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Wolf Law Library impresses students with design

Students at the country’s oldest law school are now enjoying one of the world’s newest libraries as construction on The Wolf Law Library at the College of William and Mary’s Marshall-Wythe Law School is completed.Natural light filters through windows at the library. By Stephen Salpukas.

“The Wolf Law Library is a tremendous step forward for the country's oldest law school,” said W. Taylor Reveley III, dean of the law school. “We had been limping along in a facility that was overstuffed and below the curve technologically. Those days are behind us. Our new library is technologically sophisticated and significantly larger than the facility we were in.  It is also a delight -- both comfortable and elegant, with splendid views into the adjacent woods.”

The new library is a combination of newly constructed space and a complete floor-to-ceiling renovation of the 1980 facility. Construction began in the spring of 2005, and was completed this past summer. The new facility came in under its $16.8 million budget, and totals 57,100 net square feet, a 56 percent increase in size from the old library. The project, which will be dedicated in December, was the beneficiary of a major gift from Hank and Dixie Wolf. Hank Wolf, of Norfolk, is a member of the William and Mary Class of 1964 as well as a 1966 graduate of the law school. He recently retired as Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer of Norfolk Southern Corporation. Wolf also serves on the College's Board of Visitors where he is Vice Rector.

Virtually every table and carrel seat in the new library has electricity, and library users can access the World Wide Web from anywhere in the library using wireless internet access. The library has 12 group study rooms, and 342 student lockers. A skylight and large windows bathe nearly each of the library's 568 seats in natural light, including more than 90 casual seats spread throughout six different lounge areas, a unique "chess corner," and a recreation room with pool and ping pong tables. The library's generous footprint is large enough to provide office space for approximately 20 student groups, as well as offices for each of the law school’s four journals.  An open Rare Book Room allows visitors to admire some of the most important legal literature from the last 500 years and other treasures such as the Bible owned by John Marshall, with notations in the Great Chief Justice's hand.

Jim Heller, director of the library and professor of law, helped oversee the project since planning began several years ago. He, along with architects from Hayes, Seay, Mattern & Mattern, William & Mary project managers, and law library staff members, helped make strategic design decisions for the new facility to ensure the ease and comfort of the library’s users.  Heller said that the contractors -- W.M. Jordan -- are finishing the inevitable punch-list, and that students are truly enjoying the brand new library.

"It has a big ‘wow’ factor," he said.

Kristen Clardy, a second-year law student, said she has been very impressed with the new facility’s increased space and seating. She was especially glad to find electricity available at all of the library’s carrel seats this year so that students will no longer have to crowd around power strips in order to plug in their laptops.

“It’s comfortable. There are enough seats for everybody. You don’t have to feel cramped and really you can go wherever you want,” said Clardy. “You can stay on the main floor if you don’t mind a little bit of noise with the reference desk and the circulation desk, or you can kind of escape to some of the corners of the library if you need absolute quiet all the time. So, it’s been a really nice, comforting change to be able to spend as many hours as we do in such a nice, pretty place.”

Mindy Reuben, a third-year law student, has seen the library transform over the years. She thinks the library will now help draw potential students to the school instead of turning them away.

“It was a detraction, but now it definitely is an attraction for the school,” she said.