Brandywine’s Vairo Library keeps pace in ever-shifting learning environment

Penn State Brandywine library
Credit: Michael McDade

MEDIA, Pa. — Penn State Brandywine’s Vairo Library has undergone decades of progress since its building opened in 1979, and one librarian has witnessed much of that change personally. Susan Ware, a Penn State librarian since 1977, has watched the Vairo Library grow from the size of one classroom into its own space with state-of-the-art resources.

The library construction project was originally proposed by John D. Vairo, Penn State Brandywine’s first campus executive, when the campus moved from Chester to Media in 1970. The library occupied a room in Brandywine’s Main Building for several years before receiving its own location.

Penn State Brandywine Vairo Library

An architectural rendering of Penn State Brandywine's Vairo Library, which opened in 1979. 

Credit: Penn State

“The Main Building was the first building when the campus moved from Chester, but John Vairo really considered the library the heart of the campus,” said Ware. “In fact, the story goes that this location is actually the center of the property.”

Vairo Library has indeed remained an integral part of student life at Brandywine since opening in 1979. Although it primarily functions as a research establishment, the library also provides space for students to collaborate, create multimedia projects and simply relax. The library’s array of services reflects a modern shift toward interactive study — an approach to learning that Penn State Brandywine’s librarians have actually championed for years.

Penn State Brandywine Vairo Library

Since opening, the Vairo Library has remained an integral part of student life at Penn State Brandywine. 

Credit: Penn State

“Modern libraries are reducing the number of book stacks and opening that space up for more collaboration and interaction,” said Ware, “and in fact that’s what we’ve done.”

Today, the library has expanded to include digital information resources, collaborative and quiet study areas, professional media production studios, and academic support centers, including free tutoring.

“We weeded about 14,000 books from the collection,” said Ware. “We reduced the stacks and opened up that space that is now occupied by the academic centers. We rearranged other things for the group study rooms … and then accommodated the media commons.”

Penn State Brandywine group study space

The Vairo Library has expanded to include digital information resources, collaborative and quiet study areas, professional media production studios and academic support centers. 

Credit: Michael McDade

With each change, Brandywine’s librarians have managed to embrace modern technology and research methods, making both entities more accessible to the student body. 

As Penn State Brandywine anticipates the opening of its first residence hall and new student union building in 2017, the campus is once again preparing for a season of positive change. Ware believes that Vairo Library will play an important role in that process.

“The library provides a safe space — a safe space to be comfortable, to interact, to discuss ideas. That’s what it’s all about,” said Ware.

The key, according to Ware, is to remain sensitive to the demands of the present and open to the demands of the future.

“The flexibility of the library has been its biggest advantage,” said Ware. “We are support for learning, so however that moves and changes shape is what we will follow.”