Seattle University's Evolving Heart

Lemieux Library expands its intellectual reach to collaborative making  

Harvard University President Charles W. Eliot (1834-1926) once said, “The library is the heart of the university,” referencing the academic library’s centrality to a university’s teaching, research and service mission. Lemieux Library has been SU’s heart for decades, supporting the health and vitality of all the institution’s parts. But things are changing. The cover of the Winter/Spring 2022 issue of Seattle University Magazine touts, “The New Heart of Seattle University,” referring to the Jim and Janet Sinegal Center for Science and Innovation. 

That said, the university’s “academic” heart hasn’t skipped a beat! According to Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons Dean Sarah Barbara Watstein, “A new ‘window’ has opened in the form of the Billodue Makerspace in the Sinegal Center, allowing fresh air to enter—an influx of oxygen to fortify the lifeblood of the library and the university.”

“Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons,” she continues, “is giving life to experiential learning in a global hub of technology, bolstered by an endowment intended to ensure the library’s heartbeat continues indefinitely.” 

A Benevolent Gift

Edward Billodue, ’50, ’65, was a lifelong educator devoted to his students. He earned a bachelor’s in History and a master’s in Education at Seattle University and worked for Seattle Public Schools for more than 50 years, teaching at Magnolia, Queen Anne and West Seattle high schools. He met his wife Marjorie in Seattle and the couple married in 1960. Marjorie worked as a nurse at Swedish Hospital for more than 50 years, finishing her career as Chief Surgical Nurse in the orthopedic ward. In their wills, the Billodues each named the Lemieux Library as the beneficiary of their estate. The expressed purpose of their gift is “to support the furtherance and maintenance of Seattle University’s library and library facilities.” Marjorie, 81, passed away in 2017, followed by Edward, 94, in 2018. The couple had no children, leaving Seattle University the sole beneficiary. The university established the Edward and Marjorie Billodue Library Endowment in 2018, positioning the couple’s bequest to carry out their wishes in perpetuity. 

Educating for a Constantly Changing World

Lemieux Library continued to serve the SU community as it always had into the early 2000s, when conversations about learning began to shift, driven by the “Maker Movement.” The first “Maker Faire” took place in the Bay Area in 2006, an event intended to bring inventors, tinkerers and do-it-yourselfers out of basements, garages and craft rooms and into a public space to share ideas and innovations. Interestingly, it wasn’t just engineers who showed up—there were innovators across the spectrums of science, education and the arts. 

The event raised awareness of hidden interest in making among people of all ages and more maker faires and events began to pop-up in the U.S. and abroad. “Making” grew into a movement that garnered the attention of President Barack Obama, who launched his own “Educate to Innovate” campaign, intended to encourage young people to be “makers of things, not just consumers of things.” Making had the potential to build confidence in young people, foster creativity and spark interest in STEM, the arts and learning as a whole.  

The conversation shifted at SU during this first decade of the 21st century, too. A new library of the future, the Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons, was officially dedicated in 2010. The $55 million project transformed the original A.A. Lemieux Library, built in 1966, from a warehouse for books to a dynamic organ that, “retains the best elements of the library as the repository of knowledge and celebrates its new role as a service center in support of inquiring and creative minds,” says former University Librarian John Popko. 

Significant investments were made in technology and modern approaches to learning. Innovations included the Learning Commons, comprised of the Learning Assistance Program, the Math Lab, Media Production Services, Research Services and the Writing Center. The Media Production Center provides tools, training and space where students can come and transform a creative idea into an original multimedia production. In other words, a digital makerspace under the auspices of the library. 

SU continued to evolve and embrace new technologies and innovative approaches to learning over the following decade and in Fall 2021 opened the Jim and Janet Sinegal Center for Science and Innovation. When it was announced that this innovative new home to the Biology, Chemistry and Computer Science departments would include a makerspace, Dean Watstein jumped at the opportunity to bring the space under the library’s wing. 

“Lemieux Library strives to be the intellectual hub of campus—a place where students, faculty and staff can gather to explore, create and gain new knowledge,” Watstein says. “We are perfectly positioned to expand our reach by providing spaces, equipment, tools and support for collaborative making.”

Making the Makerspace 

Managing a physical makerspace is uniquely challenging, in part because it is a different type of organization than an academic library and a different type of space to operate. Preparing required something librarians are particularly good at: research. 

