Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

The evolution of Hekman Library’s learning community

Chloe Hoekstra
A floor plan for Hekman Library, found at Heritage Hall.

On a fall day in October 1994, a group of Calvin faculty, students and alumni gathered eagerly, anticipating tours of the new fifth floor renovation. Several decades after the library’s initial construction at Calvin’s Knollcrest campus — during which time the building was called the “Library-Classroom Building,” according to Heritage Hall records — Calvin unveiled the renovation and rededicated it with its original name: Hekman Library.  

“We pray that all will recognize this library as a place where the zeal for information is fanned into a passion for truth and understanding,” said Edsko Hekman, as he addressed the crowd who attended the 1994 library rededication.  

Hekman Library has changed over the years, both in its functions and atmosphere. As they look forward to the completion of the library renovation in the fall of 2024, many Calvin students and faculty are anticipating a more communal space.  

Early years of Calvin’s library: Two campuses and Moses 

When Calvin College first became an institution, classes were held at a property on Franklin Street, a few miles west of today’s Knollcrest campus, according to Heritage Hall records. The original Hekman library — officially dedicated on March 8, 1928 —was built on the Franklin campus, according to Calvin College archives. 

The library at the Franklin campus was named after Edsko Hekman and his family, who donated money to build the library after they started a successful baking company, according to Heritage Hall archives. When Calvin College bought the land where the Knollcrest campus is today and began constructing various buildings, students got caught in the midst of a transition. They attended classes at both campuses.  

Thys Van Hout, a 1970 Calvin graduate, remembered bussing from one campus to the other throughout the day. He often chose to spend time at the Hekman Library on the Franklin campus because it was most convenient with his schedule, and it offered a quiet space for him to study.  

But the library was not always quiet. Thys Van Hout remembered witnessing a group of students stampeding and yelling by the library with the three-foot statue of Moses, he said. Thys Van Hout told Chimes that was the only time he saw Moses. According to Thys Van Hout, someone discovered that Moses was hiding in a local park, so students raced to the park. When they found the statue, they brought it to Hekman.   

The statue of Moses was a Calvin tradition in which students stole the statue from each other and paraded it around campus. This tradition continued for decades until it died in the early 2010s, according to previous Chimes reporting.

Completion of the Knollcrest campus library

The four-story library on Knollcrest’s campus was dedicated in 1970, although Thys Van Hout recalls the new library building being open for student use starting his sophomore or junior year. According to Heritage Hall records, Calvin completed the transition from Franklin to Knollcrest in 1973. 

According to Thys Van Hout, the library quickly became a place for studying. “Things were noisy in the dorms, and if you wanted to study, for it to be quiet, that place was the library,” said Van Hout. 

During this time, the library was also an opportunity for on-campus jobs. Barbara Van Hout told Chimes she worked about eight hours a week at the library at a job made obsolete by the digital age: typing up catalog cards for new books, she said.  

The 1994 renovation added the fifth floor, the entrance to the second floor of the library and the computer labs on the first floor, according to Heritage Hall records. The first floor was converted to computer labs in response to a move toward computer-oriented learning, according to Heritage Hall records. 

More recent years: Library as a hangout space

In more recent years, some floors of the library became a hang-out space, according to Hannah Daniels. Daniels, an admissions faculty member and 2020 Calvin grad, said that the fifth floor was the spot to be while she was a student. 

“Most of the floors were devoted to homework and studying and quiet. The fifth floor was the hangout spot,” Daniels said. The fifth floor was supposed to be the quietest floor, so many people would flock to that floor, which consequently made the space loud, Daniels said. 

The title of loudest floor switched with the introduction of Peet’s, Daniels explained. During the summer of 2019 — Daniels’s senior year — Calvin added Peet’s Coffee to the second floor of Hekman. Daniels said the change made Hekman feel modern, and the second floor became the spot to find friends and socialize.  

The state of the current library 

As Hekman undergoes another round of renovations — the goal of which is to keep up with community-based learning trends, librarians Sarah Kolk and Francene Lewis said — students are working with the space they do have, in anticipation of a return to past sorts of socialization.   

Aiden Ehmann, a junior, said he used to study in the library during many late nights. “Last year, it was very much the hangout spot, the study spot,” Ehmann said. He recalled being able to walk through the second floor of the library and say hi to several friends before studying. Peet’s Coffee also drew a large crowd during the chapel break, and Ehmann said he misses that social space. 

Lily Vander Ark, a junior who works at the library, told Chimes that she misses the social aspect of the library as well. She would run into lots of friends while trying to study, and that now, “it’s easy to find a place and crank out some work, get it done and then leave.”  

While the library is less of a social space this school year, many students still use the library. Vander Ark said seminary students usually utilize the fourth floor for late-night paper writing and studying. 

Lauren Empie, a current freshman, said she studies at the library frequently and prefers to study in a group while also in a quiet environment. 

Future of the Library 

Empie’s preferred method of studying — with groups but independently working — is what Francene Lewis, the Head of the Collection Management Department at the library, says many students prefer nowadays. 

We’re focusing our energy on the third floor for that community space.

According to Lewis, the independent study carrels — individual study cubbies on the third and fourth floors —  are hardly used, unless it’s exam season. 

“Libraries are becoming more [of a] community space,” said Sarah Kolk, the head of research and instruction at the Hekman Library. Hekman’s current renovation plans reflect that need for community as the plans include creating a “learning commons.” Many student service offices will move to the library, such as Pastor Mary’s office, the Rhetoric Center, Career Services, Campus Involvement and Leadership offices and more, said Lewis.  

The third floor will be the library’s main hub of operations, although Peet’s, CIL offices and others will not be located on the third floor, but on the second. Kolk and Lewis envision the third floor to be social, with the installation of the main library desk, the reference desk, and many tables. 

“We’re focusing our energy on the third floor for that community space,” Kolk said. 

The basement level will also change, Kolk and Lewis shared. One major change is that the first floor will be an entertainment space, in addition to IT moving back to its original location, said Lewis. 

It’s right in the heart of campus, it’s super easy to get to, it’s a short walk from the dorms, it has a pretty big parking lot for commuter[s]… it has really good resources.

The construction scheduled for completion in the fall of 2024, the library will once again serve the student body at its full capacity. “It’s right in the heart of campus, it’s super easy to get to, it’s a short walk from the dorms, it has a pretty big parking lot for commuter[s]… it has really good resources,” according to Daniels.  

Empie’s upperclassmen friends have been getting her excited for the re-opening, and Vander Ark is ready for the return of the social space the library was last year.  

As Edsko Hekman said at the 1994 library rededication, the Hekman Library continues to bring “a passion for truth and understanding” to students, and recent renovations will emphasize community building. 

Barbara and Thys Van Hout are the grandparents of author Chloe Hoekstra.

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