Rebuilding Kingwood’s “New Normal”

By Kat Harper, News Desk Lead

It was 1985 when Lone Star College- Kingwood’s library was built. An age before the popularity of the internet and search engines, when the Encyclopedia was the main source of our worldly knowledge. Kaleigh VonDerVor is LSC-Kingwood’s Director of the Library and Learning Center. This position is new in our campus and Mrs. VonDerVor is the first to hold it. Since the disaster of Hurricane Harvey, Mrs. VonDerVor has led the charge for the recovery of the library. Along with Ms. VanDerVor,  is Mrs. Mikha Mitchell who, with a team, have begun the recovery and update of the library.

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Lone Star College-Kingwood’s Library building books being cleared from inside. Photo by Marcela Macias September 2017

The damage caused from flood waters was devastating and all materials and supplies housed within 20,200 square feet declared a loss.  The only thing to survive the damage was the book drop solely because of its metal composition. When the flood waters rose, the sewage plant backed up and not only was the home of our academic resources water-damaged, it was declared a biohazard zone. Once the damage was assessed, the loss was approximated to be 1.4 million USD. $1.2 million in materials, which included the books housed within the library. Since the whole first floor was damaged, so were the librarian’s offices. Their “home away from home,” these offices not only were their workplace, but they housed memories and personal effects which they held dear.

The building process began recently. Having been the last building on campus to begin reconstruction, the re-inauguration of the space is estimated to be February 2019, making it the last building to resume full operations on campus. Leading the design and layout of the new space is the Houston-based architect firm, AUTOARCH, LLC. Known for its “innovative designs, superb delivery and efficient management of its teams and projects,” AUTOARCH, LLC. has taken ideas brainstormed by our librarians and will deliver a new space fit for a 21st-century campus.

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The brainstorming began this past spring with a group comprised of Lone Star staff. Mrs. Mitchell traveled to Dallas for the Texas Library Association Conference. The goal was to find ideas which could be incorporated into the rebuilding of the library. The next step was taking tours of other college libraries in the area to get a sense of what renovations had been done and gather additional knowledge. For over a month, Mrs. Mitchell and her associates built a sense of comradery while coming up with innovative ideas to further the recovery process. With the creation of a “Vision Book,” the team conferred with architects from AUTOARCH, LLC., who developed the new floor plan to include innovative technology and flexibility within the library space.

The focus of the rebuild is to “future-proof” the library. Various details, such as a raised floor to house power and data for the whole library, will allow for instant access to anything students and staff may need. Furniture with multiple functions, privacy screens instead of walls and easy access to workstations will allow the new library to become a space where any assignment can be done. Flexibility for the coming years is the goal.

Currently, Mrs. VonDerVor’s team is in the final stages of material selection. Once the selection is complete and materials are ordered, construction will begin. At this time, the construction date is to be determined.

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Library recovery team meeting and viewing blueprints. Photo provided by Kaleigh VonDerVor.

Money-wise, this project is being funded primarily by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, with contributions by the Texas Library Association Emergency Harvey Fund (five thousand USD) and the Texas Library and Archives (five thousand USD). Consumables, which include office supplies are being acquired from the school’s regular operating budget.

This new chapter of the LSC- Kingwood library is full of excitement for both Mrs. VonDerVor and Mrs. Mitchell. According to Mrs. VonDerVor, “… the physical library is finally going to catch up to the great faculty and staff who work in it.” In addition, the upgrading of the library will better serve both staff and patrons. Meanwhile, Mrs. Mitchell is looking forward to taking advantage of opportunities that were out of reach before Harvey struck.

While the process has been logistically tiring and emotionally draining, the prospect of seeing the finished product maintains the team’s momentum. The “new normal” is waiting to be built, and it will be built in a space full of old memories with new ones waiting to take place.

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