Lemieux Library leadership conducted scans of academic spaces at other Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) institutions and at institutional peers in partnership with SU Facilities staff and other campus colleagues. A day-long hack-a-thon was organized for library and information professionals and higher education “maker” professionals, including representatives from Seattle University, Stanford and the University of Washington. Focused on one goal—charting a course for a successful Lemieux Library managed makerspace—participants considered how to design and set up a space inside the Sinegal Center and what activities, training and entrepreneurial opportunities to provide.

Dean Watstein convened an advisory group of Seattle University faculty and staff to ensure widespread campus engagement and effective planning. Co-chaired by Lara Branigan, director of design + construction, and Watstein, the Makerspace Advisory Group considered topics ranging from pedagogy and prototyping in makerspaces to what it means to be a campus-wide “entry-level” makerspace that can contribute to the future development of an SU campus ecosystem of makerspaces.

A manager would be needed with experience operating a makerspace within a university system and familiarity with service and cost models and funding mechanisms for its operation. Enter Nick Ames, the ideal candidate. 

Ames comes to SU from the University of Washington where he worked in direct curricular support, running a large set of labs for students and faculty. Familiar with SU’s makerspace having participated in the 2019 hack-a-thon, Ames had his own thoughts as to why it makes sense for a university library to manage an academic makerspace. 

“So often academic makerspaces are housed within university engineering schools and therefore, they’re thought to be the realm of engineers. Even if the makerspaces are intended to be open to everyone, they still privilege engineering. Academic libraries like Lemieux do not exist to serve one college or school at a higher level than another—and there’s something beautiful about being discipline-agnostic. These libraries are community resources where students across disciplines can do research and learn using shared resources.” 

“I see academic makerspaces as part of an evolution in resources integral to student learning today,” he continues. “Many of the tools found in makerspaces, like 3D printers, laser cutters, 4-needle embroidery machines and power tools, are expensive, not the kind of thing students have in their dorms or apartments. But they can come to the makerspace and use these tools to create and learn—they belong to the community. For me, that’s a big part of the way that makerspaces tie-in with libraries.” 
Officially named the Billodue Makerspace in honor of the generous estate gift that supported its inclusion in the Sinegal Center, this new campus community resource had a soft opening in February 2022 to allow curious students to come in, look around, try out different tools and enroll in free workshops to learn how to do 3D printing, to sew, to machine embroider and other creative endeavors. The library hired an on-site specialist and trained student staff to run the space and teach and assist students, faculty and staff to use the equipment. A more formal credentialing system will be put in place by the fall, through which students can participate in online and in-person (hybrid) training sessions and earn virtual badges that let staff know they’ve been trained on different pieces of equipment. 

Once all systems are a “go,” Ames’ focus will transition to working with faculty who want to incorporate making into their curricula. 

“More and more faculty are embracing the notion that the creation of physical and digital artifacts should be a core competency,” he says. “Just because you’re an English major doesn’t mean you should never make a thing. Nursing, for example, is a program that I feel can do some of the most innovative work in the makerspace. I’m very inspired by all of this. I want all students to gain agency through the creation of physical and digital artifacts. The action of creating empowers students to discover new skills within themselves and connect their passions to what they’re learning in class.” 

Two Hearts Beating as One

Though the Sinegal Center for Science and Innovation may be viewed as the university’s new heart, the Lemieux Library and McGoldrick Learning Commons has created for it a foundation aligned with SU’s Jesuit ethos. It’s two hearts that beat as one.

The library’s new action plan, aligned with Seattle University’s Strategic Directions, addresses areas of investment and issues of equity, diversity and inclusion. Initial investments supported by the Billodue Library Endowment have focused on shared digital lending, providing students and faculty with greater access to materials and updating of equipment in the Media Production Center. 

Future plans include: 

·       Reimagining and repurposing space in the Lemieux Library and Learning Commons. 

·       Expanding and diversifying library collections. 

·       Support for staff professional development and student peer research consultants. 

·       Ongoing purchases of equipment and supplies for the Billodue Makerspace, ensuring it remains accessible to the SU community. 

If you’d like to support the library and its spaces, resources and services, contact Dean Sarah Barbara Watstein, who is happy to meet with potential donors to discuss how their interests connect with the goals and objectives of the library. As the Billodue Library Endowment has already demonstrated, through their gifts, donors enrich the student academic experience.

Tags: Lemieux Library, Billodue Makerspace, Donors, Edward and Marjorie Billodue Library Endowment, Sinegal Center for Science & Innovation, Academic Excellence