Renovation Project to Turn Library into Modern Student Hub


Stockton University students study in the Bjork Library's current learning commons area. The space will increase nearly four times as part of a $19.5 million library renovation project that will start after the 2023-24 school year.

Galloway, N.J. — What does the library of the 21st century look like?

About two years from now, Stockton University students will find out.

Shortly after the 2023-24 school year ends, the Bjork Library on the Galloway campus will close for a massive, two-year renovation that is badly needed, officials said.

The project, financed by a $19.5 million bond from the state, will transform the three-story, 100,000 square-foot space in the middle of campus into a library learning commons that will be a place for students to gather for meetings, participate in experiential learning opportunities, and work with archival materials and primary sources. Construction is expected to be completed by June 2026 with the renovated library opening in fall 2026.

“The role of the library is to be a community space. A gathering space. A commons where students have access,” said Patricia Thatcher, associate provost, library and learning commons, who has been spearheading the renovation planning for the last two years. “Students will have access to work-ready technology, and learn how to use and find credible information in multiple formats. That’s the library in the 21st century.”

Here are just some of the upgrades as part of the project:

  • More study rooms. The number of rooms for students to study and hold meetings will go from 11 to 34.
  • More learning commons space. Learning commons are open spaces designed to encourage collaborative learning. The square footage in the new library for those areas will increase fourfold from 6,950 square feet to more than 26,000 square feet in the redesign. And the spaces will be spread on all three floors of the library.
  • A new roof and heating and air conditioning system. The library hasn’t had a significant infrastructure update since its opening in 1972, said Don Hudson, senior vice president for facilities and operations. The project will improve air quality and energy efficiency, and address water infiltration.
  • More charging stations. Thatcher said one of the biggest complaints from students about the current library is there aren’t enough places to plug in and charge computers and mobile devices.
  • Plus some simpler things. There will be more comfy chairs, more water-filling stations and more bathrooms, including a gender-neutral one.
Additional Study Rooms
The current library only features 11 study rooms
New Learning Commons Size
In square feet, amount of new student learning commons space, up from 6,950


Cost of Renovation
The cost of the renovation comes from a bond from the state

Of course, you’ll still be able check out a book. In fact, there will be a new self-checkout using your mobile device, which will free up library employees to do other things, Thatcher said.

Where is Stockton getting all this extra space? One way is to reduce the number of actual books, which is a trend that all libraries are heading toward, Thatcher said. The university will cut its total number of volumes nearly in half from more than 376,000 to just over 181,000.

But Thatcher said many of those books will still be available in digitized form. She said the library had about 500,000 uses of ebooks in a year, while only about 50,000 physical books were checked out.

“People expect libraries to be the hub for information, and the information today isn’t necessarily just books,” said Jessica Martorano, access and engagement coordinator for the library. “The digital and the physical need to co-exist in order for a library to be a successful hub. It’s not erasing one, it’s more of a marriage of the two.”

Martorano has played an integral role in the library renovation plans. About a year ago, she created a student advisory board, which provided valuable feedback from those who use the library the most.

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One of the board members is Luke O’Connor, a dual-degree MBA student, who petitioned Martorano to do an independent study on what a 21st century library looks like. O’Connor and Martorano visited 12 colleges and universities in the area — from Temple to Rutgers to Ramapo — to identify the core functions and best practices of today’s academic libraries.

“We wanted to see where libraries were headed so we could put together a road map for academic libraries in the future,” said O’Connor, of Jackson. “So that when we renovated, we wouldn’t just be meeting the current standard. What we will have won’t already be antiquated by the time we’re finished with the renovation.”

Many of the board’s suggestions are being included as part of the renovation, including a new multimedia room that could use virtual reality or feature LED walls to teach students how to use data visualization.

“It’s one thing to talk about studying the Jamestown colony, it’s another thing to be in Jamestown,” Thatcher said. “That’s the sort of technology that that we’ll be able to use in that room.”

Other major parts of the renovation will include some restructuring of existing spaces in the library and on campus, including the addition of a Graduate Studies Reading Room. Special Collections will move to the third floor adjacent to the Constantelos Hellenic Collection and the Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center, both of which will reopen in their existing spaces after the renovation.

Special Collections’ space will nearly double, allowing librarian Heather Perez to consolidate materials from six different places to one, build in some room for expansion and have a new classroom to host students.

“I’m super excited to have all three groups together and be able to collaborate,” said Perez, who added that Special Collections will also have a small gallery space. Her department has grown from about 20 collections eight years ago to 113 today.

“We are kind of at capacity now. This renovation builds in some room for about 10 years of growth,” she said. “We are always adding collections as people are bringing more stuff to us.”

People have a home life and a work life and there aren’t many places where people can just go to gather and have no reason to be there except to just hang out. This place will be one of the last community gathering places. I think Stockton is really embracing that, which is really exciting.”
Luke O'Connor, a dual-degree MBA student from Jackson who did an independent study looking at the library of the 21st century.
The Center for Teaching Learning and Design and the Learning Access Program (LAP), which is the university’s disability support services office, will also move into the renovated library. Hudson said moving LAP will free up space in its existing location in J-wing for the possibility of an expanded counseling center.

During construction, library services will be spread throughout campus. The current library learning commons, book checkouts, interlibrary loan pickup and the information desk will move to the C/D Atrium. Special Collections and much of the books will move to C Wing, while librarian offices will be in H Wing. For more information about the renovation, go to the library’s website. Facilities and Operations has also set up a webpage with more details about the plan, including schematics and renderings.

“The entire student experience is going to be different once this renovation is complete,” said Hudson, who added that he hopes the renovation will reenergize a part of campus just like the Multicultural Center did when it opened over a year ago. “The library is going to do the same thing on steroids because it will be a massive space specifically devoted to students. It will become a new student center that belongs to the students.”

O’Connor said he believes Stockton’s renovation will put the library at the same level as some of the best in the tri-state area. And it will be a great place “to hang.”

“I think that libraries are going in the perfect direction. People have a home life and a work life and there aren’t many places where people can just go to gather and have no reason to be there except to just hang out,” O’Connor said. “This place will be one of the last community gathering places. I think Stockton is really embracing that, which is really exciting.”

-- Story by Mark Melhorn, photos by Susan Allen