Reopening ceremony celebrates renovated Mary M. and Bertil E. Lofstrom Library

HAZLETON, Pa. — Penn State Hazleton on Sept. 8 celebrated the reopening of the Mary M. and Bertil E. Lofstrom Library following a $7.6 million renovation project, officially ushering in a refreshed, state-of-the-art campus resource for research, teaching and learning.

With one of it's most noticeable new features — floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking campus — as the backdrop, the ceremony featured campus and University representatives commending the library’s modern amenities, expansive natural lighting, and variety of spaces for students to study, collaborate and learn.

“Today is a great day in the history of Penn State Hazleton,” said Kelly Austin, interim senior vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor. “This $7.6 million transformation represents the institution’s robust investment in planned regular maintenance and renewal.”

Interior upgrades include significant renovations to offices and common areas, and the addition of six group study rooms, two makerspaces, a one-button studio, and a meditation corner. The lower level also features Math Dimension, a peer tutoring center, and Career Closet, which provides professional clothing for students to borrow.

Additionally, curtain windows were installed on the main and lower levels to showcase the campus’ scenic views and allow for more natural light.

“The vision for the library’s interior was to create a student-centered learning environment that provides various spaces that offer opportunities for student collaboration, creativity and quiet study,” Austin said. “All of these improvements will benefit students for many years to come.”

Faye A. Chadwell, dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communications, said the renovations improve the library’s functionality and appearance while supporting students in their educational goals.

“This 18-month effort represents a critical commitment to enhancing the student experience at Penn State Hazleton,” Chadwell said.

‘Happy for the students’

Renovations began in May 2019 and wrapped up in fall 2020. During that time, the library’s materials were housed in the campus’ Evelyn Graham Academic Building. 

Throughout the project, input and feedback from students, staff and faculty were a priority, said Head Librarian Valerie Lynn.

“We’re extremely happy for the students because this is something they’ve wanted for so many years,” Lynn said. “To be able to give them this wonderful, comfortable, technologically robust space is very rewarding.”

Elizabeth J. Wright, director of academic affairs and associate dean for academic affairs in the Office of the Senior Vice President for Commonwealth Campuses, applauded Lynn and fellow library staff Erik Angel, Lisa Hartz and Shannon Richie for their efforts and ideas during the project. 

Wright also credited Chancellor Gary M. Lawler for championing upgrades to facilities throughout his 15 years of leadership on campus.

“This project was no different,” Wright said. “Dr. Lawler was closely involved with each stage of the project and took great pleasure in considering how the space could be transformed in order to create new opportunities for students to study and to learn.”

Gina Monks, associate teaching professor of mathematics and Math Dimension coordinator, noted the renovations are already being appreciated.

“The semester is only two-and-a-half weeks in and already students are making this their place to hang out and study,” she said. 

Lofstroms’ legacy

Built in 1972, the 28,000-square-foot library was named after longtime campus supporters Mary M. and Bertil E. Lofstrom in 2017 — the first time a campus building was named after an alumnus.

Bertil E. Lofstrom, a Philadelphia native, began attending Penn State Hazleton in 1950 and, after graduating from Penn State in 1954, went on to serve for 22 years in the U.S. Air Force. While serving, he earned a master’s degree from Michigan State University in 1964. After retiring as a colonel, he went on to work as a financial planner.

Mary M. Lofstrom, meanwhile, served as a nurse in the Air Force for 26 years, also obtaining the rank of colonel before she retired. During her service, she was a nursing administrator and military consultant to the surgeon general for 14 years. She died in 2016 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. 

Through their generosity, the couple established a scholarship in their name and donated artwork that is currently on display on campus and at the Palmer Museum of Art in University Park. Both were named members of the Mount Nittany Society at University Park and Highacres Society at Penn State Hazleton.