Mary Idema Pew Library Vision and History

Our Vision

The Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons will be a beautiful and inspiring building that will become the intellectual heart of the Allendale campus. It will exceed the expectations of anyone who thinks of a library as a static and fading book box. Students will perfect new skills, complete assignments, engage with their peers, gain confidence as they are coached to higher levels of academic achievement, discover something new, or maybe just immerse themselves in a good book. They will do these things in an environment that was created just for them—the right lighting, the right furniture, the right resources, the right services, the right spaces, and the right amount of flexibility. They will relish this space as part of their learning experience at GVSU.

“Most importantly, this building is the place we wanted for our students—a place that stirs the spirit, stimulates the intellect, supports learning, invites engagement, and accommodates their need for comfort and community.” —Lee Van Orsdel, Former Dean of University Libraries

June 2008

Shaping Our Future

Shaping Our Future was the first campaign in the university's history to support a broad array of programs and projects in a comprehensive, multi-year effort. The campaign was designed to support a precise set of priorities that: deliver nationally ranked programs to our students here in Michigan; support and help transform the region's economy; and foster civic engagement. The Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons was the campaign's cornerstone.

Library Program Planning

Hundreds of hours with architects, planners, user and library personnel helped develop a robust and exciting program that defined the spaces in the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons

May 2009

Program Planning Complete

All of the hard work of planning paid off, with a clear idea of the building that will begin to emerge from the vision. The new building will improve the academic experience at GVSU by:

  • Providing collections and services that support learning and scholarship
  • Extending learning beyond the classroom
  • Serving as an academic hub-a central place where widely diverse topics can be featured and explored
  • Creating a space that invites students to explore ideas
  • Offering rich, flexible learning environments
  • Promoting student success and advancing intellectual growth and discovery
  • Reflecting of the values and goals of the University

February 2010

The Board Approves Selection of SHW Group

SHW has an interdisciplinary team of architects, engineers, planners, and educators with an extensive background in the design of innovative and student-friendly educational buildings. The firm was selected for this project because of its dedication to studying, defining, and creating environments that inspire creativity and drive student potential. The firm's work spans the globe, with projects in 23 states and three countries. It has earned numerous awards for design and planning, including recognition as one of the top five education design firms in the U.S. by Engineering News-Record.

The new building SHW will design has:

  • Concourse with an atrium that extends up three floors
  • Multipurpose Auditorium with capacity for over 80 people
  • Exhibition space
  • Knowledge Market that will house peer coaching and mentoring services in the areas of researching, writing and presenting
  • 2 bibliographic training rooms
  • 2 reading rooms
  • IT Help Desk
  • Café with seating for nearly 100 people
  • Approximately 20 collaborative work areas allowing for private or group work
  • Open, browsable shelves with space for 150,000 books
  • State of the art automated storage and retrieval for up to 600,000 books

April 2010

Complete Schematic Design

The team created the functional pieces of the program and starting working within the boundaries of the building to determine the best location and relationships between the elements. Time was spent optimizing the use of every available square foot.

June 2010

Creating 21st Century Libraries

Steelcase Corporation, SHW Group and GVSU presented "Creating 21st Century Libraries" at Neocon in Chicago, IL. Steelcase’s most recent research on education libraries was presented. Participants found out about the key business drivers impacting how libraries are designed and what activities must be supported in the 21st century. They learned to develop and use a human-centered design method to develop solutions and aid the shift from information-centered libraries to social centered ones Presenters: Elise Valoe, senior human-centered design researcher for Steelcase Inc., Grand Rapids, MI; Tod Stevens, AIA, LEED AP, principal designer for SHW Group, Berkeley, MI; Lynell De Wind, MSI, MBA, director of planning and organizational resources for Grand Valley State University Libraries, Allendale, MI.

September 2010


On a beautiful fall day, donors, students and staff gathered on the building site to celebrate the groundbreaking of this new signature building on the Allendale campus.

November 2010

The Department of Energy Selects the Project

Grand Valley State University's Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons was included in a list of projects chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy to receive assistance in reducing building energy use. Supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 24 projects throughout the U.S. received a total of $21 million in technical assistance over a three-year period. Other organizations on the list included Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

May 2011

Construction Begins

After a winter of finalizing the construction blueprints, dirt was moved and a lot of large scale equipment began operating on site.

As construction got under way, we continued sharing the vision behind the project. Dean Lee VanOrsdel and Lynell DeWind presented Flipping the Model: Making Noise in the Library at the NBS Healthcare & Higher Education Vendor Fair. Meanwhile, University Business mentions the Mary Idema Pew Library in their cover story "Collaboration Station" by Melissa Ezarik.

January 2012

Construction Progresses

The large hole west of Kirkhof Center began to grow, with the outline of the future Mary Idema Pew Library slowly rising from the ground.

Construction Progresses
Construction Progresses
Construction Progresses

June 2012

The Building Takes Shape

The building shape appeared in the summer of 2012, and work began in earnest on shaping the spaces inside.

January-March 2013

Preparing to Move the Collection

Throughout the final semester at Zumberge Library, preparations were made to move the entire collection quickly, since renovations on the old library would begin two weeks after the semester ended. Teams worked hard to prepare materials for the two Automated Storage and Retrieval Systems, as well as the books on open stacks.

April 2013

Students Get a Sneak Peek

Grand Valley President Thomas J. Haas wanted graduating seniors and returning students to get a peek of the new library before heading home for the summer. During the event Lee Van Orsdel, Dean of Grand Valleys University Libraries; and James Moyer, associate vice president for Facilities Planning answered questions and chatted with students who were guided through select areas. Other library staff were also on site to point out key areas. Students were excited and snapped photos with their cell phones, tweeted to their friends and posted to social media sites.

Louie the Laker and students check out the library
Students preview the new library
Students preview the new library

May 2013

Collections Move

Zumberge Library closed its doors to patrons April 26, and the work began moving the collections to the new library. For three days, beginning May 3, most of the 145,000 books in Zumberge were moved in sequential order on rolling carts to the Mary Idema Pew Library. Then we began the daunting task of loading nearly 180,000 items into the automatic storage and retrieval system.

Staff move the collections
The collections move
Staff wrap books for the move

June 2013

The Building Opens

On June 24, 2013, the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons opened to the public. Plenty of oohs and aahs were heard throughout the building.

September 2013

Grand Opening and Dedication

Still shot from video of Grand Valley Mary Idema Pew Library formal dedication ceremony

The formal dedication of the Mary Idema Pew Library took place on Tuesday, September 3rd, for invited guests. A Community Open house took place on Saturday, September 7th.

Page last modified November 17, 2022