundbreaking ceremony for WCC's new $41.6 million Library Learning Commons.

Now work can officially begin on what UH President M.R.C. Greenwood called "a wonderful new building modern, innovative, energy-efficient and truly a representation of the 21st century."

The new three-story library is envisioned as a campus gathering place and will be home to media labs, the learning and tutoring center, academic computing, a Hawaiian collection and even a coffee shop.

Designed by Architects Hawaii, the structure has been called "a model of sustainability" with the goal of attaining a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver certification.

"This library will be the heart of the campus, even the community," said architect Glenn Yokotake. "Every aspect of the building construction and ongoing maintenance has been reviewed to reduce energy consumption, water use and waste."

The groundbreaking ceremony drew some of the many people who have been part of WCC's history and the campaign to replace the current cramped, leaky structure the college has used for the past 38 years.

"So many people have worked together to make this building a reality," said WCC Chancellor Doug Dykstra. "It took a generation of group effort from community, faculty, staff and students."

The ceremony began with a procession by Hawaiian Studies students and a blessing of the land.

This was followed by remarks from UH officials, community representatives, and key people involved with the project. Then, dignitaries performed the actual "breaking of the ground" with o'o sticks. Hula performances and entertainment wrapped up the event.

WCC's former head librarian DeEtta Wilson spoke emotionally of the effort that went into launching the new library.

"Today's groundbreaking is a great beginning and a thankful conclusion," she said.

"I want to say thank you to Nancy Heu (WCC's current head librarian) and to all of the others who carried on the huge task of developing our hopes and dreams into a tangible reality."

Plans to create the new library have been in the works for decades. When WCC inherited the library building in the 1970s, the library roof leaked and the extreme moisture made the shelves rust. As Wilson describes it, "the books had beards of mold."

Furthermore, the library has been running out of room because of the steady increase in the number of books, DVD's and other learning resources.

Heu explained, "Right now, the Hawaiian collection is crowded behind the circulation desk," adding that when a class comes in, she and the library staff have to shuffle tables around to make space for students to sit.

These conditions spurred the campaign for a new library. In 2006, WCC students, staff, faculty and people in the community banded together to seek $2.59 million in design funds for the new building.

Encouraged by Windward area legislators, the next year they gathered more than 4,750 signatures on petitions and made more visits to the Capitol to plead their case.

The result was the $41.6 million appropriation for construction and a lesson in political activism for students.

Former WCC student Ignacio Fleishour, who played a key role in the campaign, said,"This facility is proof of what can be accomplished when many people use their focus and determination to get things done.

"Windward and the students deserve a world-class facility like the one being built. It can be a place of refuge and a place for new beginnings."

Mikki O'Phelan, a former WCC student who also had a huge part in the campaign, spoke positively about the new library's impact on all WCC students.

"The new library represents a lot of possibilities for all students: in particular, wheel-chaired students will have better access, tutors will have better resources and everyone will have a nice building to work in. It's opportunities for WCC students all around," said O'Phelan.

Windward legislators emphasized the importance of the library for the larger community. Sen. Jill Tokuda, chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee said, "This is going to be one of the biggest projects out there. Because of the tough economy, what this project represents is jobs for our construction industry, for our trades."

Rep. Ken Ito added, "Windward Community College is the best kept secret in the whole university system. I hope people realize this is the place to get a really good education."

The library is expected to be completed in two years. During construction, architect Terry McFarland said at the ceremony, "There will be noise and there will be dust. But it will all be worth it in the end."