Construction begins on new NWIC library/tech building

On Feb. 20, construction began on Northwest Indian College’s new library and technology building, a project that will cost approximately $3 million. This will be the eighth building constructed on NWIC’s main campus as a result of the college’s $44 million capital campaign, which began in 2005. The building is scheduled to be completed by January 2014.

The almost 11,000-square-foot facility, designed by Zervas Group Architects, will essentially be two buildings under one roof, said Jay Conway, who is managing NWIC’s new campus construction.

The northern section of the building will house the college’s IT department, staff work rooms, labs and offices. The southern portion will house traditional library spaces, teens and children’s rooms, special collections, study areas and a large open space with the books and magazine stacks.

Valerie McBeth, NWIC’s library director, said that while she will miss aspects of her current space, which was built around 1930, she and her staff are excited for the new building.

“Things will be a lot more convenient,” McBeth said. “The layout is going to be much nicer and we will again be located back in the center of campus activity. With so much having moved to the new campus, we are now on the periphery.”

In her current space, some collections are in the basement which is not accessible to those who can’t use stairs, and the children’s collections are split between the main level and the basement.

In the new building, the library will be brought under a single story and will have more space. NWIC’s library occupies less than 5,000 square feet now, and will fill 6,500 square feet in the new building.

Thanks to that extra space and to what will be a better use of space, the library will be able to expand its computer lab, offer more seating for quiet study, and have a room specifically for the personal library of Vine Deloria, Jr.

The new building will also help bring NWIC’s technology infrastructure up to date. One of the biggest technological benefits to the campus community, according to NWIC IT Director Mike James, will be the new generator, which will allow NWIC servers to stay up and running 24/7.

The college currently does not have a generator and the system in place only lasts about 10 minutes, this leads to disruptions in service. With the generator in place, there will be much fewer disruptions and those disruptions won’t be very significant.

The other major benefit will be the increased fiber connection between north and south campus, which is currently at one gigabit per second. Right now there are seven buildings on the south side of campus sharing a single gigabit connection, which causes network lag between north and south campus because that one gig is spread too thin.

“So you have all of those buildings going into a one gig fiber to our sever room,” James said. “It’s kind of like pouring six to seven gallons of sand into a one gallon bucket. The sand won’t fit.”

Once the building is ready for them, it will take awhile before the IT department can move in. For one thing, they will need to reverse engineer the fiber from their current location to the new location. Even so, James said he’s ready to go.

“I am excited to move into a new office and building that has all the necessary cooling and a generator already in place before we move in and does not have to be patched together or built around in order to make it work,” he said.

Funding for the building came from generous contributions by the U.S. Department of Education, Lummi Indian Business Council, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Tribal Colleges and Universities Program.

In the midst of construction of the Library/Technology Building, work will begin on NWIC’s 12,710-square-foot Coast Salish Institute Building. Construction is scheduled to start in May 2013 and be finished by June 2014.