Reflection Room will enhance student wellness

February 1, 2023
An artist rendering of the upcoming Reflection Room in James Branch Cabell Library.

Construction will soon begin on a Reflection Room space at James Branch Cabell Library. The 400+ square foot area on the second floor is envisioned as a quiet and welcoming space where visitors can engage in reflective practices such as meditation or prayer, seek a wellness or mindfulness respite, or simply retreat briefly into a peaceful space for contemplation. The room will open for use in fall 2023.

The room–which will have minimalist furnishings and decor, offers open floor space for mindful practices–will be funded only by private philanthropy. VCU Libraries has raised nearly $300,000 for construction and needs an additional $50,000 to meet construction costs.

“This is an investment in student wellness and wellbeing which aligns with the Libraries Strategic Framework goal of improving health and well-being,” says Dean of the Libraries and University Librarian Irene Herold. “The room will offer a place where a student can stop, reflect and recharge for a few moments.” 

Even though located on the bustling second floor, which allows conversation, the Reflection Room is expected to be quiet. Electronic devices will be prohibited or discouraged since the space is designed to enhance wellness by taking a break from the bustle of study and connectivity. The room will not be used for classes, gatherings, meetings or conversations but will be open to library users when the building is open. 

Rooms like this one are a growing trend on large diverse campuses like VCU. Such rooms, created within bustling academic libraries and other central locations on university campuses, are all-too-rare quiet spaces for meditation, prayer, mindfulness practice or for students who seek a stress-free moment away from research, study or their hectic daily activities. 

Like many academic libraries today, Cabell Library–which allows talking on three floors for collaborative work and a large, busy Starbucks cafe–isn’t always a hushed space. As libraries expand spaces and services to support diverse students in achieving academic success, these spaces are becoming more common in academic libraries, according to a 2018 article in American Libraries Magazine.  

Fundraising and planning has been underway since 2018. Working with the VCU facilities team and Glave’ and Holmes architecture firm, VCU Libraries also invited input from students on  conceptual designs for the new space. Students offered helpful feedback on the importance of making sure the room is soundproof enough to be insulated from the busy second floor, the types of rules and expectations for the space, and more.

"We engaged students in the process of refining the vision of this space to ensure it meets the needs of VCU's population,” said Laura W. Gariepy, the associate dean for research and learning. She oversees building operations to best meet student needs. “The opportunity to provide spaces in the library that support wellness, which we know contributes to academic success, is an important initiative for VCU Libraries that this project fits into." 

Donors have stepped forward generously, according to Director of Development and Major Gifts Kelly Gotschalk. “So many of our donors, who love and understand the broad and deep impact of our libraries, see the value in creating such a place to benefit students. I have every confidence we will meet our fundraising goals to complete construction.” To make a gift to help build the room: Give securely online or contact Gotschalk to set up a pledge payment schedule or discuss giving options that meet your needs.  

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