New Hale, Same Heart: Students reminisce, explore Hale Library after reopening

Hale Library at Kansas State now has all five floors open to the public, including the Great room, various study locations and the new Sunderland Foundation Innovation Lab. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

Nearly a month into the school year, students have been able to experience the new — and reminisce on the old — Hale Library. While all floors in the newly renovated and restored Hale are now open to students, the legacy surrounding the library remains unchanged.

A fire in Fall 2018 forced this pillar of the Kansas State community to close its doors to the public. While the fire was contained to the roof, the combination of water and smoke damage created a need for restoration throughout the entire building.

“I was really sad because I didn’t know where I was going to study, and I love the library … especially Hale,” K-State alumna Maria Martin said. “I just kind of felt like I wasn’t going to have 100 percent of academia at my fingertips, and I knew that I would have a different college experience than my siblings and my family because I didn’t have the opportunity to study in Hale, or to have the 24-hour windows in Hale during dead week anymore, because they were gone.”

News of the fire came as a shock to the larger K-State community as the space had been a dependable study area for decades. Any student that ever relied on Hale was forced to consider other options for studying, printing or renting books.

“I think some of it pushed me to study a little bit differently,” Martin said. “So I still studied as close as I could to what I normally did, but I started to use different buildings on campus.”

Instead of going to Hale in between classes, Martin occasionally sat in the hallway outside of her next class to study or talk with her classmates.

“It caused me to find different, quiet study spots that were still productive but also close to people so that I could see friends and see professors,” Martin said.

By the end of her senior year, four of five floors in Hale were open to students. While Martin said aspects of the old Hale did need updating, she was happy to see certain parts of the library — the main staircase, original tables and chairs and the paintings in the Great Room — had been carefully restored, not replaced.

With nearly three years of construction crews and campus staff working hard, students from around the world can experience the new Hale library this year. Favour Bassey, international student from Nigeria and junior in mass communications, only stepped foot in the new Hale after the renovation process began.

“I think right now it’s really cool,” Bassey said.

She said she appreciates Hale’s cleanliness and organizational structure and enjoys the many floors and study spaces available to students. Bassey said she often finds herself using the many amenities Hale offers students.

“We have the help desks that will help you … if you don’t know how to use a scanner, or you don’t know how to print … there is always someone there to help you,” Bassey said. “They want to help you.”

Despite the many renovations and a full year closed to the public, the building offers student interaction in ways that make it feel like no time has passed.

“It was really interesting for me to walk in as a senior who had used the old Hale and had visited the old Hale when I was a kid visiting my sisters or my brother at school,” Martin said. “Even though there were students who had never walked into Hale before, they still did the exact same things as former K-State students … I still saw people sitting in the window wells … and hiding away in the classic Hale spots. You would have thought a year and a half of being closed might cause the next generation of K-State students not to have that … little enjoyment and hiding spots within Hale.”

For students like Megan Kinnane, senior in biomedical engineering, Hale is a great place to meet people during group study nights — but not always the best place to study.

“I was never really a library study person,” Kinnane said. “I always work much better around people.”

Even so, Kinnane said she believes Hale has made a significant impact on the surrounding community.

“I think I would call Hale a campus monument,” Kinnane said. “I think for some students a place like the library can feel … stressful because it’s a place where everyone works really hard. For some students, it can feel restful because you can get down to business and just study really well. For some, it’s fun and enjoyable. For some students, it’s just, um, kind of there. But Hale’s a part of everyone’s story. … It’s never been a reprieve for me … but it’s still part of my college experience. It’s still impacted my time at K-State.”

For students like Bassey who have attended schools from around the world smaller than K-State, Hale can feel massive and enchanting.

“For me, Hale is like an adventure center,” Bassey said. “It’s like I was in Hogwarts.”

As a little girl, Martin said she looked forward to one day experiencing Hale’s collegiate atmosphere. Born and raised in a family of nearly all K-State grads, Martin believes Hale is a fundamental part of the K-State experience.

“I would see [Hale] … as one of the pieces of the foundation for K-State, and K-State academia, and the K-State culture,” Martin said. “It’s a building that everyone studies in at some point. You can go there and you can see your friends that are engineering majors, but you can also turn around and see your friends that are music or education majors. … Everyone from each of the colleges will have a lasting impact on Hale, and I think that’s what makes it so special, is that it’s available to everyone and everyone should be able to use it.”