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A new chapter for WSU-Spokane

Tue., July 25, 2006

“Leaves of Grass” took a little trip Monday. So did “Recent Advances in the Study of Dental Calculus.”

One by one, every volume in the library at the Riverpoint campus – a shared venture of Washington State and Eastern Washington universities – is being hauled through the heat from the old library to the new one – the centerpiece of the new Academic Center.

In the next couple of days, workers will have moved more than 10,000 books and 10,000 journals. For the first time, the Spokane campus will have a “real” library instead of retrofitted office space. Officials said it’s a significant step in the campus’ steady 17 years of growth.

“This campus has been growing a lot faster than its physical facility,” said Bob Pringle, director of the campus library. “We’re really excited about moving into a place that’s really designed to be a library.”

The Academic Center adds classrooms and computer labs to the campus as well, and it comes as part of a steady growth in programs and students. Enrollments at the school have doubled three times since it opened in 1989, and the next new building is only two years away from its projected opening.

Meanwhile, EWU is looking at shifting at least some of its Spokane programs to Riverpoint once it sells its current downtown center, which should add several hundred students to the more than 3,000 who use the campus.

Brian Pitcher, chancellor of WSU-Spokane, said the new academic building will be a centerpiece for the campus and help establish it more firmly as a local university.

“This is a big step,” he said. “When people visit campus, they are now saying, ‘Oh, there’s a real campus here. It’s not a building. It looks like and feels like a university.’ “

Longtime supporters in the business community have foreseen the possibility of a flourishing mix of academic programs, businesses and housing at Riverpoint – the development of a true university district. Commercial development and housing haven’t begun springing up around campus, but officials have talked about the need for a “critical mass” of student activity at the campus to be reached before other development will follow.

Pitcher said he thinks that when the new Intercollegiate College of Nursing is built and open in two years, that will help drive the need for housing and other amenities, as will the eventual arrival and likely new building that would accompany the shifting of Eastern programs.

“For that (nursing) college to be successful, we’re going to need housing and services to support the undergraduate population there,” he said.

The library move was planned down to the volume, and the shelves at the old library had paper markers indicating where the books should go. The new library has about three times the space as previous locations, and the planning had to take into account the arrival in two years of the nursing library when the new nursing college is done.

Besides the library, the $33.8 million Academic Center will include computer labs, classrooms and student services. It covers more than 100,000 square feet. Next up for the campus is the $32 million nursing building, expected to open in 2008.


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