Forsyth Library renovation surpasses budget; FHSU Foundation to cover gap


Fort Hays State University accepted a bid for the Forsyth Library Renovation Project that exceeded expectations by more than $3 million. PWC was the low bidder at $22,504,000.00.

The project will incorporate new areas, including a technology-focused space, a presentation area, and a designated space for Special Collections and Archives. Dean of Library Services Ginger Williams said the new spaces and basic renovations are upgrades needed for several years.

“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to nearly start from scratch and reimagine the library the way we need it to be today,” Williams said.

The opportunity to create an academic hub by 2026 is not without difficulties, as FHSU President Tisa Mason said the bid for the project exceeded expectations.

“We were disappointed that it came in over budget, but we are confident that we will fill the gap,” Mason said to Tiger Media Network.

According to Mason, inflation was challenging for the renovation as it was nearly $3 million over the budget. The proposal was accepted due to Mason’s high faith in the FHSU Foundation and the involvement of community businesses.

“We like doing things locally, building up our economy while also working on our building too,” Mason said.

FHSU announced in June of 2022 a federal grant of $17 million. Sen. Jerry Moran helped secure the funds for the university.

According to Williams, a second grant requested by Moran raised the total to $19 million. The roughly $22 million bid only includes construction costs and not design fees, furniture and storing materials offsite during renovations.

President and CEO of the FHSU Foundation, Jason Williby, is tasked with reaching out to donors and closing the gap, something FHSU has faced in the past.

“I know there have been other projects that have come underbid, some overbid,” Williby said. “Sometimes it has to do with inflation and availability of labor.”

The Foundation plans to raise $3 million over the next three years, which Williby said is a ‘realistic time frame.’ Williby is also working alongside Williams to finalize the remaining funds through library tours. The final tour before the facility closes for summer construction on May 13 is at 9 a.m. on May 4. Guests can RSVP for a tour here.

“We want to make sure we have time to educate donors until they understand the power of the library and why it’s necessary at Fort Hays,” Williby said.

Mason said while the remaining funds are small in comparison to the scope of the project, it also opens up the doors for people to leave their mark at FHSU.

“What’s nice about having to fill the gap is we’re doing a lot more named spaces because of that,” Mason said. “It gives our alumni, community, students, organizations, and whomever be part of the renovation and have their name on something.”

The Foundation has identified more than 70 spaces of varying amounts on a first-come-first-served basis.

Classrooms, study spaces, or welcome desks can be named in honor of a friend, family member, loved one, or business starting at $5,000, which can be paid in full or in annual installments. More information on named spaces within Forsyth Library and donations can be found here.

The addition of 10 new individual study rooms, several semi-closed study nooks, and dozens of study pods scattered across the library’s open study spaces.

Williams said the library’s reconstruction will enhance study and meeting areas, along with a spacious presentation venue for large programs and gatherings. In addition to the study and meeting areas, Williams said other student requests will also be accommodated.

“A café, books on every floor, and easily what we heard the most often, more natural light,” she said.

The renovations will include the removal of ceiling tiles in numerous sections and the installation of large windows on all four sides of the building. This will offer a view of the quad and allow natural light to flood in from all directions.

Williams said she anticipates the building will temporarily close once demolition begins, although certain sections will remain accessible until then.

“Having most of the building closed for renovation is the most efficient way to handle the process, she said. “We know it will challenge students to find other study spaces across campus.”

Northeast corner conference room for 20 people.

FHSU senior student Annabel Walter said she enjoys using library resources but sees areas of improvement needed.

“I come here a lot with friends and we go into different rooms to study,” Walter said. “I think there is a need for a few more of them.”

In the meantime, Walter recommends an alternative study space on the second floor of the Fischli-Willis Center for Student Success.

“I spend a lot of time on the second floor, so I definitely say that if it’s not too busy up there,” she said.

Although Walter graduates before the project competition, Williams said the renovation improvements are something everyone should be eager to see.

“If you’re graduating before the renovation is finished, you’re going to want to come back to see the results,” she said.

Williams said the changes will significantly enhance the library, as its current state reflects a series of minor renovations over the years.

The new Honors College area will be available for students and families during campus visits, and it will provide enrolled Honors students space to study and collaborate.

Forsyth Library opened its doors to students in 1967, with the library having prior locations in Picken Hall, Martin Allen Hall and the old Fort Hospital building.

The various renovations in recent years aimed to accommodate departments and services, including the Writing Center, the Honors College, the Makerspace, and the Institute for New Media Studies, all of which have been relocated to different areas on campus.

“We’re excited about the new opportunity to create learning and relaxing spaces for our students that will be very helpful to them,” Mason said.

Site preparation work has occurred on the lower levels as government documents, technology, and furniture have begun to be removed from the library, and 13 of 18 Forsyth Library faculty and staff have moved to Custer Hall. Documents, collections and other limited print materials can be requested here, and a timeline and the status of its services are also available online.