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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 19, 2010

Windward college breaks ground for new library, learning center

By Eloise Aguiar
Advertiser Staff Writer


Buildings renovated or built under Windward Community College master plan:

1996 Hale Kuhina (renovation)

1997 Hale Imiloa (new)

2001 Imaginarium (new)

2002 Hale Palanakila (new)

2002 Hale 'Akoakoa (new)

2010 Library Learning Commons (new)

Source: Windward Community College

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As its building campaign continues, Windward Community College is poised to begin construction of a three-story library and learning center that will replace a cramped, leaky 80-year-old facility.

The new library comes after an intense lobbying effort by campus and community members.

The project is the latest piece to fall into place in the school's master plan that calls for eight new buildings and the renovation of eight existing buildings on the 64-acre Kāne'ohe campus. The library, which the school hopes will be completed in 2011, will be the fifth new building. One building has been renovated.

The college will hold a groundbreaking ceremony today for the $41.6 million Library Learning Commons.

The 69,000-square-foot building will replace Hale Manaleo, which was designed as a hospital ward. The new library will include a learning skills center, a computer lab and a media center. Hale Manaleo is among the buildings to be renovated.

The project is part of a 21-year-old master plan that students, faculty, staff and the community have been lobbying legislators to fund every year since 1991.

The upgrades have increased the appeal of the campus, where roofs were leaking, plaster was peeling and floors were covered with hazardous material.

"In the old days, high school students might not want to come to Windward because they said the buildings were older than their high school and they were more run-down," said Libby Young, a journalism professor at the college who helped organize student lobbying efforts. "They had a certain vision about what college would be like and we didn't fit it."

The push for the library began in 2002 and was unlike any of the other campaigns to fund building projects there, said Nancy Heu, school head librarian. Students, faculty, staff and the community got behind the project as well as local politicians.

Momentum began to build in 2005 at a coffee hour with Windward legislators who encouraged the students to get involved. The following year, they took their plea to individual legislators at the state Capitol. Their 2007 lobbying efforts included a petition with 4,590 signatures.

"We were on a roll," Heu said. "To me, that was so amazing in this tight economy to get this much money."

Students such as Ignacio Fleishour and Mikki O'Phelan were especially convincing.

When Fleishour decided to attend college, he was a high school dropout working at Taco Bell and living under a bridge in Hawai'i Kai. The library at Kapi'olani Community College was his refuge, a place to study out of the rain and to learn to use a computer. He joined the library campaign and told his story to legislators.

Fleishour, who is no longer homeless, said the whole school participated in the campaign and it was an eye opener to see the results of the petition, letters and visits to legislators.

"Hopefully it gives incentives to other students at other schools, even in high schools, that your voice does make a difference," he said.

O'Phelan, who uses a wheelchair because of rheumatoid arthritis, said the new library will open doors for the handicapped.

If she wants to get into the library now, someone often the librarian has to open the door for her. The building is so tight on space she can't maneuver her large wheelchair into certain areas.

When she lobbied for the new facility, O'Phelan knew it would help people like her gain more independence.

"This is such a wonderful school with so much to offer and then you look around and you have this dinky little library," O'Phelan said. "It still offers us a lot of resources. But with a bigger library ... it will be easy to use, user friendly, student friendly."

The new library will have a Hawaiian collection that students can browse, a coffee shop, a study lounge that can be used for small concerts or readings, a multimedia media lab with "high end" software, a classroom, individual study rooms and a TV lounge, Heu said.

Designed by Architects Hawaii, it will be feature storm water collection, waterless urinals, solar panels, natural lighting and glazing to reduce heat and glare.

"It's going to be the crowning glory," Heu said.